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Based on the true story of a beautiful 15th-century Venetian woman who unwittingly became queen of Cyprus, Caterina Cornaro was the last Donizetti opera to be produced in his lifetime. This BBC studio recording, conducted by David Parry, helps us understand why it has had such a chequered history since its unsuccessful 1844 Naples premiere.

The Prologue has an atmospheric gondoliers’ chorus and a rousing soprano-tenor duet, but the following two acts find “Dozinetti” – composer by the dozen – rehashing early 19th-century Italian conventions. Giannattasio consolidates her reputation for vocal temperament, Lee sings gracefully in the tenor role and there’s some attractive music for bass (Vuyani Mlinde) and baritone (Troy Cook).

Donizetti

Caterina Cornaro

Carmen Giannattasio/Colin Lee

(Opera Rara, 2 CDs)

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