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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Cenerentola - opera buffa in two acts
Angiolina (Cenerentola), Jennifer Larmore (mezzo); Don Ramiro, Raúl Giménez (ten); Dandini, Gino Quilico (bar); Don Magnifico, Alessandro Corbelli (buffa-bass); Alidoro, Alastair Miles (bass)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London/Carlo Rizzi
Recorded in Abbey Road Studios, London, in February 1994
WARNER APEX 2564 61503-2 [74.48]


La Cenerentola was premiered at the Teatro Valle, Rome on January 25th 1817. It is the composer’s most popular work after his Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The libretto by Giacomo Ferretti is not based directly on Charles Perrault’s fairy tale of 1697 but was plagiarised from Pavesi’s Agatina o la virtu premiata, which had its premiere at La Scala in 1814. Originally Rossini was supposed to have set a different work. However, the ecclesiastical censors in Rome insisted on so many changes that the composer ditched his original plan and Ferretti’s libretto. With less than a month to go before the scheduled first night, Rossini asked Ferretti to supply a new libretto. Both composer and librettist had to make compromises. Rossini borrowed the overture from his own La Gazzetta, written for Naples a mere five months earlier. He also employed a local musician to assist him by composing all the secco recitatives as well as other pieces that are now omitted in performance and recordings, which follow Alberto Zedda’s Critical Edition.

On record La Cenerentola has had a charmed life. A 1983 recording on Sony featured Vallentini-Terrani as the eponymous heroine. This version ran alongside a zestful performance by Abbado with Berganza (DG) until a Philips issue of 1987 featuring the lean mezzo of Agnes Baltsa under Neville Marriner’s sympathetic baton largely displaced both (now available at mid-price on two CDs in Decca’s Compact Opera Collection). Decca’s well-cast and recorded issue featuring the formidable Angiolina of Cecilia Bartoli under Chailly then eclipsed everything. Personally I found Bartoli’s Cenerentola a little overpowering with her Angiolina likely to make short shrift of her stepsisters. Nor was I wholly happy with Matteuzzi as the Don Ramiro. However, I found my ideal with the 1994 Teldec recording from which this generous selection is derived. Jennifer Larmore initially presents a softer and more vulnerable Angiolina than some of her rivals. Her Una volta (tr. 2) is poignant and expressive with a lovely creamy tone whilst her contribution to the stirring rondo finale is a joy without being overwhelming or showy (trs. 17 and 18). Raúl Giménez sings her suitor, Don Ramiro. His stylish tightly focussed tenor takes the runs without aspirants and it is a pity this selection does not include his Si, ritrovaria. The smooth well-phrased baritone of Gino Quilico as the Prince’s stand in Dandini is well differentiated from Alessandro Corbelli’s superb Don Magnifico in their duet Un segreto (tr. 14). The role of Don Magnifico fits Corbelli like a glove. His singing and characterisation here far surpasses his Dandini on the Chailly version on Decca. Alastair Miles gives as well phrased and sonorous rendering of La del ciel (tr. 10).

What really makes a reading of Cenerentola stand out is the handling of the ensembles. In this respect Carlo Rizzi is outstanding. The interplay of voices has to be needle sharp and it is. So to is the articulation of the fine Covent Garden chorus who are a credit to their Terry Edwards their chorus master. The recording is clear and well balanced. Regrettably the brief synopsis is not track related but neither is that on the full price highlights of Bartoli’s Cenerentola. This omission is partly compensated for here by brief character descriptions. This generously timed and tracked selection of highlights from an exhilarating performance is thoroughly recommended. If it tempts you to purchase the full recording you will enjoy that too.

Robert J Farr

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