When Linda di Chamounix appeared, it was a resounding success.  At its premiere in Vienna in May 1842, the opera triumphed and earned a run of 16 performances, thanks to the fame of Donizetti and his singers, all very popular at that time. However, while the work entered the repertoire in the 19th century, during the last hundred years it has almost been forgotten and is now rarely performed.

Fabio Capitanucci (Marquis de Boisfleury) and Jessica Pratt (Linda)
© Michele Monasta

Thus, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino’s production is fully commendable. Linda may not be a masterpiece, according to modern standards; the plot is weird and the characters are implausible, but the music is pleasant (and even more than that, in some passages) and the orchestration is particularly well constructed.

The story is about Linda, a pretty country girl, who is in love with Carlo, a penniless artist. Linda, like Lucia di Lammermoor, is a girl mad for love, and her honour is threatened by an old marquis and she is disheartened by what she suspects is a betrayal from the man she loves. Apparently abandoned by both her lover and her family, she enters into an hallucination, suffering disturbed “romantic” emotions and visions. But, as the opera is labelled a melodramma semiserio, a happy ending is mandatory, so Linda regains her sanity, with the aid of Carlo. They return to Chamounix and the villagers rejoice and prepare for the lovers' wedding.

Cesare Lievi's staging was simple but effective: a realistic setting (scenes and costumes by Luigi Perego), and very essential intercourses between the characters. As the chorus could not move and interact with the principals (social distancing on stage!), the events involving them were represented through some walk-ons.

Jessica Pratt (Linda)
© Michele Monasta

The cast was headed by Jessica Pratt, a Linda with flawless high notes and a beautiful legato. In the Mad Scene (not so far in terms of dramaturgical force from its counterpart in Lucia di Lammermoor), the lines “Nel silenzio della sera tornerem, felici, sposi,” often cut in previous performances, were reinstated. In this scene, Pratt released all her pent up emotions, cried her tears, and let go of her resentment, grief and frustration. But it was in the opera’s signature aria “O luce di quest’anima”, that she revealed her most extraordinary gift for glowing, Italianate bel canto style.

Francesco Demuro was well suited to the role of Carlo. The tenor interpreted the beautiful aria “Se tanto in ira agli uomini” with fine phrasing and radiant high notes, tackling successfully the difficult tessitura in the upper register. Then, singing a poignant, beautiful "E la voce che primiera", he manages to bring Linda back to her senses.

Francesco Demuro (Carlo)
© Michele Monasta

Vittorio Prato portrayed an insightful, credible Antonio (Linda's father), while her mother Maddalena was sung by the poised, experienced Marina De Liso. Fabio Capitanucci, as the lascivious Marquis de Boisfleury, tried to make his creepy role “real”, expressing all the arrogance of the character, and offering some outstanding lyrical moments. Michele Pertusi sang the Prefect with a solemn, sound bass. It is also to be mentioned that the characterisation of Pierotto, a young friend of Linda, by Teresa Iervolino, was quite perfect in her rendering.

Michele Gamba conducted the orchestra with a special care for the singers' needs, finely depicting the different moods on stage, and unfolding the story with fluidity and clean sound. The chorus was well prepared by Lorenzo Fratini.

This performance was reviewed from the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino video stream