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Bellini Beatrice di Tenda

Beatrice di Tenda - Edita Gruberova
Filippo Maria Visconti - Michael Volle
Agnese del Maino - Stefania Kaluza
Orombello - Raul Hernandez
Anichino - Miroslav Christoff
Rizzardo del Maino - Boguslaw Bidzinski

Conductor Marcello Viotti
Director Daniel Schmid
Set Design Bernhard Kleber
Costumes Florence von Gerkan

TDK DVD DV-OPBDT [TT: 170 mins (144 + 26 mins interview)]

This is a distinguished DVD realisation of a Zurich Opera production, from December 2001, of Bellini's 'late' opera of 1832 (he died at 35).

With less florid coloratura than his others, it has an inwardness which is reflected in the concentration upon the emotions of the four main characters, locked in incompatible love tangles which lead to doom, torture and death at the hands of the vindictive and unforgiving baritone, Fillipo, who had tired of his wife and was looking elsewhere.

The central focus is the eponymous heroine Beatrice, and in a useful illustrated 'extra' (which I would advise watching between the two acts) the conductor Marcello Viotti explains his love affair with Bellini, the special quality of his long lines of melody, and Viotti's ten years close association and understanding with Edita Gruberova, certainly the star of the opera, even though pushed to the sides in the strange cover compilation of pictures. Their rapport and understanding is such that she is able to preserve spontaneity by varying her rubato and ornamentation from night to night, a feature of this music which he values.

Michael Volle is powerful in his pivotal position as the powerful Duke; he sings well and acts convincingly. Both women (dressed mainly in red) sing well, but Gruberova has you hanging on her every phrase.

The tenor, Raul Hernandez, sings adequately but moves stiffly, upstaged by the grace of both women, Beatrice who loves him, whilst he is besotted with the Agnese, Stefania Kaluza , whom the baritone Fillipo wants for himself - - - .

No realism in the staging; both the eventual victims return after being tortured immaculately dressed and not obviously the worse for wear physically or vocally. The chorus has an important role, variously observers, merciless dispensers of primitive 'justice' and also as sympathetic supporters for the fated Beatrice and Orombello, caught in a confused web of jealousy and misunderstandings. Not a great story, but it provides a framework for many moving arias, even though the orchestral accompaniments may be thin and sometimes incongruously jolly, but perfectly paced by Marcello Viotti to support the singing.

The costumes of Florence von Gerkan and rather complex, stylised sets of Bernhard Kleber (mostly not as complex as in the scene below) play a large part in the success of this version, and with effective lighting it transfers well to the small screen. A period piece, undoubtedly, but there is a quality of seriousness and dignity in Daniel Schmid's realisation which gives a lift to this opera for a new generation. Recommended warmly.

© Peter Grahame Woolf