Aureole etc.




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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792 - 1868)
Il Signor Bruschino (1811) [79.43] Text by G. Foppa after "Le fils par hasard"
Florville - Alessandro Codeluppi
Gaudenzio - Maurizio Leoni
Sofia - Elena Rossi
Signor Bruschino - Dario Giorgelè
Filiberto - Antonio Marani
Marianna - Clara Giangaspero
Bruschino Figlio - Massimiliana Barbolini
Commissario - Vito Martino
I Virtuosi Italiani/Claudio Desderi
Recorded in Auditorium Pandurera, Ferrara, Italy, 4 May 2002
Notes and in synopsis English and Deutsch, Track list. Italian Text, no translations.
NAXOS 8.660128 [79.43]


Comparison Recordings:
Gelmetti, Corbelli, Feller, Kuebler, Stuttgart RSO, Schwetzingen Festival 1989, [ADD] Teldec Laserdisk 9031-71482-6. [No current DVD release.]
Marin, Battle, Ramey, Desderi, Lopardo, Larmore, ECO, (1) DG 435 865-2
Viotti, Pratico, De Carolis, Orciani, Filarmonici di Torino. (2) Claves CD 50-8904/5

This work is one of a group of comedy operas which made Rossini famous all but overnight and spawned imitators for a hundred years — Offenbach, Sullivan, J. Strauss, etc. The plot is a cute twist on the usual mish-mash of young love thwarted by parental arrangements of marriage, stolen letters and mistaken identity, with everything sorted out in the last scene. This was Rossini’s ninth opera and the decks were now clear for L’Italiana in Algeri — and superstardom — two years hence. What were you doing when you were nineteen years old?

With this opera we are fortunate in having in the Schwetzingen Festival recording as nearly perfect a video recording as has ever been made of any opera. Every singer is a superb actor as well as vocalist; costumes and staging are excellent, conducting, playing and recording are all exceptional. Although the audience gets things explained to them pretty early in the story, nothing quite prepares you for the actual entrance of the real Signor Bruschino figlio in the last scene, one last joke to cap a marvellous entertainment. No wonder the curtain calls went on forever. And why is that recording not currently in print on DVD? Write letters to everyone you know demanding its release and if you have any interest in opera at all, you will want to buy it at your earliest opportunity. Even people who have no current interest in opera may change their minds when they see and hear that one.

In comparison, this Virtuosi Italiani performance is a rather smooth, uninvolving run-through. The playing is highly skilled, the singers concentrate on beautiful tone not on dramatic urgency, not inappropriate since we have nothing to look at, although this is a little surprising since Desderi during his singing career was not only a dazzling technician but also something of a ham. The recorded perspective is very close but entirely suitable for concert listening. The opera generally runs 83 minutes, so there may be just a little trimming here to get it on one disk. As usual with the new Naxos releases, the sound is stunningly clear and wide range and will likely be available on a DVD-Audio soon. None of these singers is as good as their counterparts in the Schwetzingen version. This is of course the original version of the overture for 18th century orchestra, not the full modern orchestra version with augmented percussion often played by pops concert orchestras.

The Viotti recording is also digital, a somewhat more realistic distant theatrical perspective, performed with more involvement. This is also a studio recording but has a lot more dramatic presence than the Desderi version, favourably comparable with the Schwetzingen version. Sound has been brightened and does not have the range of the Desderi version. Gaudenzio’s Nel teatro del gran mondo (sung by Bruno Pratico) is a real coloratura show-stopper whereas the version by Maurizio Leoni on the Desderi recording is bland by comparison.

Lastly we come to the real star of the CD versions, Ion Marin with the ECO. Right off we know we’re in for something special; Marin boldly punctuates the drama of the overture having drilled his violinists in a whole range of bow-tapping sounds, loud, soft, crescendo, etc. The singers all sound gorgeous, and make up for the missing visual element with lots of exaggerated sighs, smooches, squeaks and gasps, and by sharply modelling their delivery, perhaps too much at times. Every one of Desderi’s* che caldo’s is in a different voice whereas, in the Schwetzingen version, Alberto Rinaldi makes at least as good a joke out of saying each one exactly the same way. In the end, the Schwetzingen version achieves a unity of ensemble that prevails over all others.

A serious musicological problem occurs during the overture where Rossini instructed the string players to strike their music stands several times in a six beat cadence which is some other places divided into three sets of two beats each. The obvious historical musical reference is to the three solemn brass notes in Mozart’s Magic Flute — but with the resemblance to fate knocking at the door, the obvious forward reference is to Mahler’s Sixth Symphony, and in fact this clearly solves the problem of whether there should be two or three hammerblows in that work. Three are required, unmistakably three! The problem here is that Rossini obviously intended that the players would knock their wooden bows on their wooden music stands, or perhaps the glass chimneys of the candle-holders attached to their music stands. But in defiance of scholarship and all common decency, modern recordings uniformly use metal music stands! The Schwetzingen performers go even further astray, actually striking their bows on the metal shades of their electric music-stand lights! We languish yet in vain for a true, correct original instruments recording of the Bruschino Overture.

*The same as the conductor of the Naxos version.

Paul Shoemaker

see also reviews by Christopher Howell and Robert Farr

 



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