Donizetti: Belisario - Gencer, Taddei, Zaccaria, Pecile, Grilli; Gavazzeni. Venezia, 1969
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We should never discount the importance of the Bel Canto renaissance of the 50s and 60s. Not only did it yield overlooked gems, but it also provides a context for how Giuseppe Verdi gained his voice. Belisario is such a work, showing many of the conventions that Verdi would later adopt in his own operas. For example, the second scene depicts the title character returning from war with all the spoils and prisoners. His first act is to plead for the prisoners' releases from captivity. Sounds like a certain Egyptian opera? In addition, this work also has elements of nationalism that would be such an important feature of Verdi's opus as well as a reunion between father and son which seems right out of Simon Boccanegra. Perhaps that feature of Verdi's' operas was not only borne out of the loss of his children but was in fact a tried and true convention of the bel canto dramatic form. Giuseppe Taddei sings the title role was majesty and virile tone. Leyla Gencer as Antontina highlights the advances in Donizetti's style. This heroine is already departing from the Norinas and Adinas and approaching Lady Macbeth territory. Her voice has a lushness to it which doesn't stop her from delivering spot on coloratura and an astounding final scene. The sound is excellent.