Nelly Miricioiu in Bellini's 'Beatrice di Tenda',
reviewed by ROBERT HUGILL
Chelsea Opera Group continued its on-going exploration of neglected 19th century Italian operatic repertoire on Sunday 18 March 2007 with a concert performance of Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda at Cadogan Hall, London UK.
Beatrice di Tenda is Bellini's penultimate opera, he wrote it two years after Norma and one year before I Puritani. But the opera had a difficult birth, librettist Felice Romani was behind with the libretto, at the première his printed word-book included a rather graceless comment that the libretto was only a fragment. The first performance was stormy and it took some time for the work to gain a reputation, but even so it has remained curiously in the shadows. The only modern staged performance of the opera in the UK was in 1975 at the Barber Institute.
It was therefore double pleasure to find that not only was Chelsea Opera Group presenting the opera, but that it was doing it with such a strong cast. Nelly Miricioiu played the heroine Beatrice, Stephen Gadd was her husband Filippo, his mistress Agnese was played by Anne Mason, Don Bernardini was Orombello and Paul O'Neill sang the two smaller roles of Rizzardo and Anichino.
The story is not a little gruesome. It is based on history : Filippo was Duke of Milan in the 1400s and did marry Beatrice and did have her executed. In the opera, Filippo is tired of Beatrice and wants to marry his mistress Agnese. Orombello is in love with Beatrice, but she is unaware of this; unfortunately Agnese is in love with Orombello. Agnese schemes to get Beatrice discredited, but she is all too successful. Filippo's uncertain temper means that when he thinks Beatrice has been unfaithful with Orombello he has them both tortured. She protests her innocence to the end and goes to her death forgiving everyone, with Agnese mortified at the outcome.
The reason for Bellini's attraction to the story was the final scene in which Beatrice goes to her death forgiving her enemies, even though it bears a marked resemblance to Donizetti's Maria Stuarda.
Copyright © 22 March 2007
Robert Hugill, London UK