The mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar that this
disc presents seems to point to the fact that there are inescapable
gaps in the Rossinian catalogue. There is a consistency of musical quality
which runs through the ten excerpts, which range from 'Barbiere' though
to the lesser known 'Adina' and 'L'occasione fa il ladro ovvero Il cambio
delle valigie'. All of the arias and duets are shot through with an
unmistakably Rossinian glitter and all are united by one thread: they
show the stronger woman running rings around the weaker man.
The otherwise excellent booklet unfortunately does
not contain plot synopses, but there is an interesting essay by Guido
Johannes Joerg on 'Rossini the "comedian"?'. Most importantly, though,
the performances fizz along, expertly paced by Marcello Viotti. His
orchestra, the Munich Radio Orchestra, evidently enjoy letting their
hair down in a most Italianate manner and, as always with Rossini, there
are plenty of opportunities for members of the orchestra to shine in
solos: the cor anglais solo in 'A voi condur volete ...' from 'Il signor
Bruschino' is particularly notable.
The two soloists on this excerpts disc are unfortunately
not evenly matched. The baritone Bruno Praticò, needs both more
power and more character. It has to be said that Eva Mei almost makes
up for this: her tuning is perfect, her voice has just the right amount
of lightness and, importantly for comic opera, her timing is spot on.
Try Adina's aria, 'Fragolette fortunate' from the opera 'Adina' (an
opera Rossini never heard during his lifetime, by the way) for the way
Mei can hold the listener spell-bound (her way with silences is exemplary).
Her reading of Sofia's 'Ah voi condur volete ...' from 'Il signor Bruschino'
shows she is just as expressive in melancholy as in glitter. The lyrical
duet 'Io so ch'hai buon core' from 'La scala di seta' is another example
of this although here one can hear the difference in calibre between
the two soloists. Nevertheless, they manage to spark off each other
The final three tracks take the listener back to 'home'
territory (to Seville). 'Una voce poco fa', Rosina's Cavatina, contains
a wonderful cadenza from Mei; Praticò's Bartolo, however, refuses
to come fully to life. The final item, 'Dunque io son,' is possibly
not the ideal way to end the disc, although it does pick up towards
It is true that Praticò lacks some of Mei's
sparkle, but that is not enough to preclude a recommendation. Life-enhancing
music such as this, superbly performed and excellently engineered as
it is here is a rarity these days: snap this one up.