Donizetti’s comic opera, Il campanello di notte, is a classic buffo piece with an inconsequential plot based around the attempts of Enrico to disrupt to post-nuptial celebrations of Don Annibale Pistacchio, an apothecary, and his new bride Serafina. She has been forced into the marriage and she and Enrico are still infatuated. Enrico rings the apothecary’s night-bell on three occasions presenting himself in varying disguises and in need to medical assistance; one being an opera singer who has lost his voice. Don Annibale cannot but honour his position and attend to the demands. Thereby Enrico prevents the marriage being consummated on its first night – Don Annibale has to leave for Rome the next morning. We don’t get to find out what happens on his return…
It’s a jolly romp, and curiously for a bel canto opera there is no prominent tenor role, and even Serafina’s appearance is relatively brief. The vocal demands fall on the baritone and the bass. Don Annibale is played by the wonderfully ripe and supremely agile Enzo Dara – his singing is very classy and textually alert. Opposite him is Angelo Romero, perhaps less appealing of voice since the timbre is somewhat dry, but also most witty in his adoption of different voices and vocal eccentricities as his various ‘characters’. In particular his delivery of the formulation of the requisite potion for the ailing ‘Anastasia’ (the imagined hypochondriac wife) – probably opera’s longest and funniest pharmaceutical prescription – is something of a tour de force: Donizetti must have done extensive research to pen it!
Agnes Baltsa was always a stage animal and recordings do not always do justice to her, sometimes catching an edge to the tone and a degree of effort in her changes of register. This recording was made when she was in her vocal prime, although the interpretation is not as detailed as one might have expected.
The supporting roles are nicely performed by Bianca Maria Casoni (who recorded quite a few mezzo roles in the 1960s and 1970s) and Carlo Gaifa. Gary Bertini keeps the score ticking over nicely even when Donizetti’s compositional quality becomes a little formulaic and workaday. Nonetheless it’s a fun listen, and good to have it back in the catalogue, but a shame no libretto is included, although there is a synopsis.