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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Gazzetta, opera buffa in two acts (1816) [137.00]
Libretto by Giuseppe Palomba, revised Philip Gossett et Fabrizio Scipioni
Cast:
Cinzia Forte (Lisetta);
Enrico Marabelli (Don Pomponio);
Laurent Kubla (Filippo);
Edgardo Rocha (Alberto);
Julie Bailly (Doralice);
Monica Minarelli (Madama La Rose);
Jacques Calatayud (Anselmo);
Roger Joakim (Monsù Traversen)
Lilo Farrauto (Tommasino)
Orchestra and Chorus of Opéra Royal de Wallonie/Jan Schultsz
Production:
Director: Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera
Set Design: Jean-Guy Lecat
Costume Designer: Fernand Ruiz
Light Designer: Franco Marri
rec. live 20th-28th June 2014, Opéra Royal de Wallonie, Liege, Belgium
Video Direction: Frederic Caillierez
Video Format/Aspect ratio: 1 BD 50 1080 60i – 16:9
Sound formats:
a) LPCM 2.0 – 48 kHz/16 bit
b) DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0ch – 48 kHz
Sung in Italian with subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Japanese & Korean
DYNAMIC Blu-ray 57742 [145.00]

Positioned snugly between a pair of masterpieces Il barbiere di Siviglia from 1816 and La Cenerentola from 1817 is Rossini’s opera buffa La Gazzetta or to give it its full title La Gazzetta, ossia Il matrimonio per concorso (The Newspaper, or The Marriage Contest). Rossini used a libretto by Giuseppe Palomba after the Carlo Goldoni play Il matrimonio per concorso of 1763 and premièred the score in 1816 at the small Teatro dei Fiorentini, Naples. Despite its celebrated neighbours the opera never established a place in the repertoire and performances have been rare. Unsurprisingly Rossini borrowed music from several operas and the well-known overture was later incorporated into the overture to La Cenerentola.

In 2001 La Gazzetta was revived at the Pesaro Opera Festival using the critical edition prepared by Philip Gossett and Fabrizio Scipione without the missing quintet that was cut but is crucial for understanding the plot. However, in 2012 music found in a bundle of manuscript scores in Palermo was identified and authenticated as the lost act I Quintet and in this Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera staging has been restored to its rightful place. This live performance by the Opéra Royal de Wallonie is the professional première of the complete version. Undoubtedly the score isn’t one of Rossini’s greatest comedy inspirations, although amusing and colourfully staged it doesn’t come close to attaining the enchanting engagement of its close neighbours Il barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola.

Set in eighteenth century Paris the action takes place in the tourist hotel L’Aquila (The Eagle) and involves a convoluted plot of misunderstandings and twists revolving around the aptly named Don Pomponio Storione a self important merchant who travels the world. In the newspaper La Gazzetta Pomponio has advertised for a husband for his daughter Lisetta who is in love with Filippo. Director Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera has opted for a busy, fast moving production with a lively and colourful set that centres almost entirely around the lobby of the hotel or on the street just outside the main entrance. There were a number of extra touches including one guest constantly wandering round the stage on his smart phone, another using an iPad, a pair of duelling canons and of course a cute dog.

Jean-Guy Lecat has updated his set design predominately to the 1960s and 70s using red G-Plan-like furniture. The layout of the inside of the hotel with the first floor rooms and balcony reminds me of an American motel complete with two single elevators, a spiral staircase, a revolving door at one side and a reception desk at the other. Designed by Fernand Ruiz the comedy costumes certainly take the eye with their vibrant colours and striking design. Generally the clothes have a heavy, sometimes quilted look to the material, with the men’s tunic jackets and frockcoats giving a sort of futuristic impression especially the extended shoulders. With regard to headwear, Ruiz’s motto is the bigger the better, notably Pomponio standing out with a huge sultan’s turban creation matching his suit. Only Lisetta was dressed ‘normally’ with an eye-catching hot pink dress plodding around the stage in matching but ill-fitting court shoes. As the production progresses the costumes noticeably become more outlandish especially the trousers.

Heroine Lisetta played by Neapolitan soprano Cinzia Forte gives a satisfying performance. Whilst on a city shopping trip Lisetta’s important aria ‘Presto, dico,’ exclaiming excitedly how she wants to buy everything, is well sung with an attractive tone and effective coloratura. Conspicuously dressed with a remarkable swirling shock of grey hair which seems to defy gravity Enrico Marabelli plays the pompous Pomponio and seems comfortable in the comic role. Pavia-born Marabelli sings his cavatina ‘Co' 'sta grazia’ with an agreeable sense of amusement although his delivery would benefit from additional fluidity. Wearing a ridiculous blonde shoulder length wig Laurent Kubla does all that is asked of him as hotel keeper Filippo. In his aria ‘Quando la fama altera’ the Belgian baritone displays an adequate voice albeit a touch unsteady especially with his coloratura. The part of wealthy young gentleman Alberto is given a rather understated performance by Uruguayan tenor Edgardo Rocha. Tormented and knocking the booze back in his aria ‘O lusinghiero amor’ Alberto is exclaiming how he has been badly treated in love. Rocha is in attractive voice, projecting well especially in his high register and displaying fine coloratura. In the minor roles Julie Bailly as Doralice and Roger Joakim as Monsù Traversen impress with their limited opportunities. Under the sensibly paced conducting of Jan Schultsz the Orchestra of the Opéra Royal de Wallonie plays with ample spirit with praise due to the worthy chorus.

Video direction is credited to Frederic Caillierez in the booklet although David Mathy’s name is given in the closing on screen credits. Whichever of the two is responsible he has done a good job keeping the camera active with especially pleasing use of close-ups. Excellent high definition colour adds to the presentation. With the stereo and surround options no problems whatsoever with the sound quality which is clear and well balanced. The booklet too is first-rate and in addition to the cast list contains a track listing, essay and synopsis.

At the conclusion of the production just as the lights go out there is a loud yell from an audience member. I doubt this Opéra Royal de Wallonie production is remarkable enough to cause that much excitement so more than likely the shout is an exclamation of relief.

Michael Cookson

 

 




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