This performance has been in the catalogue for a while and
is now released in tandem with L’Italiana in Algeri from the same
This was one of Cecilia Bartoli’s early performances
preserved on film. All of her well known characteristics are there in
infancy, so to speak. Her coloratura singing is extremely impressive,
together with her fine tone, which has deteriorated somewhat as her
career has developed. In this performance there is nothing of the stridency
which mars some of her recent concert performances. In those days however,
her voice was never powerful and this shows clearly in this recording.
That gets the main concerns about this performance
out of the way. Figaro is superb in both characterisation and diction,
and although Rossini rarely calls for great theatrical skills, his comic
timing is superb. Based upon his performance, he should have got star
billing, but Miss Bartoli manages this, probably because it is her presence
that will generate most sales.
The theatre where the opera is set is very small, thus
ensuring a packed house, and there is little or no audience noise to
distract one’s attention from the stage action. The sets, because of
the small stage dimensions are somewhat cramped, but are very tasteful,
in traditional design, which is all to the good for me. This provides
a wonderful backdrop for the very talented group of principals to ply
Almaviva, sung by David Kuebler, tends to the school
of funny faces, but his voice and characterisation are both fine, if
not to the standard of Figaro. When we come to the basses, Robert Lloyd
is absolutely superb as Basilio and it is a great shame that his part
isn’t longer to give us more of an opportunity to appreciate his wonderfully
rich voice. Staying with the basses, Carlos Feller is reasonable as
Bartolo, his characterisation being first class, but his diction sometimes
runs out of synch with the other singers in the ensemble pieces. Sometimes,
I felt, he would have appreciated the conductor not moving things on
quite so fast.
This leads me to the hero of the proceedings – the
conductor Gabriele Ferro. He moves the drama on at a cracking pace,
and the orchestra deliver the goods in a very impressive manner. It
is wonderful to hear a German radio orchestra sounding so idiomatic
in Rossini, and the playing is a constant joy.
I can’t leave without mentioning the Bertha of Edith
Kertesz-Gabry. Her intonation and characterisation is superb, and in
the ensembles, she completely swamps young Miss Bartoli, proving once
again that the super-star is probably much better in the recording studio
than in the theatre.
Picture quality and sound are first rate, and anyone
buying this DVD is in for a treat.