"Rosmonda d'Inghilterra" was first performed in Florence in 1834 and was also the first time Donizetti had an opportunity to write for the soprano Fanny Tacchinardi-Persiani. The story is actually quite wonderful: Enrico (Henry II of England) has returned from the wars to the comforts of his mistress Rosmonda Clifford who knows him only by his name. Her father informs her of her lover's true identity. Rosmonda is horrified, but the King promises to make her Queen. But she is killed right before the end by the King's jealous wife. The opera shows the confident mastery of form and there is scarcely more than a single item in which he seems not to be writing with genuine creativity, but the work, coming between "Lucrezia Borgia" and "Maria Stuarda", isn't really on the same level as either of these. BUT, as in many works of belcanto, there is always something rewarding to find: for me, that would have to be the duet between the lovers, just before the Finale.
The present except starts just after Enrico has promised Rosmonda that she will be Queen. The poor woman is, of course, unsure of what to do, a state that she remains in during the whole piece, despite her royal lover's beckoning.
The duet itself is a rather typical one by belcanto standards: after cutting the beginning of the scene (time issues), we are left with a simple progression of "andante - tempo di mezzo - allegro". Still, this gentle duet for the lovers is quite beautiful, in spite of the predictability. I would especially single out the section beginning at 3:03 as the lovers' voices are at last connected into one for a long descending coloratura line. The following tempo di mezzo (featuring the sound of distant bells) is dramatically urgent, if not particularly memorable, as both leave the serenity they have just experienced. A long stretta finishes the scene, slowly building up excitement, until the brilliant, "send shivers up your spine" ending with both singers up in the atmosphere. Narratively, the stretta follows Rosmonda reminding her lover of his duty to England; while Enrico says that his decision is not of a lover, but a monarch, and that she has nothing to fear.
The present rendition is taken from Opera Rara's excellent recording of the work, and is sung by the always wonderful Bruce Ford and Renee Fleming, just five years after her operatic debut. Enjoy :)!