> Rossini - Buffo Arias & Duets [CC]: Classical CD Reviews- Nov 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il turco in Italia (1814) - Per piacere alla signora. La scala di seta (1812) - Io so ch'hai buon core. Il signor Bruschino (1813) - E un bel nodo che due cori; Ah voi condur volete ... Ah donate il caro sposo. La Cambiale di Matrimonio (1810) - Darei per sì bel fondo. Adina (1826) - Fragolette fortunate. L'occasione fa il ladro ovvero Il cambio delle valigie (1812) - Voi la sposa. Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816) - Una voce poco fa; A un dottor della mia sorte; Dunque io son.
Eva Mei (soprano); Bruno Praticò (bass/baritone)
Munich Radio Orchestra/Marcello Viotti.
Rec February 9th-13th, 2000, Philharmonie am Gasteig, Munich.
RCA RED SEAL 74321 74562-2 [75'34]


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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 effectively.

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 the end.

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.

Colin Clarke

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