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Donizetti – Maria di Rohan

Maria di Rohan – Krassimira Stoyanova

Conte di Chalais – Jose Bros

Duca di Chevreuse – Christopher Purves

Armanndo di Gondi – Loic Felix

Fiesque – Brindley Sherratt

Di Suze – Graeme Broadbent


Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment & Geoffrey Mitchell Choir/Sir Mark Elder

Opera Rara Concert Performance at Royal Festival Hall
7 November 2009


This last but one opera of Donizetti's was a great success in Vienna. 

The original version was performed last night, shorn of Parisian additions.  As the conductor, Sir Mark Elder remarked, Donizetti wrote too many operas – if he had produced something like a quarter of them we would be familiar with all of them. Maria di Rohan became a victim of the successful wave of verismo in the late nineteenth century, although the great baritone, Battistini, kept it in his repertoire early into the next century.


Opera Rara had assembled an excellent cast (a recording should become available in 2011) headed by the remarkable Bulgarian soprano, Krassimira Stoyanova as Maria.  The original Maia was described as ‘a woman of beauty and restless energy’, and so she appeared in the person of Miss Stoyanova – her slim, dark figure effortlessly gripped the attention whenever she made an appearance.  Her voice was secure in florid passages and she made her dramatic effects without any forcing or distortion.


Her luckless suitor, Chalais, was sung in suitable melancholic fashion by Jose Bros, who also provided fiery reaction to any threats to his honour; nevertheless a mellifluous tenor.  The volatile Chevreuse was in the safe hands of Christopher Purves – this character is a most interesting creation, very far removed from the stock baritone as rival for the heroine’s affections.  Despite some hoarseness, he contrived to ring the dramatic changes as demanded by the course of events.  To some extent he is the central figure who survives at the end to condemn Maria with the immortal phrase ‘life with infamy to you, faithless woman!’  No happy endings here then, Chalais having shot himself!


Mark Elder presided over the orchestra in this dark tale of conspiracies and intrigue; the period instruments making a restrained but colourful background which enhanced the romantic atmosphere.  His account of this concise but effective score underlined his mastery of dramatic works regardless of their origins – the era of The Three Musketeers with its duels and secret passages was brought to life.


One is left with only one reservation – a staged performance would have succeeded even more forcefully in doing justice to his composition, also tinged with regret that his early death robbed us of the opportunity to enjoy more music of such maturity.


Stuart Jenkins

See also another Donizetti rarity: L'Assedio di Calais at Guildhall School [Editor]