Packed with intrigue, jealousy and revenge, Beatrice di Tenda is a tragic opera in two acts that retells the final months of one of Renaissance history's most fascinating and ill-fated characters.
The work was written after Norma and before I puritani, and therefore stands as Bellini's penultimate opera, a bel canto composition of transitional flavour that drew on 15th-century accounts and more recent studies of the Visconti era for its subject matter. Beatrice di Tenda, widow of Facino Cane and a high-minded but power-conscious woman of mature years, is married to the young Filippo Maria Visconti, whose station has been considerably improved by Beatrice's dowry of property and armies. Instead of feeling grateful towards his wife, however, Filippo is tired of the much older Beatrice, and decides to take Agnese del Maino - one of her ladies-in-waiting - as his mistress. But Agnese is in love with a nobleman called Orombello, who himself is enamoured of Beatrice. Gradually becoming more suspecting of his wife's innocent relationship with the signore of Ventimiglia, and increasingly incensed by the rebellion of Facino's one-time followers who resent their new ruler, Filippo finally decides to rid himself of Beatrice by accusing her of adultery and conspiracy. Subjected to torture along with Orombello, Beatrice was tried and eventually beheaded in 1418.
First performed on 16 March 1833, Beatrice di Tenda, evidently more reserved in terms of musical resources when compared to the vocal pyrotechnics of its predecessor, was only half-heartedly received by the public, its number of performances gradually diminishing thereafter. In recent years, however, the work has undergone a resurgence in popularity, thanks largely to the American Opera Society's revival of the opera in 1961 (which featured Joan Sutherland and Marilyn Horne among others). This acclaimed recording is based on a production of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, which presented Beatrice di Tenda in a series of concert performances in 1992.
- Recorded in June 1992 at the Jesus-Christus-Kirche in Berlin-Dahlem.
- Love, jealousy, conspiracy, betrayal, torture and capital punishment: the perfect ingredients for an opera in grand dramatic style, tailor-made for Bellini, the opera genius pur sang.
- A most welcome reissue from the Berlin Classics catalogue, with excellent soloists of international fame, conducted by a young Fabio Luisi, one of the most sought-after opera conductors of today, working in the Met in New York among others. He won a 2012 Grammy Award for the Deutsche Grammophon production of Wagner's Ring.
- Extensive liner notes and synopsis in the booklet.