Ask most any opera-lover about Poliuto (one of next month’s Teatro Nuovo bel canto offerings, and they will likely shout “Callas!” and maybe “Corelli!” as they were the stars of the celebrated 1960 La Scala revival whose radio broadcast has survived.

The opera had a complicated birth. Donizetti wrote it in 1838 for Naples, bit the San Carlo rejected because King Ferdinand II objected to the life of Saint Polyeuctus being depicted on stage. It would only be performed in its original version a decade later and after its composer’s death.

Donizetti soon salvaged Poliuto when he repurposed much of its music for Martyrs, a Paris commission which premiered in 1840 to a libretto now by Eugène Scribe with celebrated tenor Gilbert Duprez as Polyceute. If you compare today’s two broadcasts, you will discover that Martyrs is more than 45 minutes longer than Poliuto.

After the American Opera Society ended, Opera Orchestra of New York took up the task of presenting rare bel canto operas to the New York public. Poliuto arrived in 1998 with Fabio Armiliato in the title role and Martile Rowland as Paolina. Rowland had saved the day at OONY in 1990 when she took over Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux after Mara Zampieri disappeared following the dress rehearsal.

The next season she was rewarded with I Due Foscari. I believe Aprile Millo was originally announced for OONY’s 1994 Caterina Cornaro, but Rowland performed its leading role. The Poliuto would be her final performance with Eve Queler’s organization.

A major staging of Poliuto arrived at the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival. It featured Ana Maria Martinez, Michael Fabiano and Igor Golovatenko and is available on DVD.

Les Martyrs was recently recorded by Opera Rara with Joyce El-Koury and Michael Spyres, and it will receive a rare revival starring Roberta Mantagna, John Osborn and Mattia Olivieri in September at the Theater an der Wien.

Donizetti: Poliuto

Paolina: Sondra Radvanovsky
Poliuto: Gregory Kunde
Severo:  Gabriele Viviani
Felice: Josep Fadó
Callistene: Ruben Amoretti
Nearco: Alejandro del Cerro

Conductor: Daniele Callegari

10 January 2018

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

Pauline: Leyla Gencer
Polyeucte: Mario di Felici
Sévère: Renato Bruson
Félix: Luigi Roni
Callisthènes: Vincenzo Sagona
Néarque: Renato Cazzaniga

Conductor: Adolfo Camozzo

Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo
22 September 1975

Either Donizetti version can be downloaded by clicking on the icon of a cloud with an arrow pointing downward on the audio player above and the resulting mp3 file will appear in your download directory.

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