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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Cambiale Di Matrimonio (The Bill of Marriage) - farsa giocosa in one act (1810)
Tobia Mill, an English merchant - Paolo Bordogna (bass); Fanny Mill, his daughter – Désirée Rancatore (sop); Edoardo Milfort, in love with Fanny – Saimir Pirgu (ten); Slook, a Canadian merchant – Fabio Maria Capitanucci (bass); Norton, Mill’s cashier – Enrico Mario Marabelli (bass); Clarina, Fanny’s chambermaid – Maria Gortsevskaya (mezzo)
Orchestra Haydn Di Bolzano E Trento/Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli
rec. BPA Palas, Pesaro, Italy, Rossini Opera Festival.
DYNAMIC CDS529 [78.10]

This performance enables listeners to hear Rossini’s first staged opera in a commendably lively and well-sung production from Pesaro.

Gioachino Rossini was born on 29 February 1792 in the small town of Pesaro now a beach resort on the Adriatic coast of Italy. Since the 1970s the Pesaro Festival has been held in the town each August. Under the influence of the Fondazione Rossini it is dedicated to performing the composer’s operas, preferably in critical editions over which it has until recently had control. This has been in collaboration with the publishers Casa Ricordi and under the direction of the scholar Philip Gosset. The festival and work of the Rossini Foundation has contributed significantly to the renaissance of Rossini’s operas. This work is now solidly under way with a rapidly expanding catalogue of the thirty-nine operatic works available on CD and DVD. A previous audio recording of La Cambiale Di Matrimonio is included in the collection of the five San Moise farsi on the Brilliant label (see review) and is also available separately (Claves 50 9101). A DVD of an elegantly costumed and staged performance directed by Michael Hampe from the 1989 Schwetzingen Festival is available from Euroarts (2054968).
First performed at the Teatro San Moisè, Venice, on 3 November 1810, La Cambiale Di Matrimonio was the first of Rossini’s operas to be staged, although not the first to be written. Its existence owes much to the composer’s background and family connections. Both Rossini’s parents were musicians. As a young man Gioachino was an accomplished singer. Whether this skill was the basis or motivation for his compositional skills is not known. By 1805, as well as singing in Paer’s Camilla in Bologna, by then his hometown, he had composed the six sonate a quattro as well as overtures and several masses. At age 14 he entered the Bologna Liceo Musicale. In his time there he put the gloss of academic rigour on his innate compositional gifts. His first opera was composed during his time as a student to a commission by the tenor Domenico Marbelli who, together with his two daughters, formed the nucleus of an itinerant operatic group commonly found at that time. That work, Demetrio e Polibio, was not staged until May 1812 by which time five of Rossini’s other works had been staged.
The Teatro San Moisè in Venice, where La Cambiale Di Matrimonio reached the stage, was the smallest of the theatres in that city regularly presenting opera. The audience expected new works and the impresario would commission several comic operas or farsi each season, guaranteeing at least three performances to each. The theatre was run on a shoestring; such farsi required little scenery or staging. The San Moisè had a good roster of singers and it was an ideal opportunity for Rossini when another composer reneged on his contract and friends of his family who were members of the company promoted Rossini’s virtues and he was offered the opportunity to fill the gap. La Cambiale Di Matrimonio was the first of five farsi Rossini wrote for presentation at the San Moisè over the nest three years. Although it lacks the musical sophistication of the last of those operas, Il Signor Bruschino, it has pace, energy and wit. La Cambiale Di Matrimonio was well received. At age twenty Rossini’s career was off to a cracking start.
The story of La Cambiale Di Matrimo concerns the attempts of Tobia Mill an English merchant to force his daughter Fanny into a marriage with Slook, a rich Canadian merchant who has offered him a large sum of money to find a suitable wife. Mill sees this arrangement as merely an exchange of goods between merchants via a contract. Needless to say Fanny is in love with a young man of restricted means. When she learns of her father’s intentions, and particularly being treated as goods, she lets Slook know her views. With the help of her chambermaid, Mill’s cashier and Edoardo her lover, Slook is at first threatened and then converted to the cause of the young lovers conceding the contract and generously giving money to Edoardo so that Mill cannot object to the marriage.
In the Claves/Brilliant recording, the two character basses of Mill and Slook are sung by Bruno Pratico and Bruno de Simone. These two exponents of the buffo art are Rossinian troupers in this fach as to the manner-born. But generations move on and although Pratico still sings with gusto in such roles his voice is drying out and it is good to hear new names with commendable skills as both singers and vocal actors. Paolo Bordogna as Mill, and Fabio Maria Capitanucci as Slook, have nicely differentiated vocal timbres, each with sap in the tone and a pleasing ability for characterisation. As well as that vocal differentiation their ability for clear diction is a virtue throughout and particularly in the duet that starts in scene eleven (tr. 14). It continues with Mill getting heated as Slook wriggles to withdraw from the contract without coming wholly clean as to the reason but offering compensation. A real buffo gem well delivered. As the goods of the contract, Fanny, Désirée Rancatore twitters well in the vocal stratosphere but is less secure lower down the scale and lacking some legato. That being said she is infinitely preferable to her counterpart on the Claves/Brilliant issue. She has sung Lucia (see review) and Olympia (see review) and obviously it is in the upper region of her voice that she is strongest. The singing of Saimir Pirgu as Edoardo is pleasant on my ear as to make me regret Rossini’s omission of an aria for him alone. He makes what he can of his contributions to the proceedings. Although Mario Marabelli sounds a little old for Norton, both he and Maria Gortsevskaya as Clarina make a good musically apt sung contribution to the proceedings.
The orchestra under the idiomatic direction of Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli play with élan; the sound is clear if not of the very highest fidelity. The intrusions of applause are measured, warm and commendably brief. Dynamic have a habit of recording performances such as this for later issue on DVD. These Rossini farsi are ideally suited to the latter medium and I hope Dynamic have such a recording in the can. Those with video facility might like to wait a while and hope whilst those with audio only can purchase with confidence.
Robert J Farr


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