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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Turco in Italia (1814) [156.56]
Selim – Marco Vinco (bass)
Fiorilla – Alessandra Marianelli (soprano)
Geronio – Andrea Concetti  (bass)
Narciso – Filippo Adami (tenor)
Prosdocimo – Bruno Taddia (baritone)
Zaida – Elena Belfiore (mezzo)
Albazar – Daniele Zanfardino (tenor)
Prague Chamber Choir
Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento/Antonello Allemandi
rec. live, August 2007, Teatro Rossini, Pesaro
DYNAMIC CDS5661-2 [77.20 + 79.36]


Experience Classicsonline

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 idiomatic performance.

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 libretto.

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 cast.

Robert Hugill 

see also Review by John Sheppard



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