Signor Gaetano is the title of tenor Javier Camarena’s latest CD release. It is entirely devoted to the music of Gaetano Donizetti, hence the title. Gli Originali is conducted by Riccardo Frizza who is the musical director director of the Donizetti Festival in the composer’s hometown of Bergamo. The recording took place at the Teatro Donizetti. The album presents arias from a variety of Donizetti operas. They include familiar music and the very obscure. The contents are below.

When asked who the composer who had the biggest impact on his life and career, the tenor named Donizetti. “The first complete role I learned was Nemorino from L’elisir d’amore. In 2004 I won the Carlo Morelli’s National singing competition in Mexico with two of his most emblematic arias: ‘Come uno spirto angelico’ from Roberto Devereux and ‘Ah, mes amis! Quel jour de fête!’ from La fille du régiment. Later that same year, I made my professional debut at the Palacio de Bellas Artes with La fille… and the following year, I debuted Don Pasquale.” 

The disc shows the tenor in fine form. The arias are delivered with security and full tonal control. The music from the rarely performed operas shows why they are rarely staged. They’re just not up to the standard of the best work from the composer. Of course coming from one of opera’s greatest composers they still retain interest.

An example: Betly is an opera that most devotees of the art form have likely never heard or much less heard of. The story is similar to that of L’elisir d’amore, only set in Switzerland. The tenor Daniele is a booby much like Nemorino. Initially rejected by Betly, the soprano, he eventually gets the girl after trying to join the army. The opera begins with the inhabitants of Appenzell playing a joke on Daniele; they give him a fake love letter from Betly accepting his marriage proposal. The young man is elated and invites the villagers to his wedding celebrations – Ah!…E desso cospetto… E fia ver tu mia sarai.

The opera was written in 1836 when Donizetti was at the zenith of his considerable musical abilities. It is still occasionally performed. There are two recordings of the opera.

Who is this collection for? Camarena’s singing is quite good, but there’s nothing revelatory here. If you’re a devotee of Donizetti and want another tenor recital by one of the world’s leading bel canto specialists, then this album is for you.