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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Turco in Italia - Dramma buffo in two acts (1814)
Selim, a womanising Turkish Prince captivated by Fiorilla - Marco Vinco (bass); Fiorilla, capricious wife of Don Geronio - Alessandra Marianelli (soprano); Geronio, elderly husband of Fiorilla - Andrea Concetti (bass); Don Narciso, servant and admirer of Fiorilla - Filippo Adami (tenor); Prosdocimo, a poet and friend of Geronio - Bruno Taddia (baritone); Zaida, enamoured of Selim - Elena Belfiore (mezzo); Albazar, confident of Selim, Daniele Zinfardino (tenor)
Prague Chamber Choir, Orchestra Haydn Di Bolzano e Trento/Antonello Allemandi
rec. live, Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, Italy, 18 August 2007.
Sung in Italian and performed in the edition by Margaret Bent for the Rossini Foundation
Director: Guido De Monticelli. Set designer: Paolo Bregni. Costume Designer: Santuzza Cali
Video Director: Tiziano Mancini
Dolby surround 5.0, Dolby, Digital 2.0 Stereo. Aspect 16:9 Colour
NAXOS 2.110259 [165.09]
Experience Classicsonline

Tancredi and L’Italiana in Algeri, premiered at Venice’s La Fenice and San Benedetto theatres in February and May 1813 launched Rossini on an unstoppable career. It saw him become the most prestigious opera composer of his time. Whilst the success of these works brought commissions from La Scala neither of his next two operas, both commissioned by that prestigious theatre, were considered a success at their premieres. The first of the commissions, Aureliano in Palmira, opened the Carnival (winter) season on 26 December 1813. Giovanni Velluti (1761-1861) the last of the great castrati sang the hero Arsace. It was the only time that Rossini wrote a work for the castrato voice. Despite its modest reception on its first night Aureliano in Palmira was given fourteen times in the Milan season. The second of the Milan duo, Il Turco in Italia, Rossini’s thirteenth opera, was initially seen by the Milanese as a repeat of L’Italiana in Algeri and they thought themselves short-changed. The work’s originality and quality were quickly recognised elsewhere and Il Turco spread to other Italian cities, and abroad, where, while not as original or enjoyable as L’Italiana in Algeri, it was received with acclaim.

The libretto was one of the later renowned librettist Felice Romani’s earliest. The plot concerns Fiorilla, the capricious and flighty wife of an elderly husband Geroni. She puts herself around male company in general and attracts an ardent admirer, Narcisco. She also takes a fancy to Selim, a Turkish Prince who arrives in Italy to survey the local ladies and quickly becomes besotted by Fiorilla. Selim has already spurned his long-time lover Zaida who is heartbroken and pursues him. The narrative is completed by the fact that a poet, Prosdocimo who, looking for a story for his next play, sees in the circumstances of the various liaisons the perfect situation for his plot. All ends well with Fiorilla duly contrite about her behaviour and Selim and Zaide back together. The poet has his plot and only Narciso seems without his earlier yearnings sated.

With this frothily implausible plot the best stagings are often the simplest and colourful. This is very much the case in this production from Pesaro first seen in 2002. The costumes are highly colourful and the basic set of a raked and sloped sand-coloured beach is easily and quickly adapted for the various scenes that follow. This is aided by judicious lighting and the use of an opening curved back. The arrival and departure of Selim’s boat is particularly well portrayed.

As might be guessed from Callas’s revival of the work, it is a vocal and acting dream for a singing coloratura actress. In this production this is exactly what it get in the form of the ginger-haired and slim Alessandra Marianelli whose sung and acted portrayal is of a high standard. There are not many formal arias in the work but when she gets the chance for a solo, as when Fiorilla discovers her husband has disowned her and she is homeless (CH.29), the range of Marianelli’s vocal expression matches that of her flexible coloratura in the many duets and ensembles. Marco Vinco seems to be the Rossini buffa de jour. Whilst not erasing memories of Sam Ramey who had more fruitiness and sonority in his bass, Vinco is always able to portray these buffo parts with conviction as he does here with some resonant tones to go along with his resplendent costume and headgear (CH.7). The Prosdocimo, Bruno Taddia, is equally convincing, with his poet’s pencil protruding from his mop of hair. He sings and acts with character in the many ensembles and in his duet with Albazar (CH.25). Less convincing is the blandly acted Andrea Concetti as the husband. He seems a wimp anyway, at least until he gets some spine into himself and bars his wife from their home. Concetti is a light-toned singer and finds difficulty in investing his singing and acting with much character. Full-toned, if with a touch too much vibrato, and well portrayed is Elena Belfiore Selim’s cast aside Zaide. The two minor tenor roles of Narciso and Albazar are adequately taken with the latter having a pleasant light sound.

Rossini plundered the ebullient overture for Sigsmundo (1814), somewhat risky as it was back in Venice at La Fenice, and Otello (1816) far away in Naples. Antonello Allemandi conducts it with brio and navigates the weaker parts of the score with aplomb. The Orchestra Haydn Di Bolzano e Trento are well up to the demands of his baton and the score. The Prague Chamber Choir is an enthusiastic and vibrant participant.

I note that the packaging of the DVD quotes an enthusiastic review from a colleague for the parallel CD release by Dynamic (see review by JS). Another colleague was less enthusiastic about the singing (see review by RH). With the benefit of the visual production, I seem to sit midway between their views though sharing opinions about some of the cast. The Naxos DVD owes its existence to Dynamic and not only has a brief introductory essay, but also an excellent chapter-related synopsis in English and German as well as very welcome cast biographies, albeit in the former language only.

Robert J Farr 



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