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Donizetti’s unfinished French opera has been rehashed in so many ways: the libretto reused for Verdi’s Les vêpres siciliennes, the work was also cobbled into an Italian version by Donizetti’s pupil, Salvi, for a première in 1882, and reconstructed by Thomas Schippers in 1959. This recording captures Vlaamse Opera’s 2012 performances of the première of a new four act French version with music by Giorgio Battistelli to fill Donizetti’s gaps, and wonderful it is too. The music is vibrant and exciting and it’s fascinating to hear Maria Stuarda’s ‘Preghiera’ crop up in Act 2 and La Favorite’s ‘Ange si pur’ as ‘Anges des cieux’ in Act 4. Battistelli’s additions are not a nip and tuck but totally contemporary, and though from a different sound-world they retain Donizetti’s rhythmic pace. Paolo Carignani leads a brisk performance. George Petean is a noble Duc and Ismael Jordi’s Henri is effective; best of all is Rachel Harnisch’s fluent Hélène, confidently and elegantly voiced and dramatically exciting. The live recording is slightly wayward at times.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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