Past Production Report
A.J. Fletcher Institute and North Carolina School of Arts, January 26, 28 and 30, 2005.
(The photographs below were taken by Christine Rucker and come courtesy of the A.J. Fletcher Institute and North Carolina School of Arts)
The A.J. Fletcher Institute and North Carolina School of Arts recently made the bold decision to revive Donizetti's Belisario. William Thomas Walker on the Classical Voice of North Carolina site (complete article here) maintained that:-
"Based upon this production of the new critical edition, past commentators have been wrong to dismiss Belisario as second-rate Donizetti. William Ashbrook's Donizetti quotes a letter from the composer to a Paris music publisher: "Belisario is less thoroughly worked out (than Lucia), but I know that in the theatre it had an effect...." Compared to Lucia, this opera is more dramatically compact: the build-up of the tragedy is almost as sure as Puccini's, in Tosca, and the scoring is more consistently interesting. While there's no mad scene, there is a big juicy part for the dramatic soprano, a solid part for the mezzo-soprano, and a complex and wide-ranging role for the baritone. Fine smaller parts for bass and tenor add spice. With the new critical edition scores now available, perhaps Eve Queler and her Opera Orchestra of New York will introduce the opera to Carnegie Hall. It is an ideal opera for music festivals. It is too bad this fine production could not be taken on tour or released on a DVD."
As Nancy Goldsmith's article, reproduced below, describes, the process of getting the score and parts was far from simple, many of these for rare operas existing only in a few opera houses at best and then sometimes in heavily revised versions. Eventually, this situation will be remedied by the Donizetti Critical Edition, although with a prolific composer like Donizetti this will be quite some time. Fortunately in this case, Ottavio Sbragia was just completing a new performing edition of Belisario, which, hopefully, will eventually become part of a critical edition of the score and was able to make it available. More information on the score and parts of the performing version of Belisario by Ottavio Sbragia is available at http://www.geocities.com/belisarioscore/ .
The cast and production team were:-
Irene, daughter of Belisario – Dawn Pierce
Eudora, her confident – Kristen Yarborough
Antonina, wife of Belisario – Emily Newton
Eutropio, Captain of the Imperial Guard – John Kawa
Giustiniano, Emperor of
Belisario, Supreme leader of the Greek Army – Alphonso Cherry
Alamiro, Prisoner of Belisario – Scott Mize
Eusebio, Jailer – Jonathan Frodella
Ottario, Leader of the Rebel Troops – Erich Barbera
Centurion, Messenger – Joshua Hudson
Jamie Allbritten, Music Director
Steven LaCosse, Stage Director
Angela Vanstory Ward, Vocal Preparation
Rob Eastman-Mullins, Set Designer
Emily Lagerquist, Lighting Designer
Brie Furches, Costume Designer
Ashley Leitzel, Wig and Makeup Designer
by Nancy E. Goldsmith and included in the opera programme
An opera score is merely a series of inert marks on a page until brought to life by the conductor's baton and the director's vision, but it's the necessary beginning of any production. For us this year it was a particularly arduous journey to our starting point.
We had long had the libretto and the piano vocal score
reprint from Kalmus, and the singers began learning their roles. An NCSA staff member
even created a new piano vocal edition in an updated and more legible format.
But we still needed to rent the full score, and our artistic director and
conductor, Jamie Allbritten, turned first to the Ricordi Publishing House of
Milan, one of the oldest in
Fortunately, many of La Fenice's materials had long
been stored at an archive in
At this point Mr. Allbritten tried another approach.
He contacted one of the leading musicologists in this country for help, Philip Gossett
On the following sunny Saturday morning, Mr.
Allbritten and I both did independent searches for "Ottavio Sbragia" in
the on-line telephone book of
Although I didn't know it at the time, Philip Gossett
had sent an urgent email to Gabriele Dotto, his Italian colleague working on
the critical edition of Donizetti's works for Ricordi, and Dotto had in turn emailed
Sbragia. So Signor Sbragia was not at all surprised to hear from us. After more
calls, emails, and negotiations, a beautiful gift arrived via FedEx from the
And that's just one story from the exciting behind-the-scenes world of opera.
(The third act finale referred to above is available on Opera Rara ORR217.The full opera is available on a historic recording (various labels including Arkadia CDHP 586.2)made in 1969 from La Fenice, Venice conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni with Leyla Gencer as Antonina and Renato Bruson as Belisario.)
Page last updated January 1, 2009
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