Belisario is, quite simply, one of Donizetti’s finest achievements. Dating from the high watermark of Donizetti’s maturity, with its premiere in 1836 (the year after the debut of Maria Stuarda in Milan and Lucia di Lammermoor in Naples), Belisario proved a triumph on stages throughout the 19th century. Yet, incredibly, it is little known today. The libretto, by Salvadore Cammarano (who collaborated with Donizetti on Lucia di Lammermoor), tells the moving and typically complicated story of the 6th century Byzantine general. Falsely accused by his wife, Antonina, of killing their son, he was blinded and exiled as his punishment. Only the recognition by his daughter, Irene, that her father’s former captive, Alamiro, was her long-lost brother restores Belisario’s reputation; tragically, too late to save his life.
British orchestras and their audiences have long held a special affinity for the orchestral works of Jean Sibelius, and the Hallé's venerable tradition of playing his music continues in this superb recording of the Symphony No. 5 in E flat major, the Symphony No. 7 in C major, and the symphonic poem En Saga. Mark Elder's straightforward interpretations are clear-headed and meticulous yet intensely passionate, and the orchestra responds to his direction by digging deep and playing with a commitment that is nearly perceptible. These symphonies and En Saga are representative of Sibelius' mature style, so their deliberate pacing and steady unfolding of motives into organic developments over long time spans require attentive listening, but the clarity of Elder's readings makes the progress of the music easy to follow. Add to this the exceptional reproduction, which brings out every detail with crispness, and presents the Hallé's warm and rich sonorities with credible presence, and the end result is a nearly ideal presentation of Sibelius' music.
Starring Angela Gheorghiu as the celebrated French actress Adriana Lecouvreur and Jonas Kaufmann as her lover Maurizio, Count of Saxony, Cilea’s verismo drama explores celebrity, romance, jealousy, and death. The trio of sublime voices is completed by Russian mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina as Adriana’s jealous rival, the Princess de Bouillon. David McVicar’s hit production – the first performance of the opera at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for more than a century – presents the life of the French actress as a blurring of the distinction between fantasy and reality.
Hallé announces their latest release, of Vaughan Williams’ masterpiece in a live recording from the stunning 2014 Bridgewater Hall performance. “This matchless concert of British music closed with an outstanding performance, among the finest ever, of A Sea Symphony …. This was the first time Sir Mark Elder had conducted the work, which made the completeness of his interpretation, at once controlled and ecstatic, all the more startling. I can't imagine the work being better played..”