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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Signor Bruschino (Comic Opera in One Act) (1813)
Alessandro Codeluppi (Florville), Maurizio Leoni (Gaudenzio), Elena Rossi (Sofia), Dario Giorgelè (Signor Bruschino), Antonio Marani (Filiberto), Clara Giangaspero (Marianna), Massimiliano Barbolini (Bruschino figlio), Vito Martino (Commissario)
I Virtuosi Italiani/Claudio Desideri
Recorded 4th May 2002 at the Auditorium Pandurera, Cento (Ferrara).
NAXOS 8.660128 [79:43]


Although Il Signor Bruschino is an early opera, written at the age of 21, you could hardly mistake it for the work of anyone else; a typical mixture of saucy elegance, sizzling wittiness, cheeky orchestration and also some touching lyricism. The well-known overture in no ways raises false expectations.

The only well-known singer here is Claudio Desderi, and of course he doesn’t sing, he conducts. Singers who turn to conducting do not always achieve happy results (want some names?) but Desderi certainly has the situation in hand; he knows how to make a Rossini crescendo fizz, he keeps up the momentum in the finale and he can also draw long, legato lines in the slower pieces. In I Virtuosi Italiani he has a band worthy of its name, a small orchestra which is able to play, as the situation demands, both modern and period instruments. The latter seem to be used here, but played so beautifully you hardly notice, and lovers of early orchestral sounds might find the timbre of the old cor anglais (closer to a high bassoon than today’s instrument) in the lovely obbligato to Sofia’s aria in itself worth the modest price of the record.

Another advantage is that the singers are all Italian, so fully at home in the language they are singing. With the help of an exuberant fortist [a person who plays the pianoforte is a pianist, so I suppose a person who plays the fortepiano is a fortist] the recitatives are all beautifully paced, the words clear, the sense well conveyed.

But this doesn’t guarantee the actual singing itself. I don’t want to be snooty just because the singers are little known, since the voices sound young and nobody is famous before he’s famous, if you see what I mean, but I would hardly predict a great career for anyone here. Elena Rossi has an acid-sounding voice, is inclined to be flat in her passaggio and is ungainly in coloratura. There is also an ugly high note from Mr. Bruschino himself. The others are less objectionable but seem somewhat over-parted. The Filiberto is good, but it’s only a small role.

I realise that different people have different tolerance levels. If you heard this in a provincial opera house you might be reasonably happy, since the spirit of the piece is conveyed. For myself, on a recording, even a cheap recording, it is not enough. I enjoyed hearing it once for the music, the conductor and the orchestra, but now, please, I’d like to hear it better sung.

The recording is good, there is a useful note, a synopsis and the libretto in Italian.

Christopher Howell

Gerard Hoffnung CDs

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