According to the late Donizetti expert William Ashbrook, Maria di Rohan (1843) is the composer‘s ‘tautest, most melodramatic opera’ and shows him ‘in complete control of his musico-dramatic goals’. The work was first performed in Vienna, but Donizetti revised it for its Paris premiere, changing the tenor role of Armando di Gondì to mezzo-soprano. Working from the new critical edition of the score, with the period-instrument Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment under Sir Mark Elder, Opera Rara has recorded the original Vienna (June 1843) two tenor version as well as some of the appendices from the Paris (November 1843) revision, including those written for the mezzo-soprano, sung here by Enkelejda Shkosa. Set during the time of Cardinal Richelieu, the opera focuses on Maria (Krassimira Stoyanova), secretly married to Riccardo, Duke of Chevreuse (José Bros), who has wounded the Cardinal’s nephew in a duel. In seeking assistance for his plight from Enrico, Count of Chalais (Christopher Purves), Maria finds her former love for the latter revived. The rest of the opera centres on how this intricate and explosive triangle of relationships plays out. As a handful of recent productions have demonstrated, the result shows Donizetti rightly claiming his position as one of the nineteenth-century’s greatest musical dramatists.
The 2CD set, studio recording, comes with a lavishly illustrated book including a complete libretto with an English translation, comprehensive article and synopsis by the eminent 19th-century musical scholar, Jeremy Commons.
"Krassimira Stoyanova, radiant and impassioned, beautifully captured Maria's ambivalent glamour and the private hell beneath her cool allure" Tim Ashley, The Guardian (reviewing the concert performance at the Royal Festival Hall, November 2009)
Stoyanova is glorious: she catpures the despair of this troubled character, especially in her preghiera (where she is partnered by a beautifully phrased cor anglais solo)...On a par with Stoyanova is Christopher Purves, with his subtle performance as Chevreuse: in his Act 3 solo he produces an immaculate legato, then shows that he can storm barns with the best...Mark Elder conducts with his usual fire and exemplary attention to dynamic markings. Gramophone
[Stoyanova's] voice is well placed, focused and crystalline, with a tang that enables it to inject a dramatic touch, yet it possess a softer element for the intimate portions of the story...Bros is stylistically suited to the music and his technique is flexible enough for him to articulate the notes with accuracy and clarity...[the appendix arias] find a praiseworthy proponent in Enkelejda Shkosa, whose voice of dark velvet ripples and flows. Int. Record Review
Though not the first Maria di Rohan on CD, this set comprehensively eclipses the 1996 one...above all for Mark Elder's marvellously strong, supple conducting...Opera Rara's cast imaginatively features the warmly sympathetic Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova, who rises with unaffected eloquence to all of Maria's demands, expertly partnered by the excellently stylish Catalan tenor Jose Bros...Highly recommended. BBC ****