This new live recording of Rossini’s comedy comes from the Pesaro
Festival. The opera is not that familiar a visitor to CD so that
any new recording is welcome. For this one, the cast are all relatively
young Italians and the recording is based on the 2007 production
so it would seem that we were set fair for an interesting and
But Il Turco
in Italia is a sophisticated and rather complicated work
which requires more than just good singing. Fiorilla, the female
protagonist - she is hardly a heroine - is a complex and tricksy
character. In one of the Gramophone reviews of the opera she
is described as a minx and that is a perfect description. In
live performance at Covent Garden, Cecilia Bartoli fitted the
role to perfection, as she does on disc as well. Alessandra
Marianelli does not quite manage to encompass all the role requires.
Judging by the production photographs she obviously has a young
and attractive figure which the production made the most of.
Her voice is serviceable in an attractive sort of way, inclined
to vibrato under pressure and with a tendency to thin out at
the top. But it is not her technical limitations which cause
my indifference, so much as her limited ability to act with
the voice. She makes a charming and feckless Fiorilla but for
a fully rounded character you need to go to Bartoli or Callas.
As her young admirer,
Narciso, Filippo Adami sounds rather challenged by the high
tessitura of the tenor role. He copes manfully, but his tone
sometimes turns pinched and thin. Neither he nor Marianelli
copes particularly well with the fioriture. But then, the recording
is live so some concession must be given I suppose.
The live element
and the fact that the cast are singing in their native language
are amongst the biggest attractions of the piece. The recitatives
rollick along and really sound like drama, you can believe something
is happening. I imagine that this was a brilliant evening in
the theatre. But these things do not always transfer to CD very
well. Shorn of her bella figura Marianelli cuts a slightly
less attractive figure than she probably did on stage. And the
casting was done without thinking about a possible recording,
witness the fact that Selim (Marco Vinco) and Geronio (Andrea
Concetti) have voices which are rather too close in timbre.
Both Vinco and Concetti
have attractive, slightly grainy voices but there is insufficient
differentiation between them. On disc Geronio sounds as attractive
as Selim, which surely cannot be right. Elena Belfiore has rather
too wide a vibrato for my taste which rather compromises her
performance as Zaida.
Bruno Taddia is
admirable as Prosdocimo, the poet who observes proceedings and
helps them along a bit. Like Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado
this is one of those 19th century comedies which
plays with the realities of a staging in Pirandello-like manner;
something that would not happen in serious stage works until
the 20th century. This aspect of the opera is usually
skated over in the theatre, but on disc we are at liberty to
imagine what we will. However, the CD booklet includes a number
of photographs of the production - which seems to have featured
rather a lot of extremely false looking moustaches - so we can
see what the singers were getting up to.
The negative aspects
of live performance show up as well, unfortunately. There are
quite a few occasions when ensemble fails, particularly in the
bigger numbers; though given some producers’ penchant for choreographing
the big Rossini ensembles in elaborate ways, this is not surprising.
Also, none of the cast are really outstanding when it come to
fioriture and there are many smudges.
The edition used
is based on Margaret Bent’s one for the Rossini Foundation,
but the booklet does not give any further details. As Bent includes,
in her appendix, the non-Rossini items from the opera, it would
have been nice to be told what we were listening to. To find
this out, you need to sit down with a vocal score or a good
In addition to the
production photographs, the booklet includes an article and
the libretto in Italian and English.
The singers are
capably accompanied by the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento
conducted by Antonello Allemandi. Generally his speeds are apposite
and his conducting capable and reliable, though perhaps without
the élan which a great Rossini conductor can bring to these
scores. The continuo is played on forte piano, which is certainly
a big plus.
The opera is on
just 2 CDs but this comes at a cost. The final 7 minutes of
Act 1 are tacked onto the beginning of the second disc.
If you are looking
for an ideal performance of the opera then you need either to
consider Cecilia Bartoli and Michele Pertusi under Chailly or
Maria Callas and Nicola Rossi-Lemeni under Gavazzeni. The Callas
recording is horribly cut and shows its age in some ways, but
Callas’s performance is remarkably engaging. Bartoli is equally
remarkable and has the great advantage of a modern edition and
modern performance practice, so this remains my favourite. If
you simply want to try the opera out, then the Naxos account is
decent enough. This set has both the advantages and disadvantages
of a live performance, along with a capable but not inspirational
see also Review
by John Sheppard