- Giaocchino Rossini - Bon Viveur [Recommended Recordings]
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28 October, 2012
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Giaocchino Antonio Rossini
Recommended Recordings

Guglielmo Tell
(Elizabeth Connell, Mirella Freni, et al; Ambrosian Opera Chorus, National Philharmonic Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly, conductor)
William Tell, best known for its overture, which was used as the Lone Ranger's theme song, was Rossini's final opera, and a magnificent, four-hour singfest it is. Tell is a baritone role, handsomely sung here by Sherrill Milnes, and the heroine is Matilde, who, as performed by Mirella Freni, has every bel canto trick in her repertoire and keeps her cool even during some wickedly fast and high music. But the most challenging role--and the reason the opera is rarely performed--is for the tenor, Arnold, who must sing 2 high C-sharps, 28 high Cs, and an undisclosed number of Bs and B-flats. And the role is as long and expressive as it is high. This is, arguably, Pavarotti's greatest perfomance on discs (he once said it was his best recording) and is a must for all opera lovers to boot. (review by Robert Levine)

Il Barbiere di Siviglia
(Luigi Alva, Teresa Berganza, et al; Ambrosian Opera Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra; Claudio Abbado, conductor)
This is a nicely entertaining Barber, with just the right sense of fun running through it to avoid slapstick and still bring a sophisticated smile to one's lips. Teresa Berganza is so right, so unexaggerated, so pyrotechnically capable yet filled with good taste, that it's impossible to find fault with her Rosina. Luigi Alva's Count is classy and honey-toned up to the top of the staff, where the voice simply stops blooming; he's also not as good as one might wish with Rossini's difficult fast music. Hermann Prey's Figaro is similarly impaired--the coloratura is just not pristine--but his style, attitude, and intelligence are pure gold; he's vastly entertaining. The other low-voiced men are ideal Rossinians. Abbado holds the whole thing together--this is a very satisfying performance. (review by Robert Levine)

Il Turco in Italia
(Cecilia Bartoli, Alessandro Corbelli, et al; Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus, Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly, conductor)
This Pirandello-like, 1814 comedy of manners has long lived in the shadow of Rossini's better-known L'Italiana in Algeri, but this recording, more than either of its predecessors, allows it to bloom in all its ironic loveliness. Cecilia Bartoli, a born comedian, sings expressively and angelically while her character behaves devilishly, and the supporting cast is no less effective. Riccardo Chailly brings out all of the score's humor, and all of its warmth as well. A little-known gem for fans of The Barber of Seville. (review by Robert Levine)

L'Italiana in Algeri
(Kathleen Battle, Clara Foti, et al; I Solisti Veneti, Prague Philharmonic Chorus; Claudio Scimone, conductor)
Isabella in L'Italiana was one of Marilyn Horne's great roles, and this recording attests to it. The character is smart, spunky, and sarcastic, with a sure-of-herself twinkle in her eye and voice. Horne was so in control of her vast talent when this set was recorded that she seems to be born into the role. She tosses off the most difficult coloratura with ease. The tone is big and grand from high B to low B and back again, and the fun she's obviously having is infectious. Her supporting cast is almost on the same level: Sam Ramey is a fine Mustafa, expressing pomposity while flowing easily over Rossini's roulades, and Ernesto Palacio gets through the high-flying tenor role with greater grace than most. The other low voices are good too, and listen for Kathleen Battle in one of her early roles--before she became a legend in her own mind--she's a sheer delight. Claudio Scimone, somewhat of a bel canto specialist, leads with verve. Good fun. (review by Robert Levine)

La Cenerentola
(Gloria Banditelli, Cecilia Bartoli, et al; Bologna Teatro Comunale Chorus, Bologna Teatro Comunale Orchestra; Riccardo Chailly)
We live in a golden age for Rossini singing, and this recording offers considerable proof of it. Although she occasionally strays into overdone vocal mannerisms, Cecilia Bartoli is a fetching Cenerentola with the right combination of pathos and triumph. William Matteuzzi offers an ardent Don Ramiro, while Alessandro Corbelli's Dandini is appropriately hilarious. Chailly keeps things moving in the right direction. For anyone who requires the most up-to-date recorded sound along with good, idiomatic singing, this recording is a natural. (review by Sarah Bryan Miller)


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