Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
L’Inganno Felice - Farsa in 1 Act (1812)
Duca Bertrando – Raúl Giménez (tenor)
Isabella – Annick Massis (soprano)
Ormondo – Lorenzo Regazzo (baritone)
Batone – Rodney Gilfry (baritone)
Tarabotto – Pietro Spagnoli (bass)
Le Concert des Tuileries
Mark Minkowski (conductor):
Recorded live at the Théâtre de Poissy between 12 and 17 June 1996
ERATO 2564 68148-4 [78:11]

“L’Inganno Felice” is the third of the composer’s early operas. Written for Venice to a libretto based on one set earlier by Paisiello, it was a great success, soon being performed all over Italy. It is rarely performed today but this is surely not due to the quality of the music which is amongst the best of the composer’s early work. Its awkward length is perhaps the main reason, together with its ambivalent tone which is neither wholly comic nor wholly tragic. That is however one of the attractions of the work, as it is of the much later “La Gazza Ladra” which in many ways it resembles.

The opera is set in a coastal mining community where Isabella, the wife of Duke Bertrando is living in disguise as the niece of Tarabotto, the leader of the miners. He had rescued her when Ormondo, one of the Duke’s followers, had attempted to drown her by setting her adrift in a small boat. A series of recognitions and partial recognitions together with a further attempt on Isabella’s life lead eventually to her reconciliation with the Duke.

Although this disc is said to derive from live performances there is little extraneous noise from performers or audience. The only evidence of it is the very positive one of the real feel of a theatrical performance, especially in the admittedly somewhat lengthy recitatives. I admit to some relief that one short section of this is omitted, presumably to fit the work onto a single disc. The opera starts with one of Rossini’s best Overtures, starting very quietly and even uncertainly (in character not in performance) and leading to the earliest example of the crescendo which later appeared in so many of his Overtures. The various arias are all delightful, especially those for the Duke and Isabella, but the main attraction is a series of ensembles including a trio, a buffo duet for baritone and bass, and the lengthy and superbly constructed finale. All in all the musical riches are considerable. Better still, they are all performed here with just the right mixture of virtuosity and classical restraint which is so difficult to get right in Rossini. Raúl Giménez and Annick Massis are simply beyond praise, and the three lower voices, perhaps not easily distinguished from each other at times, also are right on top of the necessary style. The orchestra play with great finesse and enthusiasm (the two are not contradictory in Rossini) under Mark Minkowski and the whole is recorded clearly with a good balance between voices and orchestra.

Are there any drawbacks? Well, only the lack of an English libretto. It is good to be given two websites where one can find the original Italian, but really the listener needs to know exactly what is going on rather than having to rely on a necessarily truncated synopsis. There are also no notes about the singers or the history of the work. It would nonetheless be a great pity to deprive yourself of the great pleasure that this disc gives just on this account. Performances as good as this are always welcome however shoddy the presentation.

John Sheppard

Performances as good as this are always welcome however shoddy the presentation.