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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)
Il Signor Bruschino - Opera in one act

Gaudenzio…Jerzy Mahler(bass)
Sofia… Alicja Slowakiewicz(soprano)
Bruschino… Jan Wolanski (bass)
Florville… Kazimierz Myrlak (tenor)
Filiberto… Dariusz Niemirowicz (bass)
With Krzysztof Moleda, Bogumit Jaszkowski, and Haline Gorzynska
Warsaw Chamber Opera / Jacek Kasprzyk
Recorded 1985
PAVANE RECORDS ADW 7158 [CD: 72.19]

 

Experience Classicsonline

A preposterous plot, two ridiculed characters, boy finally weds girl, all live happily ever after and all in one act: plainly we have a farsa, a particular form of one act opera popular at the turn of the eighteenth / nineteenth centuries. This is the last such work that Rossini wrote (at 19) and is one of the best of that art form.

So why for all practical purposes did it disappear from view? To which the answer would appear to be that Tancredi was first performed within one month and L’Italiana in Algeri within six months. This does not pretend to be in the same league. The then evening’s entertainment would probably have been two works of this genre plus a ballet: which probably explains why there have been comparatively few productions over the last two centuries.

This production makes up for that. It is direct, lively and abounds in expression. The thick vein of sentimentality running through the opera is explored to the full. The 'comic’ characters miss not a posture. It has its shortcomings but it is a rollicking performance without irritating audience noise, thumping feet on stage or even singers breathing.

Now before I put some detail on those generalisations, I shall suggest to Pavane that they should give a prize to the listener who identifies the most phrases and musical effects which appear in later Rossini operas – this was only his ninth and all his ‘greats’ were still to come.

The overture is the ‘bows struck on metal candle holders’ overture and the clattering repetition is taken as a call for breakneck speed. There is no time to pause to draw breath before we are headlong into sentimentality and Florville’s introduction and duettino with Mariana the maid.

Kazimierz Myrlak as Florville does not have the most powerful voice and initially he seems distant from the microphone. Further the orchestra are too loud in several places, particularly early on, obscuring the voices of Myrlak and others. However, Myrlak gradually asserts himself and it is essential for him to do so when singing with Jan Wolanski (Bruschino senior) and Jerzy Mahler (Gaudenzio).

These are our farsa characters and fortunately they have distinctive bass timbres. Wolanski carries all before him, even the ridiculous repetition of che caldo. In the trio with Florville and Gaudenzio he sounds like a prodded balloon which the others will soon puncture. Even in his deranged mode later when denying the identity of his purported son (Florville) he carries off the vocal leaping without hesitation.

Indeed there is no hesitation: two sections of recitative are dramatically fast and are so good that unusually the unaccompanied letter reading by Gaudenzio is my first example, recited at a gallop with bags of expression and nothing missed. Indeed Mahler has a superbly deep brown voice in all the recitatives whether accompanied or not. Whilst he is not quite so comfortable with some of the coloratura, he portrays well Gaudenzio’s lack of comfort with himself: he seems to be the clown’s face with a strong suggestion of inner pathos.

Dariusz Niemirowicz sings Filiberto the innkeeper with a clear timbred voice essential to another rapid-fire recitation and plot advancer. He manages to inject mischievous fun into his role without reducing the quality of his tone. My real regret is that there is not more of Halina Gorzynska who has the maid’s tiny role. She has a delightfully clear voice.

Sofia is accorded a solo recitative and aria with a plangent cor anglais background. Alicja Slowakiewicz, with just a hint of shrillness at forte, delivers this with some excellent tonal variations. As my second example I have returned to a point partway through her duet with Florville at the beginning of the opera. It was tempting to take an example from her duet with Gaudenzio but that would overload the samples in his favour. However it does demonstrate what to me is one of the great strengths of this recording, namely that the combination of the singers produces a result greater than the sum of the parts. The duets and ensembles are almost all quite excellently performed. That leads me to my third sample taken from the end of the quartet of Bruschino’s discomfiture. The sample has Bruschino singing first.

Unfortunately whilst there is an extremely detailed synopsis, which has the side effect of making the plot seem even dafter than it is, there is no translation of the libretto – which text you will certainly need if you are to follow some of the interchanges on this crisp CD. Of the opera I cannot improve upon Richard Osborne’s description: "a small treasure trove of comic devices" [R. Osborne, Rossini, The Dent Master Musicians Series, ed. S.Sadie (London: J.M.Dent, 1963) p15]. Of the performance, there are imperfections but the treasure trove is laid before us very very entertainingly.


Robert McKechnie


 



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