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Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792 – 1868)
La cambiale di matrimonio (1810) [71.36]
Tobia Mill – Vito Priante (basso buffo)
Fanny – Julija Samsonova (soprano)
Edoardo Milfort – Daniele Zanfardino (tenor)
Slook – Giulio Mastrototaro (basso buffo)
Norton – Tomasz Wija (bass)
Clarina – Francesca Russo Ermolli (mezzo)
Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra/Christopher Franklin
rec. live, Kurhaus, Bad Wildbad, Germany, 8, 14, 16 July 2006
NAXOS 8.660302 [71.36]

Experience Classicsonline

Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio was his first opera to be performed, premiered in 1810 at the Teatro San Moise in Venice. It ran for thirteen performances, which was not bad in the fast-paced Italian opera business. At the time Rossini was still a student at the Bologna Conservatory and in fact La cambiale di matrimonio was his second opera; Demetro e Polibio, written for another opera company was not premiered until 1812.

The libretto to La cambiale was by the experienced hand of Gaetano Rossi, who wrote the librettos for Tancredi and Semiramide. La cambiale isn’t quite in that class; it is based on a five-act comedy from 1790 which owes a lot to the comedies of Goldoni. The plot concerns the English merchant, Tobia Mill (Vita Priante), who desires to wed his daughter to a Canadian business contact Slook (Giulio Mastrototaro) very much as a business transaction. The daughter Fanny (Julija Samsonova) is in love with Eduardo Milfort (Daniele Zanfardino). The plot is helped along by Mill’s clerk Norton (Tomasz Wija) and the maid Clarina (Francesca Russo Ermolli). Needless to say all ends happily with Slook returning home disappointed.

La cambiale di matrimonio has not been that frequently on disc; not that the work is lacking in the necessary qualities but probably more because of the extensive dialogue – there is a great deal of it. In fact, in another composer’s hands it could have become little more than a comic play with songs. Instead Rossini creates a series of brilliant ensembles which certainly make the piece worth hearing.

This performance was recorded live at the Rossini in Wildbad festival with a cast which included four native Italians. This shows: the recording is vivid and entrancing, capturing the lively performance with dialogue rattling along at quite a rate of knots; there is also a bit of stage noise. The drawback is that Naxos provide only a detailed synopsis; you can download an Italian libretto but there doesn’t seem to be an English one which might put people off.

There are only four solo numbers - arias for Fanny and Clarina, entrance Cavatinas for Mill and for Slook. As was to become his wont in his serious operas, Rossini drives the plot through a series of duets, trios and ensembles with the first of his famous multi-part, dramatic finales.

The cast are perhaps not perfect, but their performances are all infectious. Priante and Mastrototaro are both a delight as the pair of buffo basses, making light of the fact that the tessitura of the parts seems to go rather high. They throw off Rossini’s roulades with a degree of abandon. Samsonova does not sing Fanny with quite the right amount of entrancing ripeness, at times her tone becomes a bit slender above the stave. Her account of the duet with Slook - where she has to repeatedly tell him that she will never be his - is inclined to be untidy, but this might also be the effect of the dramatic moment. These are not serious problems, she fits into the ensemble nicely. Zanfardino’s Milfort does not get an aria, though he duets with Samsonova; Zanfardino has a nicely slim lyric voice.

Wija and Russo Ermolli provide strong support in the important roles of Clarina and Norton. Russo Ermolli impresses in her aria. This Clarina is a young woman not a blowsy old maid and Russo Ermolli captures this nicely.

Under the lively direction of Christopher Franklin the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra acquits itself well, providing vivid support. They use a harpsichord for continuo.

This is a lively and involving account of Rossini’s first opera. Whilst not perfect, it does bring out the comic drama of the piece and is certainly a fine addition to the expanding list of Rossini operas on Naxos.

Robert Hugill




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