By taking the very best music from a fascinating, unknown score, Opera Rara begins its new series, the Essential Opera Rara. The chosen selections contan the heart or essence of a work on a single disc of highlights. Saverio Mercadantes Zaira is the first in the series. Mercadante had spent four years writing operas in Spain and Portugal when he returned to Italy in 1831. At that time the most popular composers were Gaetano Donizetti and Vincenzo Bellini. Mercadante kinew he had to compete with the dramatic genius of Donizetti and the melting lyricism of Bellini. It was, in fact, Bellini who used Felice Romanis libretto first; written in haste, it had no success. Adapting the existing text to his own purposes, Mercadante produced something remarkable. The dramatic opportunities are seized with a sure hand and his most plangent melodies provide some of the best vocal music of his long career. All of this for the tragic story of the slave who marries a sultan. Each disc comes with a complete libretto, with English translation, giving you the opportunity to understand how the various excerpts relate to the whole.
"WORLD PREMIERE RECORDING... Majella Cullagh flaunting a to-die-for top register, provides accomplished and expressive singing throughout the title role"
George Hall - BBC Music Magazine