Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
L’occasione fa il ladro - Burletta per musica in one Act [87:33]
Berenice - Elizaveta Martirosyan (soprano); Ernestina - Fanie Antonelou (mezzo); Don Parmenione - Gianpiero Ruggeri (baritone); Martino - Mauro Utzeri (baritone); Count Alberto - Garðar Thór Cortes (tenor); Don Eusebio - Joan Ribalta (tenor); Matthias Manuasi (harpsichord);
Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra/Antonino Fogliani
rec. live, Kursaal, Bad Wildbad, Germany, 14, 17, 21 July 2005
no texts or translations included but Italian text available on Naxos website
NAXOS 8.660314-15 [45:22 + 42:11]

L’occasione fa il ladro was the fourth short opera that the young Rossini wrote for the Teatro San Moisè in Venice, and the fifth new opera by him staged in 1812. It was moderately successful at that time but as is clear from these discs and recent performances it is an inventive and enjoyable work. It would surely have been taken into the regular repertoire long ago if it were not for the many other Rossini works with similar claims, and perhaps for its awkward length which means that most audiences will expect a companion piece. Neither of these is however of any importance on disc. I have found listening to this performance an exhilarating experience.
The plot is derived from a comedy by Eugène Scribe and provides opportunities for splendidly varied music. It concerns Count Alberto, betrothed by his parents to a lady he knows only by her portrait. After a mistaken exchange of suitcases at an inn the portrait is seen by Don Parmenione who decides to claim to be her fiancée. She in turn pretends to be her own servant to test whether she is really in love with the unknown man when he arrives. Eventually all is sorted out, with the Count pairing off with Berenice who was his fiancée in the first place, and Don Parmenione with her servant, Ernestina. Right from the start Rossini adapts the usual musical forms to his own ends, with a Prelude which includes a storm - already reused from La Pietra del Paragone and to turn up again in Il Barbiere di Siviglia - and which then runs into the first scene in an inn on a stormy evening. Later whilst ensuring that all the principals have their expected arias these are placed within a variety of ensembles. The two main couples are musically distinguished from each other and there is never a musically dull moment in the piece.
The performance here is thoroughly idiomatic and enjoyable. It would perhaps be possible to imagine a more starry cast or, at times, greater clarity in articulation but the gain from being recorded at live performances is immense. Fortunately there are few stage noises and the applause at the end of numbers is not excessively long. If I praise the two female singers especially this implies no lack of quality in the men. The orchestra play with real rhythmic verve and understanding. The voices are well distinguished from each other and the singers are always alive to the words and the situations. Indeed above all this is an ensemble performance of an ensemble opera. The only possible complaints might be of the short measure - surely Naxos could have found something suitable to give a more generous playing time - and of the lack of a text or translation. This is especially frustrating when the singers so relish the words and listeners may therefore not unreasonably feel that they are missing something. Neither of these points is of such importance as to outweigh the sheer pleasure that is provided by such an idiomatic and joyous performance of this strangely neglected work.

John Sheppard

An idiomatic and joyous performance of this strangely neglected work.