Listeners may be confused by the appearance of a Donizetti opera called L'ange de Nisida, of which even confirmed Donizetti fans may be unaware. Through a combination of problems that included financial issues on the part of its backer and threats from the Italian censors, who objected to the plot line involving a mistress for the king of Naples, the opera was shelved, and it did not receive its premiere until 2018. It is that premiere, in London, that is recorded here by Opera Rara, a company specializing in operatic obscurities; from an engineering standpoint they punch above their weight, delivering clean sound and a good immediate crowd feeling from the sometimes tricky Royal Opera House. The reconstruction was a quite an enterprise in itself, involving the excavation of numerous library manuscripts. Donizetti used much of the material in his next opera, La Favorite (La Favorita), whose libretto was also a reworking of L'ange de Nisida, with the locale moved to satisfy the censors, the lead soprano part rewritten for a local mezzo soprano star, and many other changes. The changes are especially evident in the opera's first half, and you might sample one of the big romantic numbers, such as "Ah! Leone!," for the flavor of what you're getting here. You'll be impressed by Lebanese soprano Joyce El-Khoury, who is really hitting her stride and gets good applause (retained). Tenor David Junghoon Kim is not quite in the same class vocally but has good chemistry with El-Khoury; one hopes that a stage presentation will follow (what's heard here was a concert reading). Perhaps of most interest to Donizetti fans, but a characteristic example of his style for any listener, and arguably equally attractive for general audiences as La Favorite thanks to the addition of a comic character, Don Gaspard (bass-baritone Laurent Naouri).
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Track Listing - Disc 1
|L' Ange de Nisida|
Track Listing - Disc 2
|L' Ange de Nisida|