© Tamino autographs
Some forty years ago, I paid a real fortune for those two badly copied cassette tapes of Saverio Mercadante’s Il Giuramento, recorded live in Vienna on September 9, 1979. And now that the Austrian broadcaster ORF is digging up one after the other live recorded opera from their archives and transferring them to CDs, this splendid opera also came on the market – for little money and in an excellent sound quality (Orfeo C 6800621).
Il Giuramento is, just like La Gioconda, based on Victor Hugo’s play ‘Angelo, Tyrant de Padoue’, but there is a world of difference between the two works. La Gioconda is a very passionate, at times overwhelming, opera and contains a selection of (over)famous arias. Think of ‘Suicidio’ or ‘Cielo e mare’. Il Giuramento is smaller and more intimate. Think of Bellini with a touch of early Verdi.
The whole opera is really nothing but a succession of the most beautiful melodies, which force you to listen without even wanting to sing along. Or it must be ‘Compita è ormai la giusta e terribil vendetta’, a beautiful aria sung with much melancholy and elan by Domingo.
Domingo rehearsed the role, which was completely new to him, in four days (!) and stepped in – after only one rehearsal – for the sick Peter Dvorsky. Who else would be capable of pulling this off?
Mara Zampieri, unlike many of her contemporary colleagues, had a very individual sound that you may or may not like, but you cannot not possibly confuse her with anyone else. Her silver-coloured, sensuous soprano blends in beautifully with the golden velvet of Agnes Baltsa (then still without the ugly register break that marred her later performances so much) and in ‘Oh! Qual nome pronunziaste’ their voices melt together into a wonderful unity that is so beautiful it hurts.
There are those performances where everything is just in perfect harmony and you get the feeling that it could not be any better. People keep talking about them and they become legends.
Verdi’s Attila was such a performance, at the Vienna State Opera on 21 December 1980. It was Giuseppe Sinopoli’s debut in the house, his name was still virtually unknown, but the initial reluctance of the audience turned into frenzied enthusiasm from the very first bars. Verdi’s score – not the strongest – has never been heard before with such warmth, fervour and tenderness.
Nicolai Ghiaurov was a great Attila. With his sonorous bass, he gave the character not only the allure of a general but also the gentleness of a loving man.
In her role as Odabella, Mara Zampieri proved that she is not only a fantastic singer with a radiant height and a dramatic attack, but also a great actress.
The stretta ‘E gettata la mia sorte’ in the second act requires the baritone to sing the high b flat. Piero Cappuccilli hit it with ease and suppleness, and then was forced to encore by the frenzied audience, something one seldom experiences in opera. A rare occurrence.
Met Plácido Domingo in La Fanciulla del West
Mara Zampieri sings verismo
And try to find this one, You can’t live without this recording, believe me!
Just few examples