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L'ANGE DE NISIDA ** OUT 22 March 2019**



L'ANGE DE NISIDA ** OUT 22 March 2019**

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ORC58

Opera Rara presents, 179 years after it was written, the world premiere recording of a Donizetti ‘lost’ masterpiece, restored and brought thrillingly back to life. Written in 1839 for the Theâtre... read more

Opera Rara presents, 179 years after it was written, the world premiere recording of a Donizetti ‘lost’ masterpiece, restored and brought thrillingly back to life. Written in 1839 for the Theâtre de la Renaissance in Paris, rehearsals started but the theatre went bankrupt and the opera was never performed – until 2018. Taken from two acclaimed concert performances at the Royal Opera House, L’Ange de Nisida is a fascinating and passionate drama, full of exciting vocal writing, composed by Donizetti near to the end of his life.

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Countess Sylvia de Linarès, mistress to the King of Naples, Joyce El-Khoury

Leone de Casaldi, an exiled soldier, David Junghoon Kim

Don Fernand d’Aragon, King of Naples, Vito Priante

Don Gaspar, chamberlain to the King of Naples, Laurent Naouri

The Monk / Father Superior, Evgeny Stavinsky

Royal Opera Chorus, Orchestra of the Royal Opera House

Sir Mark Elder, conductor

Recorded live at Royal Opera House, London, on 18 and 21 July 2018

THE STORY

The action takes place in 1470 in the Kingdom of Naples, during a period when Ferdinand I, the reigning monarch, was unmarried.

ACT I

The gardens of Sylvia’s villa on Nisida, an island off Naples.

As dawn breaks, a young soldier, Leone, appears in the gardens. He has fled to Nisida from the court of Naples, on pain of death for fighting a duel, and now yearns for Sylvia, who has lived for some time on the island and is adored by the local populace. Leone and Sylvia have met a number of times and Leone has fallen in love (‘Ange d’amour’).

He leaves a letter for her, hidden among the flowers of her garden. Don Gaspar, the King of Naples’ chamberlain, appears with a group of inhabitants to serenade Sylvia (‘Le sommeil te berce encore’). The chamberlain proudly boasts of his position at court and his ability to right all wrongs (‘Ma puissance n'est pas mince’).

As the inhabitants depart, Don Gaspar meets Leone, who confides that he came to Nisida after vainly seeking support from the Father Superior of a local monastery. But this monk, once confessor to the King’s father, has gone to Rome on a mission. Don Gaspar promises to help Leone, but then swiftly makes his exit. Left alone, Leone sees Sylvia emerging from her villa: she finds his letter and presses it to her lips. He presents himself to her and they admit their love (‘Ah! Leone!’).

However, Sylvia tells a confused Leone that their relationship can have no future. Don Gaspar announces to the local people that the King himself is about to appear; they sing a chorus of welcome (‘Vive le Roi! Notre père’). The King enters dressed as a commoner and is clearly angry that Don Gaspar has made his presence public. He sees Leone, recognises him as the exiled dueller and has him arrested. As he enters Sylvia’s villa, the inhabitants again begin their welcome chorus but are silenced by Don Gaspar.

 

ACT II

A room in Sylvia’s villa.

The King tenderly affirms his love for Sylvia and promises that one day she will be his Queen. But she can think only of her home in Andalusia: she was lured to Naples believing she would gain a husband, but instead has become the mistress of a King (‘O ma chere patrie’). The local people serenade Sylvia, asking ‘the angel of Nisida’ for support and charity (‘Le ciel a béni l’étrangère’). In front of the assembled company, Sylvia asks the King to give Leone his liberty. The King grants her request. The Father Superior appears, brandishing a Papal Bull and denouncing the King for ignoring the dictates of Rome. He declares that if Sylvia is not immediately banished, she will be locked away in a convent (‘Redoutez la fureur’). Don Gaspar, alone with the King, attempts to calm him after this violent confrontation. The Pope, he explains, fears that the King may make his mistress his Queen. Don Gaspar is, as usual, brazenly confident that he can devise a solution. Leone arrives, thanks the King for his clemency and puts his sword at the King’s service. Leone rejoices in his freedom but, still ignorant of Sylvia’s true relationship with the King, laments the fact that he must leave her (‘Quelle ivresse et quel délire’). Don Gaspar offers Leone a chance to serve the King: he must agree to escort a young woman – an orphan, under the King’s protection – to Naples where Don Gaspar will find her a husband. Wondering whether this woman could be his beloved Sylvia, Leone eagerly accepts.

Don Gaspar informs Sylvia that, in order to placate Rome, she is to have an arranged marriage with a man who will agree to the match in exchange for a noble title and a distant ambassadorship. She agrees, but is appalled that anyone would countenance such an arrangement for personal gain. The King appears and Don Gaspar ushers in Leone. To general surprise, and to Sylvia’s dismay, Leone publicly offers to be her consort. In an ensemble of confused emotions (‘De mon coeur foi bénie’), the King privately expresses his continuing passion for Sylvia (‘O mon ange que j’implore’), and addresses Leone by the title of Marquis.

 

ACT III

Sylvia’s residence in Naples.

Don Gaspar has, to his dismay, realised that Leone is genuinely in love with Sylvia; he wonders whether the King should not go through with the agreed plan, suggesting that Leone might expect to claim his conjugal rights. The King, his jealousy awakened, reaffirms his love for Sylvia (‘Non, ce triste sacrifice’) and holds Don Gaspar responsible for the outcome. Sylvia tries to come to terms with what has happened: that Leone has been capable of such dishonour and thereby destroyed her hopes (‘O mon amour perdu’).

In an attempt to forget him, she burns his letters and imagines herself at the wedding celebrations, pale and lifeless. The ladies and gentlemen of the court celebrate the imminent marriage of Leone and Sylvia (‘Déjà dans la chapelle’); the King confers on Leone a further honour.

A group of male courtiers, disgusted by the marriage bargain (‘Quel marche de bassesse!’), openly humiliate Leone, to the extent that he challenges them to a duel. The Father Superior appears and, as the remaining company assembles, the courtiers finally reveal to Leone that Sylvia is the King’s mistress. In the course of a huge ensemble (‘Contre un pacte infâme’), Leone at last realises that he has been shamefully misused; he defiantly breaks his sword at the King’s feet. Sylvia understands, too late, that Leone’s intentions towards her were always honourable.

 

ACT IV

A monastery some miles from Naples.

In despair, Leone has decided to renounce earthly passions and become a monk (‘Hélas! Envolez-vous, beaux songes’). The Father Superior leads him into the chapel to take his vows. Sylvia, disguised as a young novice, arrives exhausted and close to death: she has come to beg Leone’s forgiveness. Leone violently rejects her (‘Va-t’en d’ici! De cet asile’), but then relents and allows his love to re-emerge (‘Viens! Je cède éperdu’). He determines to renounce his vows, but Sylvia collapses and dies. The monks chant a solemn prayer.

 

(c) Mark Elder & Roger Parker