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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Torvaldo e Dorliska - Drama semiserio in two acts (1815)
Dorliska - Darina Takova (soprano)
Duca d'Ordow - Michele Pertusi (bass)
Torvaldo - Francesco Meli (tenor)
Giorgio - Bruno Practico (bass)
Carlotta - Jeannette Fisher (soprano)
Ormondo - Simone Alberghini (bass-baritone)
Cello continuo: David Etheve
Fortepiano: Giulio Zappa
Prague Chamber Choir/Lubomir Matl
Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano Trento/Victor Pablo Perez
Director: Mario Martone
Set designer: Sergio Tramonti
Costume designer: Ursula Patzak
Light designer: Cesare Accetta
Video director: Tiziano Mancini
rec. live, Teatro Rossini, Pesaro, August, 2006.
Synopsis and essays in Italian, English, French and German.
Edizione critica della Fondazione Rossini in collaborazione di Casa Ricordi
DYNAMIC 33528 [157:00]

It is not often an opera-goer gets to revisit a fondly remembered performance hoping that the praiseworthy first impressions still ring true. Fortunately, the solid musical and dramatic values from the Rossini Opera Festival's production of Torvaldo e Dorliska are still very much alive on this recently-issued DVD taped in August 2006. What stands out about the DVD is the care Dynamic took in presenting both the gentle reflections and the forceful declamations in Rossini's semi-serio opera, letting the camera capture these contrasting musical moments which the composer recognized were essential to this genre.
Looking back at what I wrote on in 2006, all the innovative moments from this production are there on the DVD. One reason is Mario Martone's fluid, but sturdy directorial hand in guiding his dedicated cast through librettist Cesare Sterbini's comic and serious dramaturgy. Another is conductor Victor Pablo Perez, whose able assistance gave the music its fullest performance value.
It helps in these semi-serie works if the story unfolds simply and directly, and of course, Torvaldo does just that. Set in an unspecified European country some time before the 16th century, in the dark, hooded woods surrounding the castle of the tyrannical Duke of d'Ordow, the knight Torvaldo comes in search of his wife, Dorliska. Helping him to rescue his beloved is Giorgio, the custodian of the castle. The Duke, thinking Torvaldo is dead, is ravaged with his own unrequited love for Dorliska. Giorgio, naturally conflicted between his loyalty to the Duke and his empathy for Torvaldo's plight, decides to help the people's uprising against the oppressive ruler, which results in reuniting Torvaldo and Dorliska. The opera ends with general rejoicing, a must in semi-seria opera.
The tale's simplicity in no way hides the commitment the four leads bring to their roles. In fact, Tiziano Mancini's video-camera work follows the ebb and flow of Martone's directorial style so neatly that the performances gain in emotional stature as the opera progresses. Mancini's close-ups become even more significant by the way he pulls the camera back at the exact moment the character changes his or her emotional footing, involving the viewer to an even greater extent than in the house, if that is possible. For that reason, the drama moves smoothly to the forefront partnering the vocal insights of bass Michele Pertusi as the Duke and bass Bruno Practico as Giorgio. The camera also intensifies the dramatic gifts of Francesco Meli as Torvaldo and Darina Takova as Dorliska, as well as their vocal achievements.
Set designer, Mario Tramonti extended the proscenium out and around the orchestra pit allowing the singers greater freedom of movement. He also built side steps that led into the two main aisles of the intimate Teatro Rossini extending the action into an even wider area. Mancini captures Tramonti's illusion of a desolate space, moving the camera around the opera-house showing not only a beautiful production, but this lovely setting for Rossini's authentic interpretation of opera semi-serio.
Visual purists may find some of the colors invading each other's space when a surer hand is needed to keep them in check, but this may be due to how the production was lit as opposed to Mancini's own lighting choices. But in the end, this is a small price for the viewer to pay for the opportunity to see and hear one of Rossini's neglected works performed in such a distinguished production.
Nicholas del Vecchio

see also review by Robert J Farr (Recording of the Month - November 2007)


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