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“Martyrs”: standing ovation for the rarely played Donizetti

“Martyrs”: standing ovation for the rarely played Donizetti

Gaetano Donizetti’s rarely performed opera “Les Martyrs” gave the Theater an der Wien its successful debut today in its alternative venue in the Museum Quarter. The audience celebrated the wonderful vocal performances, headlined by Roberta Mantegna in the female lead role, and last but not least the Arnold Schoenberg Choir and the brilliant Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jeremy Rohrer.

Last but not least, the large number of ballet numbers in this opera makes The Martyrs one of the most complete works of Donizetti in his repertoire. Instead of going mad, the main couple in the piece end up dying of faith and are undeterred by all attempts to change their mood.

Werner Kimmich

Lots of cheers for the singers and music. The trend was met with mixed approval

Polish director Cesare Tomaszewski certainly wanted to politicize Donizetti’s romantically-shadowed study of the persecution of Christians in the third century. Because everything revolves in Armenia, around the martyrdom of the Orthodox Saint Polyeuctus, the director felt it was obvious to refer to the genocide committed by Turkey against the Armenians. Anyone who likes to think outside the box three times would have been well served by this production. However, many did not want to.

Young Romanians dance differently from others

There were large canvas torsos on the stage, which were probably meant to represent the mountains of corpses from the genocide. But Roman rule went beyond that and burst onto the political scene as a “gay carnival.” The Romans do not understand the seriousness of these Christians’ search for meaning, and according to Tomaszewski, they are as happy as the peacocks of history.

To save everyone, the evening is freed from the perception of direction in the second part. Pauline (Roberta Mantegna) reunites with her former lover (Mattia Ulivieri), who is believed dead and sent to Armenia as governor. But the former love cannot be renewed, because Pauline is faithful to her husband, Poliucte (John Osborne), who has been secretly baptized as a Christian. The woman wants to change the man’s mind and make him accept apostasy in order to save his life.

But the opposite happens: the husband persuades his wife to undergo martyrdom together. It is an act of love, and this is the romantic interpretation that Donizetti and his librettist give of the original historical text.

This work of Donizetti actually deserves greater attention, because it is not only the sum of the achievements of this composer, who died very young and left behind almost 70 works for the opera stage. It is indicative of Verdi’s path – and also slightly towards Wagner in the tonal order of the woodwinds. The audience rightly praised the three-hour musical experience that opened the evening.

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