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]

Written in twelve days, or so legend has it, it might naturally be expected that Rossini would have resorted to some recycling of music for L’occasione fa il ladro. In fact there is no sign of that. On the contrary this is one of his freshest and most inspired scores. It seems that inspiration flowed from his pen at uncommonly high speed in 1812, when no fewer than five operas were premiered. He had just turned twenty and not yet quite established himself. That happened the following year when within months first Tancredi and then L’Italiana in Algeri were great successes. Reportedly L’occasione was liked for the music but not for the interpretation. Two hundred years later, almost to the day when I listened to this recording, the music still delights. With a really good interpretation bestowed by Bad Wildbad this should be a hit. Maybe the length of the work, less than 1½ hour, is the greatest problem. People expect an evening at the opera to be longer than that. Since it is in a single act there is not even an interval to prolong the evening. For home-listening this is no problem.
Recorded live there are inevitably some stage noises. These are surprisingly few and hardly disturbing at all. There is well deserved applause after most of the musical numbers and this may an irritant on repeated listening. On the other hand this only emphasises the feeling of a live occasion. The sound is good and the balance between pit and stage is well judged. The orchestra play well and the secco recitatives are swift and lively. The cast is international with an Armenian soprano, a Greek mezzo, one Icelandic and one Spanish tenor and two Italian baritones. All of them are well versed in the Rossinian idiom, which even as early as this was well established. His trademark crescendo for instance, is already there. The finale to the long quintet (No. 4 in the score, CD 1 tr. 9-12) is a good example. Structurally it is divided into two duets - first Parmenione and Ernestina and then Alberto and Berenice. Then the four go together and are joined by Don Eusebio for the concluding parts. In the first duet Fanie Antonelou stands out with her excellent voice, beautiful, steady and expressive. It is a pity she has so little to sing. Baritone Gianpiero Ruggeri as Don Parmenione is also good, and the soprano Elizaveta Martirosyan more than that. She has a silvery timbre, slightly fluttery at times, which lends a kind of vulnerability to her character. Her cavatina (CD 1 tr. 7) is a beautiful piece and it is beautifully executed. The long duet with Don Parmenione (CD 2 tr. 4) may not be so melodically enticing but it is good-humoured and performed with gusto. Berenice’s big aria near the end of the opera (CD 2 tr. 8) is probably the high-spot, both musically and interpretatively. This is singing of the utmost accomplishment.
Count Alberto is sung with lyrical elegance by the Icelandic tenor Garðar Thór Cortes. He has several of the best numbers - Rossini seems to have been particularly fond of this character. Notable are the duet with Berenice in the quintet (CD 1 tr. 10) and the aria D’ogni più sacro impegno (CD 2 tr. 4) with a presto second half, where he has to stretch his voice to the upper limit. The servant, Martino, also has an aria, Il mio padrone è un uomo (CD 2 tr. 6), a buffo number that is fairly ordinary. Rossini developed his skill for such arias considerably in later works. Mauro Utzeri nevertheless sings it expressively.
All in all, then, this is a lovely opera and it is well served by the performers.
Göran Forsling

A lovely opera well served by the performers.

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