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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
L’italiana in Algeri - opera giocosa
in two acts (1813)
Bey of Algiers - Marco Vinco (bass); Elvira, Mustafa’s
wife - Barbara Bargnesi (sop); Haly, captain of the Algerian
pirates - Alex Esposito (bass); Lindoro, a young Italian
and Mustafa’s favourite slave - Maxim Miranov (ten); Isabella,
an Italian lady - Marianna Pizzaloto (mezzo); Taddeo, Isabella’s
companion - Bruno De Simone (buffa bar)
Prague Chamber Choir
Orchestra of the Teatro Communale, Bologna/Donato Renzetti
rec. live, BPA Palais, Pesaro, 12, 15, 19 August 2006, Rossini
Performed in the Critical Edition by Azio Corghi for the
Rossini Foundation in collaboration with Casa Ricordi
CDS 526/1-2 [69.43 + 73.47]
was a memorable year for Rossini. He had made his mark in
a highly competitive profession with a series of five
operatic farces presented at Venice’s small San Moise
theatre. He had also come to the notice of the city’s premier
theatre, La Fenice, who commissioned him to write an opera
seria. The last of the one act farsa, for San Moise was premiered
in late January with the opera seria, Tancredi, based
on Voltaire’s tragedy, but given a happy ending, following
on 6 February 1813. Rossini’s version reverted to Voltaire’s tragic
ending in the Ferrara revival of Tancredi a
few weeks later. A north Italian audience used to happy endings
was less enthusiastic than that at Venice.
the revised Tancredi, Rossini returned to Venice.
There he was to write a comic opera, at short notice, for
the Teatro San Benedetto who were in a hole after another
composer had failed to deliver. Faced with a timetable of
less than a month, Rossini later claimed to have composed
the work in a mere eighteen days – short-cuts were inevitable.
First it was decided to recycle, with some revisions the
libretto of an existing opera, Luigi Mosca’s L’Italiana
in Algeri of 1808. Rossini outsourced the recitatives
and also Haly’s short act 2 aria La femmine d’Italia (CD
2 tr.12). Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, his eleventh
opera, was premiered on 22 May 1813 to almost
constant wild, general applause according to a contemporary
review. It is the earliest of the composer’s truly great
full-length comedies. It has speed as well as felicitous
melodies. Although it fell from the repertoire for a period
early in the 20th century it was revived for the Spanish
coloratura Conchita Supervia in 1925. It is one of the few
Rossini operas to have had a presence in the catalogue since
the early days of LP.
plot concerns the feisty eponymous heroine Isabella.
She has been sailing in the Mediterranean, accompanied by
an elderly admirer Taddeo, in search of her lover Lindoro.
After her ship is wrecked, Mustafa, the Bey of Algiers, finds
her the ideal replacement for his neglected wife who he intends
to marry off to a captured slave, who happens to be Lindoro.
After complicated situations involving Taddeo being awarded
the honour of ‘Kaimakan’ and Mustafa
in turn becoming a ‘Pappataci’, a spoof award invented
to keep him obeying strict instructions, all
ends well in a rousing finale with the Italians escaping
from the clutches of the Bey.
planning for the 2006 Pesaro Rossini Festival from where
this live recording derives was complicated by the closure
for refurbishment of some of the town’s major venues including
the Palafestival. Works were presented in two out of town
makeshift venues within a sports arena, a situation that
will continue until at least 2009. As a consequence the normal
festival programme of new productions was severely curtailed.
Of the stage works presented, this recording is taken from
a series of staged performances in the BPA Palais of Dario
Fo’s 1994 hyper-active production. It featured the bravura
American mezzo Jennifer Larmore in the eponymous role. I
stress the hyper-activity. Fo’s productions do not do things
by half measures. If it is possible to have movement or extraneous
stage activity or props, then Fo will include it. As I indicate
in my review of his recent Pesaro production of Rossini’s La Gazzetta,
filmed when reprised at Barcelona in July 2005, it was easy
to become confused by all the comings and goings of singers
and extras. What a critic or audience member rarely gets
are the reflections of the participant singers on the productions
in which they appear. If they do so at all it is at best
many years after the event. Philip Gossett, the renowned
Rossini scholar and until recently responsible for the Critical
Edition of the composer’s works performed at Pesaro, tells
a few secrets in his recent book, Divas and Scholars (Chicago
Press). Revelations include the fact that he had to advise
Larmore to be circumspect about her decoration of the vocal
line in the original production because of the physical activity
demanded of her. I mention that as I wonder about some of
the singing in this live recording reprising the Fo production.
much is promised but not fully realised in the singing. Marianna
Pizzaloto’s mezzo is excellent in the lower register, less
so in her middle voice which is slightly throaty and hooty.
She cannot always hold the vocal line, whilst her decorations
do have a tendency to sharpness. This vocal unevenness is
more evident in her rendering of Isabella’s act 2 Per
lui che adoro (CD 2 tr. 7) than in her act 1 Cruda
sorte (CD 1 tr. 9). The Russian Maxim Miranov as Lindoro
has an appealing tenore di grazia voice. His singing
is most engaging in the ensembles but in his act 2 Cocedi
amor pietoso (CD 2 tr.3) he loses that beauty of tone
with the intrusion of raw notes. The resultant applause is
only tepid for what is the tenor party-piece of the work.
Miranov is a favourite at Pesaro and as this recording derives
from performances over three nights it is worrying if this
is the best of his efforts. Marco Vinco’s innately lean bass
starts off sonorously with good characterisation and with
more colour than usual. But he too tires in act 2 with his
voice becoming less steady and loses intonation. He fails
to make much humour out of the act 2 Pappataci charade (CD
2 trs. 14-21). Bruno De Simone as Taddeo, Isabella’s supposed
uncle but really a suitor, is steadily and expressively sung
and characterised. He makes much of his time as a Kaimakan
and over Taddeo’s interactions with Vinco’s Mustafa. Alex
Esposito’s Haly is also well sung and portrayed as is Barbara
Bargnesi’s Elvira, Mustafa’s long-suffering wife who learns
a few tricks about husband management from Isabella.
ensemble singing goes with more zip than some other parts
of the work, the chorus contributing vibrantly where appropriate.
The production is shared with the Teatro Communale, Bologna,
whose orchestra play superbly under the direction of Donato
Renzetti who conveys a natural feel for the idiom. Whatever
the problems of travelling to Pesaro’s out of town venue,
its acoustic quality is wholly satisfactory as caught by
Dynamic’s engineers. The balance of singers and orchestra
is ideal and pleasingly catches the good diction of the former.
do not know if this production by Dario Fo was filmed at
its first run at Pesaro in 1994 or elsewhere. It may be that
Dynamic, from their attendance on three nights, will issue
a DVD. If so Rossini and Fo supporters may want to wait a
while before purchasing.
Robert J Farr
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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