Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Il Signor Bruschino - Farsa giocosa in one act (1813)
Florville, Sofia's beloved - Frank Lopardo (tenor); Gaudenzio, Sofia's tutor - Samuel Ramey (baritone); Sofia - Kathleen Battle (soprano); Bruschino (Padre) - Claudio Desderi (bass); Filiberto, inn-keeper - Michele Pertusi, (baritone); Marianna, a maid - Jennifer Larmore (mezzo); Bruschino (Figlio) and Commissario di polizia - Octavio Arévalo (tenor)
English Chamber Orchestra/Ion Marin
rec. May 1991, Henry Wood Hall, London. DDD
This was the last of the four Venetian farces composed by the young Rossini and was first performed in 1813 when he was twenty-one. This one act opera hardly represents him at his most sparkling or inventive but contains flashes of the joys to come in the form of the complex patter trio and the display aria for Sofia. The latter is here sung winningly by Kathleen Battle three years before her dismissal from the Met and her disappearance from the opera stage. The presence of Rossini specialists baritone Claudio Desderi and bass Michele Pertusi, plus the great coloratura bass Samuel Ramey provides additional lustre to the casting. That said, I am one of those who cannot enjoy the oddly strangulated tonal production of American tenor Frank Lopardo and have always considered the uncongenial sound he makes to have fatally compromised recordings such as Angela Gheorghiu’s otherwise spectacular “La traviata”, live under Solti at Covent Garden in 1994. Certainly Lopardo seems to have been largely dropped from recordings since and on this basis for good reason.

The plot is a typical Italian farce revolving around mistaken and feigned identity: Florville masquerades as the younger Bruschino in order to further his plan to win the hand of Sophia, who has been promised by her guardian to that eponymous gentleman, who in turn hardly appears on stage and speaks but once. The overture features an amusing door-knocking motif – the tapping of the violinists’ bows on their music stands. The subsequent music, despite being inventive for its era, is only intermittently absorbing. It all bowls along nicely under Ion Marin’s alert direction, although nearly a third of the total duration is devoted to recitativo. The finale is a typically ebullient dénouement and celebration of the power of love but in truth little here makes much impression.

No libretto is provided but there is a track by track synopsis in three languages.

Ralph Moore

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