Susan Patterson, Stefano Antonucci,
Paul Charles Clarke, Charles Castronovo, Andrew Foster-Williams, Katherine Manley,
Mark Le Brocq
Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Maurizio Benini – conductor
Every leading Italian operatic composer of the first six decades of the 19th century had problems with censors. Verdi’s disputes over Rigoletto and Un ballo in maschera were notorious, but many other works by Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti were rewritten to appease the arbiters of what was deemed morally, religiously or politically correct.
An extreme reaction to the censor’s red pencil is provided by the last of
Saverio Mercadante’s works to reach the stage. Virginia, completed in 1850, was not performed until 1866 because the composer simply refused to make alterations; it was only after a regime change in 1860–1 that he premiered his score at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples. Like his stirring Orazi e Curiazi of 1846, recorded by Opera Rara on ORC12, Virginia is set in ancient Rome, where the heroine (sung by Susan Patterson), daughter of the soldier Virginio (Stefano Antonucci), is assailed by the corrupt and powerful Appio (Paul Charles Clarke) as part of an ongoing conflict between patricians and plebeians that ends with Virginia’s father stabbing her rather than relinquish his daughter to their oppressor. Opera Rara revived Virginia in concert back in 1976, and now presents the work’s CD debut as part of our ongoing commitment to the music of one of 19th century opera’s most fascinating figures.
The 2CD set comes with a lavishly illustrated book including a complete libretto with an English translation and introduction by Jeremy Commons.
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