Opera Rara Presents Donizetti's "Les Martyrs", Wins International Opera Award For "Fantasio"
Coming up in May, Sir Mark Elder and the Orchestra of The Age of Enlightenment present Donizetti's rarely heard grand opera Les Martyrs, featuring a stellar cast led by Joyce El-Khoury, Michael Spyres and David Kempster. The Opera Rara recording was made in the studio a few weeks before the concert on November 4, 2014, which was the first performance of this masterpiece in its original form for over 150 years.
A tragic tale of Christian martyrdom, Les Martyrs began its life as Poliuto, Donizetti’s Italian opera which was banned for its religious content before its Naples première. Greatly angered by the Italian censors’ decision, Donizetti moved to Paris and added an elaborate new overture, new solos for the lead tenor and several innovative ensemble scenes. Yet, despite the opera’s successful première, Les Martyrs soon disappeared from the Paris opera’s repertory. Opera Rara’s revival is based on a new critical edition by Dr. Flora Willson, which restores the opera’s original French text and reinstates numerous musical passages that have not been heard since its first performance.
Opera Rara is renowned for its releases of fascinating, yet undeservedly forgotten, 19th-century Italian and French operatic music. The label's most recent release, Offenbach's Fantasio, has just received the Best Opera Recording Award at the International Opera Awards held Sunday, April 26 at the Savoy Theatre in London. Les Martyrs was also nominated in the Rediscovered Work category and American tenor Michael Spyres was nominated for Best Male Singer. “I am thrilled that we should be rewarded for everyones’ astonishing efforts with such a prestigious honour” (Sir Mark Elder).
The November 2014 UK performance was widely acclaimed in the press.
"this remarkable cast and chorus indefatigably gave their all. Scenes were powerfully propelled by Elder’s pacing, the OAE’s stinging strings, exotic percussion and long, coppery trumpets and trombones"
- The London Times
"Mark Elder and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment gave it all the nobility and energy it needs, and I can’t imagine it better played or conducted."
- The Telegraph
Les Martyrs soprano Joyce El-Khoury performs Emmeline for several dates beginning June 13 at The Opera Theater of St. Louis in Missouri. Watch El-Khoury's masterful performance in Les Martyrs Act II Finale below! More performance videos and photos to come!
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