Gioachino ROSSINI (1792–1868) Maometto Secondo - heroic melodrama in two acts (1820)
secondo … Lorenzo Regazzo (bass)
Paolo Erisso … Maxim Mironov (tenor)
Anna … Carmen Giannattasio (soprano)
Calbo … Anna Rita Gemmabella (mezzo)
Condulmiero … Nicola Marchesini (contraltista)
Selimo … Federico Lepre (tenor)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro La Fenice di Venezia/Claudio
rec. Teatro La Fenice di Venezia, February 2005.
Set and costume: Pier Luigi Pizzi
Artistic director: Sergio Segalini
Chorus director: Emanuela Di Pietro
Lighting: Sergio Rossi
Video director: Tiziano Mancini
Region 0 – all regions
video system NTSC
Sound Format dts digital
Picture Format 16:9.
Notes and synopsis: Italian, English, German, French;
Subtitles: Italian, (original language) English, German,
French Spanish Chinese Japanese. DYNAMIC
the press devoted to the genre, an opera written today is
hyped and analysed around the world before and after the
moments of its first performance. It was never thus in the
nineteenth century: enabling some of our prolific composers
to adapt the libretto/music to the tastes of the city of
performance. Maometto Secondo is an opera in point.
was written originally in 1820 for Naples, modified for Venice
some two years later and re-adapted for Paris four years
after that. The Neapolitans saw a grand opera with two long
acts of almost unbroken sequential musical movements concluding
in the heroine killing herself on stage. That would not go
down well with the Venetians, so Rossini re-wrote chunks,
imported music from other works of his, wrote additional
music and produced a happy ending. And it is that Venetian
version which we have here, rather than the more usually
produced Naples version. That said even the Naples version
is not produced that often.
could spend time analysing the changes and the imported music
that the accompanying leaflet tempts us to consider by listing
the changes. But without a vocal score, or at least the libretto,
it is somewhat pointless – and, at the end of the day, apart
from the musical academic, who cares? By that I seek not
to diminish the fascination which detailed analysis can provide
but here I am reviewing a specific Venetian production of
the Venetian version seen some three years ago at La Fenice.
It is that which demands and deserves our attention.
with the story line is irrelevant. Let the sub-titles do
their work and carry you along: but a brief, perhaps oversimplified
analysis might help: Maometto, with his Turkish force, is
besieging Venetian Negroponte - now you can see why the Venetians
would feel personally involved - of which Erisso is governor
and Anna is his daughter. She is loved by Erisso’s general,
Calbo. But, oh yes, you have guessed it, by an offstage pre-opera
development she had met a disguised Maometto and loves him.
When the Venetians win the off-stage battle, in the Naples
version the Turks seek personal vengeance from Anna who
kills herself. In this the Venetian version, with their defeat,
the Turks disappear and Anna consents to marry Calbo. Yes,
there are other side developments but those are the bare
bones. All reasonably foreseeable and not the strongest story
or libretto. Nevertheless, if a little uninteresting at times,
it provides the foundation for some powerful orchestration
with strong percussion and wind sections. There is much interchange
between characters where vocal balance is fundamental - but
with little, if any, character development - strong choral
moments and powerful arias.
orchestra sets off at a stylish pace with excellent wind
solos, rousing Rossini crescendos and an evident deep enjoyment
of the overture. If in the lighter moments, there is a somewhat
heavier touch, perhaps Claudio Scimone was mindful of the
gravity of the subject matter for which from time to time
the music seems inappropriately cheerful. I was going to
write that a perfect example of this appears in Act 1 at Figlia,
mi lascia. Unfortunately the track or chapter breaks
are comparatively few and no timings are given in the booklet.
A total of 15 tracks for nearly 3 hours of music prevents
me from giving precise references. The track in question
is track 6 Giusto ciel, in tal periglio; it lasts
approximately 16 minutes. and Figlia mi lascia is
about five minutes into the track. Incidentally that 16 minutes
also includes the delightful trio Mira, signor, quel pianto.
I would have thought both justified a separate track for
ease of reference.
Maxim Mironov (Erisso)
is the young-looking ‘father’ of Carmen Giannattasio (Anna).
His is a light tenor of distinctive timbre with real power
when necessary. He produces a steadily focused and full sound
with excellent runs and middle note hitting on high. This
is a voice ideally suited to the music and the role – a joy
to the ear.
starts slightly hesitantly but quickly relaxes and her vocal
warmth and technical accuracy shine through. They need to
do so because this role has numerous serious vocal leaps
and long runs giving splendid opportunities for vocal display
that she takes graciously. She produces some lovely deep
sounds – almost, if not certainly, at mezzo level – with
some delightful colouring.
and Mironov have an excellent vocal balance with complementary
sounds. There must be a serious future for these two young
singers. Which is a most appropriate thought also for the
comparatively new-to-opera Anna Rita Gemmabella (Calbo).
She is a mezzo of exceptional vocal warmth which she has
to rein back for most of the time in this role. She has the
vocal strength and ability to transfer unnoticed from head
to chest voice for some equally long vocal leaps. Quite excellent
casting and the recipient of one of the very few audience-applause
Regazzo carries the title role – and carries it well. No,
he is not Samuel Ramey, but his deep brown sound with consistent
power over the whole of his range is totally Turkish-warrior
convincing. He moves easily around the stage and acts strongly
with eyes, face and body. Whilst he has some well coloured
high notes piano I was not entirely convinced that
such gentleness as he shows would have been sufficient to
cause Anna to love him.
Marchesini sings the role of Condulmiero. Now we are going
to get into some deep water. General Calbo was written for,
and is sung by, a mezzo. Condulmiero was written for a tenor
in Naples and rewritten for a bass in Venice. No problem
so far. There is then the question of whether for Venice
Rossini transposed the music down for Condulmiero. The accompanying
booklet says, “The few new passages assigned to Condulmiero
in Venice are indeed written for a bass and not for a tenor;
any modern revival of this opera’s Venetian version must
therefore deal with this unsettled question, which can probably
be best solved by assigning the role to a high baritone.” Totally
clear. So why did the writer of that and the casting director/producer
not communicate with one another because Marchesini is a
counter–tenor (‘contraltista’ in the booklet). To my mind
that casting sets up a vocal imbalance in the ensembles involving
Marchesini. Do not misunderstand that: Marchesini sings with
ringing clarity, good diction and considerable power to match
his fellow performers. He despatches the role convincingly:
my reservation relates to casting. Federico Lepre (Selimo)
has a clear-toned tenor and provides an excellent distinction
for his small interchanges with Regazzo.
of communication may I quibble on another point. The costume
designer and lighting director ought to have sorted out Regazzo’s
headgear. For his opening aria he stand at a high point back-stage
with lighting above him (see the DVD cover picture above).
That casts a deep shadow over his face except for the moments
when he raises his head and ignores his troops beneath him.
A small point but a distracting one.
is not an action-packed opera. Except for Regazzo, who moves
around the stage like a true potentate, there are many long
musical sections where there is little that can be done save
to ‘stand and deliver’. For example when Erisso is rousing
his men to battle they swear on their swords – but those
swords remain firmly undrawn – a moment of drama missed to
production gives us a great deal more than the ‘one set fits
all’ to which we have almost become accustomed. The curtain
rises on a stage set with square and church middle stage.
That then rises to give a full-stage width for the opening
scene in the Hall of Erisso’s palace, which later becomes
the vault or crypt. This two storey set is particularly effective
in the later scenes.
Finale belongs to Giannattasio. She makes it hers securely
and completely, relaxing as she moves around the stage giving
a delightful display of her remarkably focused and accurate
vocal range where runs and leaps abound with some exemplary
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