Once more an opera in concert version, once again a streamed performance because of the pandemic. This time it was a work not seen in Naples for almost two centuries. The last performance of Bellini’s Il pirata in Naples goes back to 1834; thus, the Teatro di San Carlo and its superintendent, Stéphane Lissner, decided to recover this "monument" to Italian bel canto, offering it in streaming at a symbolic cost of just over two euros.

Sondra Radvanovsky
© Teatro San Carlo

The opera's 1827 premiere at La Scala was an instantaneous success and was repeated more than a dozen times that season. The plot takes place in 13th-century Sicily and concerns Gualtiero, an exiled Count who has turned into a pirate. His fiancée, Imogene, has married Gualtiero’s enemy, Ernesto, in order to save her father's life. Both men accuse her of infidelity and, in the end, Gualtiero kills Ernesto in a duel and is arrested and sentenced to death, while Imogene goes insane. The opera contains fine arias and duets and some of those beautiful melodies with long lines and melancholic flair for which the composer is celebrated.

This Pirata was recorded on 16th January inside the empty Teatro San Carlo, in concert version, with only some (useless, in my opinion) video insertions. This is the first time that American-Canadian soprano Sondra Radvanovsky had sung here. She is a brilliant singer and her contribution was solid and confident; with her accurate and natural coloratura, and fine, dark nuances to the lower notes, she confirmed a strong artistic personality, as she overcame the role's technical challenges, being aware of its complexities.

Luca Salsi
© Teatro San Carlo

Luca Salsi was an excellent Ernesto, his wholehearted, supple baritone, along with his care for the diction and the meaning of the words, made his every appearance notable. Celso Abelo did not seem at ease initially with Gualtiero’s role, especially when it came to high notes, but his performance gained confidence as he went along. However, he handled correctly the coloratura passages with only sporadic strain. Gualtiero's love–hate attitude to Imogene, and his obsession about revenge, was displayed in his aria “Nel furor delle tempeste”. The remainder of the cast was good: Emanuele Cordaro was a Goffredo in good musical shape. Francesco Pittari sang a convincing Itulbo and Anna Maria Sarra was a heartfelt Adele.

Antonino Fogliani conducted  the Orchestra del Teatro di San Carlo with poise, and his reading of the score highlighted its refined textures and contrasts;  he avoided forcing his interpretation, and got the right balance between the musical components, creating the right dramatic climate. The orchestra and chorus worked at their usual good standard.

This performance was reviewed from the Teatro San Carlo live video stream on Facebook