Small picture of Donizetti



Donizetti Gemma di Vergy

Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo,  September 16 & 18, 2011.

Photographs by Gianfranco Rota, courtesy of the Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo


Photographs from the 2011 Teatro Donizetti production of Donizetti's Gemma di Vergy that opened the Bergamo Music Festival.  It was the first performance of the opera there for nearly 25 years and used a new edition prepared by Livio Aragona.

Gemma di Vergy  is a product of  Donizetti’s mature years when he had begun to taste success on the Italian stage. It was written for La Scala and first performed there on December 26th, 1834.The libretto by Emanuele Bidera was based on a verse drama, Charles VII chez ses grands vassaux by Alexandre Dumas (senior), although differing considerably in some details, particularly the ending. The opera was very successful in its day both at home and abroad and held the stage for some decades in Italy but then has disappeared almost completely. George Loomis in the New York Times wrote of this September's performances that "Donizetti’s operas are indeed formulaic, yet, time and again, formulas are transcended in the theater as works of genuine dramatic power exert their grip. So it was with Gemma di Vergy, which like a number of the composer’s other operas has a tragic heroine at its center and climaxes in a shattering closing scene".

The stage scenery by Angelo Sala was stylish and unfussy, at onepoint a backdrop, inspired by Uccello’s The Battle of San Romano, appeared to crumble away as the end of the first act approached mirroring the breakdown in Gemma's marriage and  life.  The direction and the costumes were very traditional. Montserrat Caballé, who revived the role in the 1980’s, characterised the role of Gemma as equal to three Normas with a wide range of emotions from great tenderness to vehement denunciation with some madness along the way. For the most part, these emotions arise naturally out of the action, so that it is a great role for a singing actress.

Here Maria Agresta took the leading role and with great credit acting the part as well as singing superbly particularly in the softer and more lyrical pieces. Only the denunciations could have done with more steel. Nicola Lischi in Opera Britannica summed up that "I could not help mentioning that at least at this very early stage of her career Maria Agresta is still partially lacking the “grinta”, the ferocity, the fearlessness [and] abandonment with which primadonnas like Callas or Gencer would throw themselves into such roles of spurned or unhinged women. Time will tell if she will acquire this indispensable ingredient.  What is certain is that on Sunday one had the distinct impression of being present at the birth of a star."

Mario Cassi as the Count was adequate but did not project a strong enough performance or personality.Leonardo Galeazzi as Guido, the Count’s confidant, grew in authority as the performance went on and Gregory Kunde as Tamas acted and sung the part very well but the voice is now a little harsh. Roberto Rizzi Brignoli conducted a sprightly and sympathetic account of the score well played by the orchestra. Overall, a very enjoyable evening, much appreciated by the audience even if not by the Corriere della Sera who entitled his review "Gemma di Vergy Ritorno (mediocre) di un Donizetti raro"and was unimpressed by several aspects of the production, in particular, feeling that Agresta was the wrong soprano for the part.


The Team


Count of Vergy  - Mario Cassi

Gemma, his repudiated wife - Maria Agresta

Tamas,Gemma's arab servant - Gregory Kunde

Guido, the Count's confidant - Mirco Palazzi

Rolando, the Count's squire - Dario Russo

Ida, his new wife - Kremena Dilcheva


Conductor - Roberto Rizzi Brignoli

Director - Laurent Gerber

Scenes and Costumes - Angelo Sala

Lights - Claudio Schmid


Orchestra and Chorus of Bergamo Musica Festival

Chorus Director - Fabio Tartari


A tableau shown during the overture




Tamas, Guido, Rolando and chorus



Guido, Gemma, Rolando and chorus



The Count, Guido and Tamas



The Count, Gemma, Tamas and Guido



Preparing for Ida's wedding to the Count




The final scene (rendered in monochrome)




Page initially published in  2011