In Parma, where audiences are considered the most discerning in all Italy, the benchmark for vocal artists is set traditionally high. Operagoers here are intimately familiar with the works of their favourites, from Rossini to Puccini, and know every tricky corner by heart. God forbid any singer who fails to accomplish the task without due seemliness Unsurprisingly, then, this performance attempts no directorial experiments. The main setting for this realistically inspired production both indoors and out is Rosinas house, which is converted as required into its constituent parts.
An opera buffa, a comedy, a masterpiece of intrigues, lies and love! 'Il Barbiere di Siviglia' (The Barber of Seville), an opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini, from the Teatro Regio di Parma. The production stars Dmitry Korchak as Il Conte d'Almaviva, Ketevan Kemoklidze as Rosina, Luca Salsi as Figaro and Giovanni Furlanetto as Don Basilio. The aging Doctor Bartolo longs to marry Rosina; but with the aid of the energetic and enterprising barber Figaro, the Count succeeds in gaining entry to Bartolo's house disguised first as a soldier then as a music teacher…
The Metropolitan Opera give this live performance of Rossini's work based on the poem by Sir Walter Scott. Michele Mariotti conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus with Joyce DiDonato as Elena, the lady of the lake, who loves the heroic Malcolm (Daniela Barcellona). However, King James V (Juan Diego Flórez) arrives in the Highlands and sets his sights on Elena while her father Douglas (Oren Gradus), who is rebelling against the King's rule, promises his daughter to clan chief Rodrigo (John Osborn).
Countertenor performances of 19th century opera are a historical and, ultimately, true novelty. This said, for those who love the sound of the countertenor voice and want to give it a try, there are several factors that recommend this release by countertenor Franco Fagioli, with the small orchestra Armonia Atenea under George Petrou. First is that castrati were still around in Rossini's time, although on the decline, and the composer was reportedly intrigued by their voices. Second, Fagioli, unlike the vast majority of other countertenors, studied bel canto singing rather than Baroque repertory exclusively, and a certain distance present in the work of other countertenors is absent here. And third, and most important, is Fagioli's voice itself. Of the countertenors active today, he's the one with the range, the power, the attitude to make you suspend disbelief and think for a moment that you're actually listening to a castrato. He enters into the various Rossini roles represented on this recording, several of which were mezzo-soprano "pants" roles; this adds to the layers of identity-switching happening, and the parts hit Fagioli's vocal sweet spot. A bonus is that several of these are from Rossini opere serie that are little played or recorded.
After its successful premiere, Rossini’s opera “Armida” was quickly forgotten, only to be triumphantly revived by Maria Callas in 1952, and ever since it is considered a masterpiece. This performance with primarily Italian forces, has all the wit, charm, beauty and sparkle that any Rossini opera can wish for. Some big names here: Cecilia Gasdia, Chris Merritt,William Matteuzzi and Ferruccio Furlanetto. Great addition to the Brilliant Classics Opera Collection. Armida is today considered one of Rossini’s greatest operas, but following its premier in Naples in 1817 it quickly faded from the standard operatic repertoire. Its plot of knightly duties, love and supernatural worlds (foreshadowing Weber in places) inspired the composer to write some of his most original and inimitable music, with unusual combinations of instruments and some beautiful extended solos for cello and violin.The love music is undeniably heartfelt and sincere; Rossini’s inspiration may have been assisted by his romantic involvement with the soprano Isabella Colbran, a major star of the time and the first to perform the title role.
The splendidly florid music, and amazing opportunities for bel canto vocalism make up for it. This recording, using the critical edition, is outstanding on the vocal front. The stunning Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova has a rich, full tone and clean, accurate runs. She is well partnered by Eva Mei, whose bright but effective soprano carries a good characterization of a dramatically rather thankless role. Tenor Ramon Vargas nails his coloratura and possesses a ringing tone. They are well supported by the secondary principals, Muenchen Rundfunkorchester and the men of the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, all superbly conducted by Roberto Abbado. As an added bonus, the listener can choose between the original happy ending and the dramatically more viable tragic conclusion with which Rossini later revised the opera. –Sarah Bryan Miller