One thing the Donizetti Festival in Bergamo is noted for is unarthing Donizetti rarities. The 2016 edition was Rosmonda d’Inghilterra; a dramatically rather slight piece based on the story of Henry II’s mistress, generally known as “The Fair Rosamund”. In the opera version Rosmonda is locked up in a tower by her lover Edegardo who has promised to marry her except he’s really Henry II (Enrico) and Leonora (Eleanor of Aquitaine) is going to have something to say about that. Complicating matters; Enrico’s page Arturo is in love with Rosmonda and her dad, Clifford, is the king’s principal counsellor and not at all happy about his daughter carrying on with a married man. Clifford’s plan to save the family’s honour is to have Arturo take Rosmonda off to Aquitaine and marry her. Rosmonda’s is to retire to a convent (as, apparently, the historical Rosamund did) . Enrico’s is to divorce Leonora (given Enrico’s problems with the church this seems highly implausible but, hey, bel canto) and make Rosmonda his queen. Leonora isn’t having any of this and shows up at the tower and kills Rosmonda. Finito. Along the way there’s lots of very workmanlike Donizetti music which sounds pretty much like most Donizetti operas.
Director Paola Rota doesn’t do anything very clever with the plot. It’s a straightforward narration in a straightforward fantasy medieval setting. The sets are pretty bare and the only curious touch is that all the characters have black or gold panda makeup around the eyes. The chorus is dressed in black except for gold livery chains and lurks a lot. Also, umbrellas and flower petals and odd hats. It works well enough.
The singing is of a rather high standard. Both of the ladies; Jessica Pratt as Rosmonda and Eva Mei as Leonora have the full range of bel canto chops and sound excellent. Mei even manages a touch of the Cruella de Vils as the unforgiving queen.Nicola Ulivieri is very solid and masculine in the bass role of Clifford and Raffaella Lupinacci in the trouser role of Arturo is also spot on. I’m not so sure about Dario Schmunck as Enrico. He’s not bad but he does “bleat” a bit though maybe no more than a lot of bel canto tenors. Sebastiano Rolli conducts idiomatically and unobtrusively which seems to be what bel canto requires. So musically this is rather better than one might expect from the Italian provinces.
Matteo Ricchetti’s video direction is undistracting and he doesn’t get freaked by the often very dark stage. The picture looks pretty decent on DVD but given how dark it is I’d go for the available Blu-ray. Both the stereo and Dolby surround tracks are clear and spacious. There are no extras on the disks. The booklet has a short introductory essay, a synopsis and a track listing. Subtitle options are English, Italian, French, German, Korean and Japanese.
This is, and may well remain, the only video recording of this piece and it’s a very decent prsentation of the work. That said it’s pretty routine Donizetti and likely only really for the hard core bel canto fan.