The operas of Saverio Mercadante are often said to be among those 19th century Italian works most worthy of revival; in case you’ve never heard one, this week “Trove Thursday” lets you judge for yourself with a 1974 broadcast of his best-known work, Il Giuramento, with Annabelle Bernard, Agnes Baltsa, José Carreras and Robert Kerns.
Last fall “Trove Thursday” featured Spontini’s 1807 masterpiece La Vestale with Renata Scotto. Mercadante composed his own Vestale in 1840 for Naples, and an excerpt from it appeared on Joyce Di Donato’s recent “Stella di Napoli” CD.
More than 50 operas by Mercadante premiered during his nearly 50 year career but few are performed today. However, the British organization Opera Rara has been especially active in reviving his works; in fact, the only Mercadante opera I’ve ever heard live was Emma d’Antiochia at London’s Royal Festival Hall in October 2003. The concert performance conducted by David Parry and starring Nelly Miricioiu and Bruce Ford formed the basis for Opera Rara’s recording of Emma. That organization has also released Virginia which was also revived at the 2010 Wexford Festival starring Angela Meade.
One might have expected Mercadante’s operas to have been performed by Opera Orchestra of New York and indeed Virginia was announced by OONY for March 1978 but Montserrat Caballé took ill and the entire enterprise was canceled. But OONY did perform Giuramento in 1981 with Baltsa and Mara Zampieri as Elaisa in what I believe was her only NYC appearance.
Like Arlene Saunders who was featured here several weeks ago, New Orleans-born African-American soprano Bernard, this performance’s Elaisa, spent much of her performing career in Europe, mostly in Berlin. Her co-star baritone Robert Kerns who sings Manfredo was from Detroit and also sang primarily in Europe and died in Vienna in 1989.
Mercadante: Il giuramento
Elaisa: Annabelle Bernard
Bianca: Agnes Baltsa
Isaura: Lucy Peacock
Viscardo: Jose Carreras
Manfredo: Robert Kerns
Brunoro: William Wu
Conductor: Gerd Albrecht
“Trove Thursday” offerings can be downloaded via the audio-player on their page. Just click on the icon of a square with an arrow pointing downward and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory. Il Giuramento, last week’s Orlando, and all previous “Trove Thursday” fare remain available from iTunes or via any RSS reader.