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martes, 17 de enero de 2012

OperasCombinadas: BELLINI & MERCADANTE: Zaira

Dos operas basadas en el mismo libreto, de Felice Romani, que cuenta las desgracias de la esclava favorita del sultán, que sufre una especie de Síndrome de Estocolmo y se enamora del Sultán, contra los deseos del padre y el hermano cristianos, que intentan rescatarla. Al final el Sultán cree que ella le está siendo infiel (cuando lo único que hace es verse a escondidas con su hermano) y la mata. Cuando se da cuenta de su error se mata él también. Un dramón muy bien servido por ambos autores con muy distinto éxito: Bellini tuvo en ella un gran fracaso (era su sexta ópera y fue escrita expresamentre para la inauguración del teatro Regio de Parma en 1829 pero tras el fiasco el pobre Bellini reutilizó bastantes partes en I Capuletti ed i Mosteschi, con mucho mayor éxito). Mercadante consiguió un gran éxito con su "Zaira", pero con el tiempo se desvaneció en el olvido. Los del Sello OperaRara grabaron sólo algunos números de esta Zaira (en una colección de Highlights de óperas que me irrita muchísimo (Por qué no grabarlas completas?).
Asi que tenemos dos óperas incompletas: La de Bellini porque muchos números están repetidos en I Capuletti, y la de Mercadante porque no hay una grabación completa. Pero casualmente las partes que faltan en la de Mercadante son las que Bellini no repitió en I Capuletti (con una excepción), de forma que yo las uno y las escucho juntas, consiguiendo una ópera fantástica... y completa. Os dejo los links de ambas (ya tenéis la versión de la Zaira belliniana de Ricciarelli en otro post del blog, pero yo prefiero esta version en streaming de Ermonela Jaho, porque el audio es mejor, y no se oye al apuntador de fondo). Vosotros escoged cómo escucharlas, juntas, mezcladas o por separado.

Vincenzo Bellini: Zaira.

Zaira: Ermonela Jaho; Nerestano: Varduhi Abrahamyan; Corasmino: Shalva Mukeria; Orosmane: Wenwei Zhang; Lusignano: Gezim Myshketa; Castiglione: Franck Bard; Fatima: Marianne Crebassa. Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc Roussillon. Choeur de la Radio Lettone. Conductor: Enrique Mazzola. Live performance, Montpellier, Le Corum, Opéra Berlioz, 13 July 2009.

Principal Roles:

Zaira, slave of the Sultan Soprano
Orosmane, Sultan of Jerusalem Bass
Nerestano, brother of Zaira Mezzo-soprano
Corasmino, vizier Tenor
Lusignano, father of Zaira and Nerestano Bass
Castiglione Tenor
Fatima Soprano
Meledor, official of the Sultan Bass


Act I

A magnificent gallery leading into the Harem; underground hall leading into the prisons; the inside of the Harem.

The beautiful slave Zaira is about to marry Orosmane, the Sultan of Jerusalem; there is a celebration in the harem, and odalisks and eunuchs dance and sing in his honor. The vizier Corasmino sees the Sultan’s decision to marry a Christian woman as an insult to Koranic law, especially at a time when their French enemies are about to descend on them; he therefore intends to prevent the wedding. Fatima, another slave in the harem, asks Zaira how she could have forgotten France and the French warrior who swore to free her, and renounced her Christian faith: but Zaira reminds her that she has had no news of that warrior since he returned to France, and that she now loves Orosmane, who loves her in return . Meanwhile the French knight Nerestano arrives at the Sultan’s court with the intention freeing Zaira: he was himself a prisoner of Orosmane but he was released: he learns however that the woman now loves Orosmane and has chosen the Muslim faith. and that the Sultan intends to release only the French knights who are still in his prisons but neither Zaira nor old Lusignano, a prince descended from the ancient Christian kings of Jerusalem and therefore hated by the Muslims. When they learn this, the prisoners decide to forego their freedom and accept the same fate as Lusignano. Zaira appears with Lusignano, whose freedom she has managed to obtain from Orosmane. By a necklace and a scar Lusignano recognizes Zaira and Nerestano as his daughter and son, who survived the massacre of Cesarea as children and were enslaved by the Muslims. When he discovers that Zaira has renounced her faith and is about in marry Orosmane, he orders her to repent and re-embrace Christianity: Zaira swears that she will do so.

Corasmino alerts the Sultan to the dangers which could arise from Lusignano return to Europe, but Orosmane does not want to refuse Zaira’s request. Meanwhile Nerestano in his turn attempts to persuade Zaira to end her liaison with the hated Sultan, reminding her that her old father is about to die of grief. Zaira does not wish to betray her love and Orosmane’s trust, but in the end she embraces her brother and decides to return to the Christian faith. The Sultan arrives and. when Zaira requests a postponement of the wedding, he suspects that Nerestano is a seducer and orders him. to leave the court.

Act II

Zaira’s rooms; a remote place near the quarters of the French knights; a hall of the Harem; a remote part of the Harem gardens.

Fatima encourages Zaira to forget Orosmane, who is so indignant at Zaira’s refusal that he wants to send her back among the slaves in the harem and find a woman more worthy of his love. Faced with Zaira’s tears, he asks for an explanation which she, bound by her promise to her brother, cannot give him at that moment. Orosmane agrees to wait one more day. Lusignano has died, and Nerestano blames his sister. The French knights ask Orosmane to postpone their departure so that they can comply with Lusignano’s wish to be buried in that land; the Sultan, out of love for Zaira, grants the request and pays no heed to warnings from Corasmino, who suspects that the request conceals a trick and who shows him a message in which Nerestano asks Zaira to meet him secretly. Orosmane is still doubtful and decides to test her: he will however have the secret message delivered to her. Zaira reads her brother’s letter and is torn between torment at having to betray the trust of her beloved and grief over her father’s death, for which she feels guilty. She faints into Fatima’s arms.

In a remote part of the harem gardens Orosmane and Corasmino are waiting to see if Zaira will go to the appointment with Nerestano. The pair arrive and Orosmane, seeing them ready to flee and believing them to be lovers, fatally wounds Zaira. At the revelation that they are brother and sister, he is overcome with grief and kills himself.

Saverio Mercadante: Zaira.

Today, it is Bellini's Zaira that has been seen on modern stages, while Mercadante's has continued to molder in its grave; in the 19th century, Mercadante's was the one that enjoyed success. This recording is the first of a projected series of recordings ("Essential Opera Rara") in which Opera Rara records the major highlights from a particular forgotten work. A fine cast of Opera Rara mainstays, including the Irish soprano Majella Cullagh, the excellent tenor Bruce Ford, and bass Alistair Miles, interprets this interesting work with their usual attention to musical detail and dramatic realism. Aside from the rather disappointing final scene, in which the music does not quite capture the enormity of the tragic ending, the rest of the opera contains remarkably beautiful and enjoyable passages. Zaira's duet with Orasmane, her big tragic aria in the penultimate scene, and the exciting trio in Act II, are all remarkable for their emotional thrust and melodic inspiration. Mercadante's scrupulous attention to orchestration throughout the work is a treat.
The most impressive singing comes from bass Alistair Miles, who is wonderful in the Tamburini role of Orasmane. The difficult (and abundant) coloratura poses no difficulties for Miles, who also uses his voice with great sensitivity to emotion; the tender affection of Orasmane for Zaira, his consuming jealousy, and his remorse and shock after he murders her, are painted with a varied and subtle palette of vocal colors. Almost his equal is Cullagh, whose voice (or so it seems to me) is progressively becoming more at home in dramatic roles such as this. Her rendition of the character's final aria is a tour de force, and proves just how effective Mercadante's music is in the right hands. Bruce Ford and Gary Magee have relatively less to do than Cullagh and Miles, but both sing with their usual consummate artistry. As is always the case with Opera Rara, the presentation of the set is nonpareil, with sumptuous and highly evocative art gracing the box cover and a substantial booklet accompanying the recording.

Orosmane - Alastair Miles
Zaira - Majella Cullagh
Nerestano - Bruce Ford
Lusignano - Garry Magee
Corasmino - Colin Lee
Fatima - Claire Wild
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir

Philharmonia Orchestra
David Parry

CD[a] - - - CD[b]

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