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Dom Sébastien Roi de Portugal, Donizetti: ABAYALDOS

Dom Sébastien, Roi de Portugal (in five acts)

DomSebastien1CG2005

Photo by Alison Rix

 

 

 

“The dramatic temperature rocketed, as Keenlyside once again demonstrated that he is one of the most complete theatrical artists, even when in tails, that the presentday operatic scene possesses.”

 

 

 

Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Librettist: Eugène Scribe after Paul-Henri Foucher
Venue and Dates:Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
10, 13 September 2005
(Concert performance)
Conductor: Mark Elder
Performers:
Zayda : Vesselina Kasarova
Dom Sébastien : Giuseppe Filianoti
Dom Juam de Sylva : Alistair Miles
Abayaldos : Simon Keenlyside
Camoëns : Carmelo Corrado Caruso (replacing Renato Bruson who was ill)
Dom Henrique : Robert Gleadow
Dom Antonio/First Inquisitor : John Upperton
Second Inquisitor : Lee Hickenbottom
Ben-Sélim : Andrew Slater
Dom Luis : Martyn Hill
Soldier : Nigel Cliffe
Third Inquisitor : John Bernays
The Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House
Chorus Master: Renato Balsadonna
Concert Master: Vasko Vassilev
Notes: These performances were recorded by Opera Rara, to be released on CD in February 2007.

DomSebastien3CG2005

Photo by Alison Rix

Soundbites

Hilary Finch for The Times, 13th September 2005

Five star rating

“Perverse in the extreme, I should say: a major opera house opens its season with a concert performance of an obscure Donizetti opera attended only by the geeks of the operatic world. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. The Royal Opera’s first ever performance of Dom Sebastien, roi de Portugal, thrillingly conducted by Mark Elder, was a revelatory evening that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.”

”She [Vesselina Kasarova] was charged with searching out the deepest anguish of the Moroccan princess Zayda, torn between Islam and Christianity, between her Arabian fiancé Abayaldos and her true beloved, Dom Sébastien.”

”Kasarova has a virtuoso ability to anticipate, imagine and give voice to every shade of human feeling. Alone she was magnificent; in duet with Simon Keenlyside’s impassioned Islamic freedom- fighter, Abayaldos, simply mesmeric.”

Tim Ashley for The Guardian, Tuesday September 13, 2005
http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/critic/review/0,,1568506,00.html

Three star rating

”It also requires great singing, and one wishes that the Royal Opera’s concert performances, conducted with tremendous intensity by Mark Elder, were more consistently cast. Giuseppe Filianoti is a touching, if occasionally effortful Sébastien, while Simon Keenlyside is superb as Abayaldos. Vesselina Kasarova, however, is hopelessly mannered as Zayda, the Moorish woman they both love, while Alastair Miles doesn’t establish Dom Juam’s malign authority until too late. The work, despite its flaws, demands to be heard, but the performance doesn’t quite do it justice.”

Treasure trove in the grand style.

Rupert Christiansen for The Telegraph 12th September 2005

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2005/09/12/bmdom12.xml

“Aside from a couple of excruciating cracks in his lovely Romance in Act 2, Giuseppe Filianoti sang with great elegance and clarity in the title role. His beloved Zayda was Vesselina Kasarova. Her vibrant mezzo is not ideally suited to this music and her French was cloudy, but she is a highly imaginative performer who always brings personality and presence to whatever she sings. As Sébastien’s friend, the epic poet Camoens, Carmelo Corrado Caruso (any relation?) was a sterling last-minute substitute for the indisposed Renato Bruson, and Alastair Miles sang firmly, if too benignly, as the Inquisitor. A coughing and sneezing Simon Keenlyside seemed ill at ease as a vengeful Arab chieftain.”

Richard Fairman for The Financial Times, 13th September 2005.

http://news.ft.com/cms/s/012de77e-23fd-11da-b56b-00000e2511c8.html

“The promising young Italian tenor Giuseppe Filianoti displayed exemplary style in the title role, notwithstanding one unfortunate Alpine yodel at a crucial moment. Simon Keenlyside roared without respite as the chieftain Abayaldos and Alastair Miles brooded threateningly as the face of the Spanish Inquisition. As Zayda, either Vesselina Kasarova had spent months perfecting an outlandishly Moorish accent or she always does turn the French language into a thick African soup. But then, with a story like this, nobody was likely to mind.”

Elder rises to the challenge

Fiona Maddocks for The Evening Standard, 12th September 2005

“From the mysterious, desiccated drum beats of the opening to the abrupt catastrophe four hours later, Donizetti’s Dom Sebastien maintains its exotic grip. The Royal Opera, responding to the enthusiasm of the conductor, Mark Elder, unearthed this magnificent curiosity in a fine concert performance.

Demanding huge forces and singers of formidable technique, volume and stamina, Donizetti’s last opera is virtually unknown to modern audiences.

The composer himself asked for a chorus of 60 monks, 40 “young girls dressed in white”, 50 soldiers and six horses, which could be one reason opera companies have trembled. This performance, in a new edition, was its Covent Garden premiere.

Written in the monumental style of French opera, with five acts, spectacular choruses and ensembles and a mock requiem, the score may be uneven, at times crude and lurid, but it never drags.

Its historical setting, relating the doomed Portuguese crusade to Africa in 1578, prompts forays into Arab-style melodies, as well as trumpetand-drum militarism and even a seafaring barcarolle for the national poet Camoens (Carmelo Corrado Caruso).

The orchestral invention, well brought out by the harddriven ROH players, is often startling. This was a performance higher in energy and drama than perfection, but the musical commitment, passionately steered by Elder, was never in doubt. As the jealous Moorish chieftain, Simon Keenlyside was electrifying, big voiced, ardent, angry. Only he sang decent French, the approximate efforts of the others being the evening’s main weakness.

Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova, looking stunning, brought rich-toned melodrama to the role of Zayda and Giuseppe Filianoti overcame early difficulties to give a lyrical, sympathetic account of the title role.

The performance was recorded by Opera Rara for release in 2007. Now will Covent Garden dare stage it?”

Dominic McHugh for MusicOMH

http://www.musicomh.com/opera/dom-sebastien_0905.htm

“As usual, Mark Elder made the evening a musical joy……. He was matched by the ever-wonderful Simon Keenlyside as Abayaldos, a Moorish chieftain. Keenlyside’s intensity and dedication are always a marvel, and his entrance showed the voice in powerful form as he called his Moroccan troops to battle against the Portuguese led by Dom Sébastien. At one point, Keenlyside seemed to be suffering from a cold, but he carried on valiantly and gave the most satisfying vocal performance of the evening.”

Roderic Dunnett for The Independent, 13th September 2005

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/music/reviews/article312364.ece

Five star rating

“Covent Garden served up a clutch of electrifying leads, plus solid support roles. Dom Sébastien was sung with a youthful passion by the beautifully articulate young tenor Giuseppe Filianoti. His is a voice one could listen to endlessly.

Sébastien’s African muse was sung by the profoundly affecting Bulgarian mezzo Vesselina Kasarova, whose range of luscious, velvety timbres was matched by an acute dramatic intelligence that showed in every phrase: when Zayda mouthed the word “mourir”, you knew it meant curtains.”

Rupert Christiansen interviews Mark Elder for The Telegraph,5th September 2005
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2005/09/05/bmelder05.xml

Emanuele Senici, mundoclassico.com, 13.09.2005

http://www.mundoclasico.com/critica/vercritica.aspx?id=dcf5ba92-477c-42f2-918e-36c801966809

[For an English translation see below]

Dom Sébastien de Donizetti debuta en Covent Garden

Londres, 10.09.2005. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Gaetano Donizetti, Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal, opera en cinco actos con libreto de Eugène Scribe; edición crítica de Mary Ann Smart; versión concierto. Vesselina Kasarova (Zayda), Giuseppe Filianoti (Dom Sébastien), Alastair Miles (Dom Juam de Sylva), Simon Keenlyside (Abayaldos), Carmelo Corrado Caruso (Camoëns), Robert Gleadow (Dom Enrique), John Upperton (Dom Antonio/Primer inquisidor), Lee Hickenbottom (Segundo inquisidor), Andrew Slater (Ben-Sélim), Martyn Hill (Dom Luis), Nigel Cliffe (Soldado), John Bernays (Tercer inquisidor). Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Renato Balsadonna, dirección del coro. Mark Elder, dirección musical.

Dom Sébastien no es solamente la última ópera de Donizetti, sino una de las más representativa del género grand opéra, puesto que cada minuto está a la altura de otros clásicos de este género como el Guillaume Tell de Rossini, Les Huguenots de Meyerbeer, Don Carlos de Verdi o La Favorite, del mismo Donizetti. Como sucedió con la mayoría de estos títulos, Dom Sébastien tuvo bastante éxito durante algunas décadas que siguieron a su estreno en Francia (París, 1843) y otros muchos países, pero el texto que circulaba estaba bastante corrompido (y a menudo se trataba de una traducción al italiano). Después desapareció casi completamente, con la excepción de algunas pocas representaciones (como las de Florencia en los años 1950).

La magnífica edición crítica de Mary Ann Smart, interpretada por vez primera en Bolonia en 1998 y recientemente publicada como parte de la Donizetti Critical Edition, vuelve a la idea inicial de Donizetti, incorporando los importantes cambios que éste hizo para su estreno en Viena en 1845. The Royal Opera ha utilizado esta edición que, al menos así se espera, animará a otros teatros a montar producciones completas de la obra, cuya dramaturgia descansa de modo crucial en lo visual, como es normal en las grands opéras. Pero incluso sin decorados ni vestuario,Dom Sébastien sorprendió en Covent Garden por la gran calidad de su música y por la impresionante interpretación.

Mark Elder continúa siendo insuperable como director de ópera italiana del siglo XIX, haciendo cada interpretación mejor que la anterior. Suyo es el mérito del perfecto balance entre la aparentemente interminable energía y el firme control. Su capacidad para lucir los detalles instrumentales de la partitura (y hay muchos), fue casi tan admirable como su sutil flexibilidad rítmica, especialmente notable en los largos conjuntos de los actos tercero y cuarto, así como en la música de ballet del acto segundo; ésta pudo haber sonado vacía y algo tonta, en vez de ligerísima y sexy, como sucedió en Covent Garden. La orquesta de The Royal Opera respondió vivamente a su batuta, extrayendo los nuevos y poco frecuentes colores orquestales con los que Donizetti llenó esta partitura con entusiasmo. Pero es el coro el que merece mayor elogio por su maravilloso dominio de las palabras y el ritmo en lo que ha sido una noche complicada para ellos. El trabajo de su director, Renato Balsadonna, no podría haberse lucido mejor que en este espectáculo que abre la temporada de The Royal Opera.

Todos los solistas trabajaron duro y se entregaron para contribuir al excelente resultado final. El papel de Zayda, escrito para la voz potente, virtuosa técnica y fiero temperamento de Rosine Stolz, se adapta bien a la voz, técnica y temperamento de Vesselina Kasarova. Yo eché a veces en falta algo más de legato, un poco más de fe en el potencial expresivo de la línea melódica, que a veces fue víctima de una exagerada articulación del texto; pero esto es una crítica menor a una interpretación apasionada.

Giuseppe Filianoti es el afortunado dueño de una voz maravillosa, dulce a la vez que penetrante, y una técnica impecable—los problemas menores que tuvo en los agudos de su aria del segundo acto se deben solamente a los nervios del estreno. A diferencia de Kasarova, algunas veces, él confía demasiado en la línea melódica y deja que las palabras pasen a un segundo plano. En los dos últimos actos, sin embargo, se relajó y se dejó llevar por su parte con más convicción, lo que elevó la emoción de su interpretación.

Carmelo Corrado Caruso, que sustituia a Renato Bruson, cantó con dignidad el papel de Camoëns, pero su voz no es especialmente rica: a veces, de hecho, la dignidad se acercó demasiado al distanciamiento dramático. Muy al contrario, Simon Keenlyside se lanzó encantado a la escritura parlante y las explosiones de cólera de Abayaldos, y tuvo un enrome éxito gracias también a su excelente dicción francesa, sin duda la mejor de la noche. Alastair Miles sabe cantar como nadie en nuestros días los papeles de bajo de la ópera italiana y francesa de principios del siglo XIX, dejando patente su impecable estilo. Los muchos comprimarios contribuyeron al enorme éxito de esta interpretación.

¿Hay por ahí algún teatro de ópera dispuesto a producir la versión escenificada que Dom Sébastien merece?

Emanuele Senici for mundoclassico.com

(translation), 13th September 2005

‘Dom Sébastien’ is not only Donizetti’s last opera, but also one of the best representatives of grand opera, every bit as good as other classics of this genre such as Rossini’s Guillaume Tell, Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, Verdi’s Don Carlos and Donizetti’s own La Favorite. As it happened with most of these titles, Dom Sébastien was quite successful for a few decades after its premiere in France (Paris, 1843) and in many other countries, but it circulated in a highly corrupted text (and also mostly in Italian translation). Then it disappeared almost completely, apart from a few occasional outings (notably in Florence in the 1950s).

Mary Ann Smart’s magnificent critical edition, first performed in Bologna in 1998 but only recently published by Ricordi as part of the Donizetti Critical Edition, restores Donizetti’s original intentions, incorporating the important changes he made for the premiere of the work in Vienna in 1845. The Royal Opera’s concert performance used this edition, which, it is hoped, will encourage other theatres to mount complete productions of this opera, whose dramaturgy crucially relies on the visual dimension, as is typical of grands opéras. Even without scenes and costumes, however, Dom Sébastien made a huge impression at Covent Garden, for the sheer quality of the music and the very impressive way in which it was performed.

Mark Elder remains unsurpassed as a conductor of nineteenth-century Italian opera, each performance more thrilling than the previous one. His was a perfect balance of seemingly inexhaustible energy and firm control. Elder’s ability to bring out the beautiful instrumental details in this score (and there are many) was equalled, if not surpassed, by his subtle rhythmic flexibility, especially remarkable in the large ensembles in Acts 3 and 4, and in the ballet music in Act 2 -which could easily have sounded empty and a little silly rather than excitingly light and sexy, as it did.

The Royal Opera Orchestra responded vividly to Elder’s guidance, bringing out the new and unusual orchestral colours which Donizetti lavished on this score with zest. But it is to the chorus that must go the highest praise, for their wonderful ways with words and rhythms in a long and demanding evening for them. The work of chorus master Renato Balsadonna could not have been on better display at the beginning of his second season with the Royal Opera.

All the soloists brought hard work and total commitment to the enterprise, each making an important contribution to the excellent final result. The role of ‘Zayda’, written for the powerful voice, virtuosic technique and fiery temperament of Rosine Stolz, suits well the voice, technique and temperament of Vesselina Kasarova. I sometimes wished for a little more legato, a little more faith in the expressive potential of the melodic line, which on occasion fell victim to Kasarova’s overarticulation of the text; but this is a minor criticism in the face of an impassioned interpretation.

Giuseppe Filianoti is the lucky owner of a wonderful voice, at the same time sweet-toned and penetrating, and of a fautless technique -a couple of minor incidents on the highest notes of his Act-2 aria were due only to first-night nerves. Unlike Kasarova, sometimes he trusts the melodic line too much and lets the words take a decidedly back seat. In the last two acts, however, he visibly relaxed and threw himself into the part with more conviction, which resulted in a heightened emotional impact.

Carmelo Corrado Caruso, replacing the ailing Renato Bruson, sang the role of the poet ‘Camoëns’ with nobility, but his voice is not particularly rich in colours: occasionally, therefore, nobility ended up sounding perilously close to lack of involvment. Simon Keenlyside, on the contrary, threw himself into the parlante-like writing and angry outbursts of ‘Abayaldos’ with relish, and scored a huge success, thanks also to his excellent French, surely the best of the evening. Alastair Miles knows how to sing the bass roles of early-nineteenth-century Italian and French opera like nobody else these days, and his faultless sense of style was very much in evidence. The many comprimarios made their own considerable contribution to the resounding success of this performance.

Any opera house out there willing to give Dom Sébastien the fully staged production this magnificent opera richly deserves?

Evan Dickerson for Seen and Heard

http://www.musicweb-international.com/SandH/2005/Jul-Dec05/dom_sebastien1009.htm

“Alastair Miles’ Dom Juam de Sylva and Simon Keenlyside’s Abayaldos portrayals were of scheming and vengeful men obsessed by power and their own honour. Miles’ darker tone did something to bring Keenlyside’s clarity of diction to the fore. Both delivered amply through facial acting, gesture and bearing as much as through their voices.”

Anthony Holden for The Observer, Sunday September 18, 2005. Reviewing La Fanciulla Del West and Dom Sebastien, Roi de Portugal

http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/reviews/observer/story/0,,1572560,00.html

“The role of her Muslim lover, Abayaldos, was beefed up by the casting of British baritone Simon Keenlyside, always as debonair as forceful, while Italian tenor Giuseppe Filianoti was at times stretched by the title role of her true love, Sebastien. He and Zayda come to an
untimely end as a result of the intrigues of Sebastien’s domestic enemies, led by stolid Alastair Miles as Dom Juam de Sylva.”

Anna Picard for The Independent, 18th September 2005

http://enjoyment.independent.co.uk/music/reviews/article313154.ece

“Yet the casting was far from ideal. Vesselina Kasarova (Zayda) has a stunning range of sounds – honeyed, morbid, thrilling, aloof – but applies them almost randomly to feral, brackish vowels of the sort associated with one who is undergoing root canal surgery. As Camoëns, Carmelo Corrado Caruso’s diction was likewise imprecise, while Alistair Miles (Dom Juam de Slyva) and Simon Keenlyside (Abayaldos) sounded like English tourists demanding a refund in their finest A-level French. Best of the bunch was Giuseppe Filianoti (Dom Sébastien), whose boyish charm, idiomatic phrasing, easy legato, thorough familiarity with the score, and sweet, if occasionally vulnerable, high notes counterbalanced his bright Italianate vowels.”

Tale of the unexpected by Michael Tanner of the Spectator, 17th September 2005

http://www.spectator.co.uk/artsreview.php?table=&section=&issue=2005-09-17&id=347

“In Act II, set in Morocco, Zayda’s Moorish lover, the warrior Abayaldos, makes his first appearance, in the form of Simon Keenlyside striding onstage, issuing threats, denunciations and resolutions in music of uninhibited vigour. The dramatic temperature rocketed, as Keenlyside once again demonstrated that he is one of the most complete theatrical artists, even when in tails, that the present day operatic scene possesses and this despite signs of an acute cold, so that he had often to turn aside to sneeze or blow his nose. His voice was in staggering condition, however, and his scene with Zayda in Act III, in which he probes to confirm his suspicion that she has fallen for the Christian who has saved her (Sébastien, in fact), is the high point of the work.”

Andrew Porter for the Times Literary Supplement

“Concert performances of opera come to life when the singers know their roles, use the words, address and engage the audience, and the absence of scenery seems unimportant. Although Filianoti and Caruso [Sebastien and Camoens] have played their Dom Sebastien roles on stage, in this performance they addressed the drama to their scores, not to their listeners. And so did everyone else, except Simon Keenlyside, in the second-baritone role. The opera lit up whenever he appeared. He listened to what the others were saying, and projected his own lines with verbal vividness. Sometimes over-eager, not always pitch perfect, he was never less than arresting.

Rodney Milne for Opera, November 2005

Dom Sebastien, Roi de Portugal, Royal Opera at Covent Garden, September 10

“This brilliant concert performance opened the Royal Opera’s season with a near nuclear bang.”

“[Mark Elder] drew exceptionally accomplished playing from the ROH orchestra, and singing from the chorus (the men were on absolutely spiffing form)…”

“This Dom Sebastien made not just Donizetti-doubters but also enthusiasts think afresh about the composer’s stature.”

“There is only one female role (the original mezzo, also the Opera director’s mistress, saw to that) and Vesselina Kasarova sang Zayda most beautifully, her tone warm and secure, her coloratura duel with flute pinpoint accurate (yes, occasionally Donizetti looks backwards as well). The title role lies high, and Giuseppe Filianoti (who sang the part at the Bologna revival in 1999) occasionally sounded uncomfortably strained, but came through with honour intact. It was sad that Renato Bruson was indisposed, since Camoens is perhaps the most rewarding role vocally, but Carmelo Corrado Caruso, another Bologna alumnus, stepped in with appreciable, well-shaped singing. Simon Keenlyside, as Zayda’s Moroccan husband, was visibly and audibly struggling with a cold, which one prays had abated by the repeat performance. Alastair Miles was an appropriately stentorian yet vocally elegant Grand Inquisitor, and the smaller roles were all capably taken. There was not, of course, a single Francophone singer in the cast, but the standard of French declamation was acceptable. A most illuminating and rewarding evening.”

Laura Keynes for Times Literary Supplement

http://www.onlinereviewlondon.com/reviews/DomSeb.html

“In this production by the Royal Opera, ‘Seul sur le terre’ has been moved back to its original position at the end of Act Two, although Giuseppe Filianoti as Dom Sebastien struggled in the closing minutes of Act Two with the rigours the structure imposed on his voice. He was, perhaps, the wrong choice for this production, with a voice that lacked resonance and projection when it had the full force of the orchestra and chorus behind it. Rarely glancing at Mark Elder’s precise conducting, Filianoti seemed to want to stand alone, to the detriment of the whole production.”

”… Like the fact that this an Italian opera shaped by French tastes, this is a production shaped for ears rather than eyes, hence the choice of mannered and arch Vesselina Kasarova for the role of Zayda. As a mezzo-soprano, Kasarova has a smoothly sublime voice, but as an actress she is never forgetful of herself for a moment. That is to say, she can sing – beautifully – but she cannot act. The best performances came from those who, despite not wearing a costume and having to move about the stage, were still ‘in character’, namely Simon Keenlyside as Zayda’s intended, Abayaldos. Keenlyside deservedly won the biggest round of applause of the evening and was on top form throughout. Next to Keenlyside, Alastair Miles’ Dom Juan lacked charisma and at times became exclamatory. Two other performances deserve particular mention and these were both performers receiving their break with this company. Robert Gleadow as Dom Henrique had an intense machismo that promises much for his future beyond the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. One would particularly like to see him under the direction of, say, Richard Jones or Keith Warner, in a modern production that could coax out the darker elements inherent in his style. Carmelo Corrado Caruso was the other singer making his debut with the Royal Opera in the role of the poet Camoens. Replacing the baritone Renato Bruson, who had to withdraw at the rehearsal stage with a throat infection, Caruso gave his all to the performance and worked intuitively with Mark Elder and the cast on stage beside him.”

Hugh Canning for The Sunday Times, September 18, 2005

“The French singers who might tackle this opera more authentically today probably exist only in the imagination, and these voices are all more than adequate; most sing clear, if not elegant, French. Filianoti’s bright, slightly reedy tenor sounds too Italianate — and he suffered from the high-lying tessitura of the part at the climax of his Act II aria. In his Act V duet with Zayda, Kasarova sings an identical text as if she were singing in a completely different language. Her tone is velvety, but she is an “arty” singer, sometimes excruciatingly wayward of pitch.”

“Miles does well, but his bland persona and voice make him a colourless villain, while Keenlyside looked and sounded well below his best form: haggard, nervously wringing his hands, singing at an unvaried forte throughout and eventually sniffing and coughing into a hankie. He was clearly unwell, and probably shouldn’t have sung. Replacing the advertised Renato Bruson, his younger compatriot Carmelo Corrado Caruso (great operatic name, modest voice, alas) blustered coarsely as the loyal Camoëns. His superb aria, O Lisbonne, ought to be better known, though.”

“What raised the performance into something nearly memorable was Mark Elder’s committed, super-refined conducting and the fine playing of the ROH orchestra in one of Donizetti’s richest scores. For them alone, the live Opera Rara recording should be worth waiting for (the release date is February 2007, which seems ages away). With luck, the singers will have settled down for the second performance.”

Extract from a review of the performance on the 10th, for Opernglas (no. 11)

Translated by Ursula Turecek

“On this occasion a prominent cast of singers had been assembled that was largely but not completely convincing: In the first we must mention Simon Keenlyside who as the only one among the participants involved also disposed of an immaculate French diction. Effortlessly he gave off the melodious sound of his powerful, technically immaculate baritone voice and confered vocal profile on the martial Abayaldos with much empathy.”

Reviewed by Alexander Campbell, September 13, 2005

http://www.classicalsource.com/db_control/db_concert_review.php?id=2861

“The basic story centres round the love of a Moroccan princess, Zayla, for the Portuguese King Dom Sébastien. He saves her from execution at the hands of the inquisition and exiles her to her father in Morocco, Ben-Sélim. She becomes betrothed to the jealous Abayaldos, who is leading the Moroccans against the Portuguese crusaders. Zayla saves the unrecognised King in his moment of defeat, but as a result must marry Abayaldos. When the King returns home he finds his throne usurped by his uncle, Dom Antonio, who is a puppet of the Grand Inquisitor, Dom Juam de Sylva, who is plotting to place Philip II of Spain on the Portuguese throne. Even when Zayla and the faithful poet-soldier Camoëns reveal the plots, the perpetrators gain the upper hand. The lovers plunge to a watery grave, Dom Antonio forfeits the throne, and the Inquisitor’s plans are apparently successful.”

“Simon Keenlyside made much of the jealous Abayaldos, injecting drama into his utterances, which were nevertheless delivered in beautiful burnished tones throughout. Also strong was Alastair Miles’s Grand Inquisitor, although his voice is perhaps rather too noble and ‘nice-sounding’ for such a despicable character, although he did much to get these aspects of his role over in careful use of gesture and words.”

“This was a very satisfying evening, and certainly it was fun to hear a piece which might prove hard to stage but which has much of interest in it. Those who missed the performances will be able to hear “Dom Sébastien” on CD, the two performances having been recorded by Opera Rara. For Donizettians a must – for others well worth investigating.”

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