Giocchino ROSSINI (1792-1868) L’italiana in Algeri - dramma giocoso in two acts (1813)
Isabella – Cecilia Bartoli (mezzo); Mustafa – Ildar Abdrazakov (Bass); Lindoro – Edgardo Rocha (Tenor);
Taddeo – Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone); Haly – José Coca Loza (Bass); Elvira – Rebeca Olvera (Soprano); Zulma – Rosa Bove (Mezzo);
Philharmonia Chor Wien; Pianoforte - Luca Quintavalle; Ensemble Matheus/ Jean-Christophe Spinosi
Direction – Moshe Leiser; Patrice Caurier
Sets – Christian Fenouillat
Costumes – Agostino Cavalca
Lighting – Christophe Forey
Videos – Etienne Guiol
rec. May 2018, Haus für Mozart, Salzburg
Sung in Italian with subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Korean, Japanese
Filmed in Ultra High Definition; Picture: 1080i/16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen;
Sound: LPCM Stereo/ DTS-HD MA 5.1; Region code: A,B,C UNITEL EDITION Blu-ray 801904 [163:00]
At the time of the performance on this Blu-ray it had been almost exactly 30 years since Decca had introduced Cecilia Bartoli to the world with her first recital CD of Rossini Arias (review). On that first disc two of Isabella’s arias were included. Since then this opera seems to have disappeared from Ms Bartoli’s repertoire. It has been my hope for many years that she would take on the role, and now at long last that day has arrived. Aside from Ms Bartoli there are many other pleasures to be found here.
The overture is light and brisk without feeling in any way rushed. Ensemble Matheus under conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi, are splendid performers throughout. The lighter sound textures of the period instruments bring more of the subtle humour of Rossini’s orchestration to the forefront. Their playing, along with the recitative accompaniment of Luca Quintavalle provided me with the most consistent enjoyment throughout the opera. Breakneck speed is a common failing in current Rossini performances. To my ears Maestro Spinosi’s choice of tempi keep things moving along without feeling rushed. Only in the ensemble that follows ‘Per lui che adoro’ was the only time I felt things were unduly hurried. It is a pity that the Overture has been staged, as I would love to see the cameras focus on the musicians’ contribution. In its place we have a video of dancing camels which is diverting enough.
Another wonderful achievement is the Mustafa of Bass Ildar Abdrazakov. His voice has recently become more dramatic sounding, therefore it is a true pleasure to encounter the yards of rich tone that he brings to the role. One would think that such a large voice would not cope well with the patter and the coloratura demands but this is not so; only on a few occasions did I detect a slight smudging in the rapid passages. He certainly makes a delightful booby of Mustafa.
Edgardo Rocha is about as pleasant sounding a Lindoro as one could find today. His voice has a very open sound that develops a slight glare on the exposed notes, which is never unpleasant to the ears. His singing is elegant with nicely judged decorations that don’t seem overly showy.
Alessandro Corbelli has been with us even longer than Ms Bartoli and the years have brought a slight dryness to his tone but his interpretive skills as a buffo baritone are undiminished which his wonderful Kaimakan scene in Act 2 demonstrates.
And what of La Bartoli herself? Well, after 30 years one could hardly expect her to sound the same as she did in 1988. Comparing her two main arias from the present video with the Decca CD under Giuseppe Patanè it becomes apparent that her voice has grown somewhat lighter and the tone is now wispier than before; however, there is no loss of flexibility or security. Thirty years ago she sang the arias relatively straightforwardly; today she takes Rossini’s music and shapes and polishes it to suit her best qualities. She is always in complete command of her voice giving us a lesson in phrasing and nuance. Her rendition of the aria ‘Per Lui che adoro’ is as lovely as any I have encountered.
Rebeca Olvera is a lively, charming presence as Elvira, the chronically bored wife of Mustafa. She is assisted by Rosa Bove, a Zulma who possesses a slightly fruity sound. The young bass José Coca Loza shows great promise in Haly’s little aria but he is completely overwhelmed by the giant projections of Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg cavorting in the fountains of Rome.
With regards to the production I will state right off that I am never a fan of tampering with the story or period of an opera. It seems that we will likely never again see a production of this opera set in an Algerian palace Harem. Luckily, there are enough DVDs available of this opera that demonstrate what Rossini and librettist Angelo Anelli had intended us to enjoy. The production here moves us to a modern day, urban Algeria with muezzin calls and seagull noises added for effect. The sets and costumes are quite convincing. At times they manage to be playful within the boundaries of the realism that has been mandated by the production team. Lindoro sings his first aria while smoking a joint; Isabella is put on a huge camel or stuck in a bubble bath. The Italian slaves are a fairly grubby looking football team. Everyone appears to enjoy themselves and I found nothing truly objectionable, although the rather humiliating costumes for Mustafa and Taddeo during the second act take things a bit too far. Kudos to Mr Abdrazakov and Mr Corbelli for putting up with it.
The picture quality of the Blu-ray disc is perfect and the LPCM sound is wonderfully clear for the singers, and offers plenty of orchestral detail which is especially important with a period ensemble. The acoustics of the Haus für Mozart seem to be ideal for this opera. I have not heard the DTS surround sound mix to be able to review it.
All in all, the pleasures of this live occasion far outweigh any minor quibbles I might have regarding the production.
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