Small picture of Donizetti



Donizetti's Belisario

Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo, September 21 & 23, 2012.

Photographs by Belotti Photo Studio U.V., courtesy of the Fondazione Donizetti and the Teatro Donizetti.


The traditional prima opening, September 21


Russell Burdekin saw the September 23 performance and has contributed the following.

The Donizetti Festival at Bergamo continues  to provide performances of high quality despite what must be an increasingly stringent budget (one can get a good idea of the background from the recent interview with the director, Francesco Bellotto, in September’s Opera magazine).  The Festival usually unearths one of Donizetti’s lesser known operas and this year it was Belisario, a triumph at its Venice première in 1835 and for some years after but then forgotten for many years until a revival in 1969 in Venice followed by its repeat in Bergamo in 1970 with Leyla Gencer and Renato Bruson, which is available on a recording.  There have been a few scattered productions since.

Belisario   was Donizetti’s next opera following Lucia and used the same librettist, Salvatore Cammarano, with Luigi Marchionni’s translation of  Eduard von Schenk’s Belisarius its main source.  However,  the result was a much more convoluted plot and a cast of not altogether sympathetic characters that was probably impossible to set successfully.  The main problem is that any heroics on Belisario’s part have to be set against his superstitious attempted filicide, even though the opera glosses over that as far as possible, so that, for example, his son seems unbothered by it.  In any case the heroics are soon over as we see him stumble around blind in Act 2 and, to round off his rather downbeat role, he dies rather perfunctorily in the final scene leaving the stage free for his wife to bring down the curtain in traditional bel canto fashion, even though she has been absent for long stretches of the opera.  To make matters worse, there is no romantic love interest, the mainstay of bel canto.  The rather unpromising plot is cloaked with music, which even if not all top drawer Donizetti, rolls along quite beautifully, played here with style by the orchestra under Roberto Tolomelli  and with several opportunities for the singers to shine. 

Donata D’Annunzio Lombardi (Antonina) and Annunziata Vestri (Irene) took their opportunities splendidly, with Lombardi contributing some ravishing singing in the final act even if her acting tended a little towards the stock gesture, while Vestri’s was a good all round performance.  The males were perhaps not quite in the same league, although Dario Solari acted and sang Belisario with distinction and Andeka Gorrotxategui made what he could of Alamiro.

The sets were simple but effective with grey brick columns and a backcloth often lit with different colours as the main features.  The costumes seemed mainly to lean towards Roman with an occasional nod to the Middle Ages and the direction under Luigi Barilone served the purpose even if it was rather unambitious and one had to wonder whether this might have been because financial concerns had perhaps curtailed the rehearsal time available.

Although the opera as a whole did not convince, certain scenes stood out: Irene and Belisario’s departure from the city, the recognition that Alamiro is the lost son and the subsequent trio and Antonina’s final act arias.  While, it is difficult to see this opera ever getting regular performances, it is certainly worth an occasional airing and this enjoyable production will surely have boosted Bergamo’s efforts to become European capital of culture in 2019.


The Team


Giustiniano, imperatore d’Oriente -  Francesco Palmieri

Belisario, supremo duce delle sue armi -  Dario Solari

Antonina, moglie di Belisario - Donato D’Annunzio Lombardi

Irene, loro figlia -  Annunziata Vestri

Alamiro, prigioniero di Belisario -  Andeka Gorrotxategi

Eudora, amica di Irene - Sonia Lubrini

Eutropio, capo delle guardie imperiali - Andrea Biscontin

Eusebio, custode delle prigioni - Carlo Bonarelli

Ottario, duce degli Alani e dei Bulgari - Francesco Cortinovis



Maestro concertatore e Direttore d’orchestra - Roberto Tolomelli

Orchestra e Coro del Bergamo Musica Festival

Direttore del coro - Fabio Tartari


Regia -  Luigi Barilone

Scene e Costumi - Angelo Sala

Luci - Claudio Schmid







Eutropio, Antonina and Alamiro



Antonina with the forged document



Antonina accuses Belisario



Irene and the blinded Belisario



Irene and Belisario meet up again with Alamiro



The dying Belisario is brought in



Antonina's final scene




Page initially published in  2012