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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia – Highlights
Overture, Ecco ridente in cielo, Largo al factotum, Se il mio nome saper voi bramate, All’idea di quel metallo, Una voce poco fa, La calunnia è un venticello, Dunque io son, A un dottor della mia sorte, Contro un cor, Quando mi sei vicina, Il vecchiotto cerca moglie, Temporale, Ah, qual colpo inaspettato! Cessa di più resister, Di si felice innesto

Håkan Hagegård (Figaro), Jennifer Larmore (Rosina), Raúl Giménez (Almaviva), Samuel Ramey (Basilio), Alessandro Corbelli (Bartolo), Barbara Frittoli (Berta)
Lausanne Chamber Orchestra/Jesús López-Cobos
Recorded August 1992, Salle del Castillo, Vevey, Switzerland
WARNER CLASSICS APEX 2564 61502-2 [75:38]


I found this recording needs to be played as loudly as you dare. The orchestral sound is very clear but a bit pallid and lacking in body, and López-Cobos has a way – immediately evident in the Overture – of being both extremely fast and extremely laid-back, but with that extra bit of volume there does seem to be more spirit to the proceedings.

The next thing to notice is that Raúl Giménez’s voice enters very sweetly (in "Ecco ridente") then practically disappears as he goes up to his high notes. This is because he is using a degree of falsetto (a very large degree at times) to give his high notes a honeyed tone. This was a technique of which Giacomo Lauri-Volpi was a master, but it’s important that it should not be overdone. Since Giménez’s high notes when sung "normally" are free and easy it might be argued that it need not be done at all (Lauri-Volpi had a very large and powerful voice, so less inclined to disappear in falsetto). Still, it’s an attractive voice and he certainly has agility of a notes-per-second kind – just as well with López-Cobos on the rostrum (hear the last part of "Cessa di più resistere").

Håkan Hagegård sometimes does a disappearing trick with his voice, too, so it begins to look like a general thing imposed by the conductor, whose tempi are sometimes just too fast to allow the voices to speak. Hagegård produces a likeable Barber but without quite dominating the show, maybe for this reason.

Compare Silvio Varviso’s conducting of "La calunnia" for Nicolai Ghiaurov – the slower tempo allows the Bulgarian bass to really get the music and words across. Nevertheless, Samuel Ramey manages a good job and his is a Basilio worth hearing, as is Alessandro Corbelli’s Bartolo.

The feminine side rather saves matters. Barbara Frittoli makes a good showing in her aria and Jennifer Larmore seems sublimely unfazed by the conductor’s fast tempi (though was it her idea or his to make so little of the famous "ma" in "Una voce poco fa"? Callas was unforgettable here). The voice is always full and warm, the coloratura flawless and the characterization vivid.

The booklet contains an introduction to the opera and a synopsis which makes no particular reference to the items actually included on the record. On the whole I’d say this is a disc not so much for someone who wants highlights from this ever-popular opera, but for fans of Jennifer Larmore who are reluctant to spend out on a complete set which is overall not very competitive, but would be glad to collect the principal moments of her performance at a modest price.

Christopher Howell

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