It can be truly said of Adelaide di Borgogna that, like a rose, it bloomed but a day - l’espace d’un matin.’ First performed in Rome on 27 December 1817, it enjoyed very few revivals. In 2011 the Rossini Festival in Pesaro presented the second staged performance of Adelaide di Borgogna since 1825. It stars sought-after mezzo Daniela Barcellona as Ottone, young Australian soprano Jessica Pratt, who possesses a natural-born bel canto voice, in the role of Adelaide, and Bogdan Mihai gives proof of his versatile coloratura-tenor…
Maybe you’ve come across this plot before: a damsel-in-distress is saved by a knight in shining armour. This is the standard ‘fairy tale’ we all learned as children. Yet the surprising thing about Adelaide di Borgogna is that the story is true. Oh yes: in an important but rarely remembered piece of Italian history, Otto II, emperor of Germany, came to the rescue of Adelaide, widow of Lotario, king of Italy. And what did Rossini do with this? He covered it, as always, with the most beautiful music, writing arias, duets, quartets and finales to melt your hearts. This is virtually guaranteed to happen when Jennifer Larmore and Majella Cullagh bring their amazing voices together in one of those moments that recording producers pray for. But the joys in this recording are not confined to the contributions of those talented ladies. Bruce Ford, once again the bad guy, is at his virile best with his father, Mirco Palazzi, at one elbow and Rebecca Bottone, as his mother, at the other. This trio of malcontents doesn’t have much chance against Cullagh, who has a formidable aria just before the end of the evening. But Larmore, as Ottone, puts the seal of triumph on the whole evening with a rondo finale of outstanding verve and panache.
Gioachino Rossini’s opera Adelaide di Borgogna was completed quickly even for that quite prolific composer, premiering less than seven weeks after his previous work, Armida, in a different theater (Teatro Argentina) in a different town (Rome). The libretto, by Giovanni Federico Schmidt, is an old-fashioned opera seria about an Italian queen, Adelaide, whose husband has been defeated and killed by the usurper Berengario and his son, Adelberto in 10th-century Italy. Adelaide’s apparent only choice is to be ignobly forced to marry the son to give a degree of political legitimacy to the new regime. She, however, sends out supplications to Otto (Ottone), the Emperor of Germany, who comes south with his forces to rescue her and fall in love with her. Battle ensues, Berengario becomes a hostage for whom the son will not trade away Adelaide, even at his mother’s impassioned pleading. Mom helps the former queen to escape, Otto is triumphant in battle, and Adelaide is restored to her royal station at the side of Otto. So much for turning Italy over to the Germans, they were much more difficult to get rid of.
It can be truly said of Adelaide di Borgogna that, like a rose, it bloomed but a day - l’espace d’un matin.” First performed in Rome on the 27th December 1817, it enjoyed very few revivals. In 2011 the Rossini Festival in Pesaro presented the second staged performance of Adelaide di Borgogna since 1825. The story of the opera was taken from a historical event that took place in the medieval period, marking the end of an independent Italian kingdom and leading to the birth of the German Holy Roman Empire through the efforts of Otto I of Saxony. Caught between political rivalry and the love of two men, Adelaide of Burgundy struggles to fight for her people and chooses Otto, the better ruler, for herself and her kingdom.
„It can be truly said of Adelaide di Borgogna that, like a rose, it bloomed but a day - l’espace d’un matin.” First performed in Rome on the 27th December 1817, it enjoyed very few revivals. In 2011 the Rossini Festival in Pesaro presented the second staged performance of Adelaide di Borgogna since 1825.
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.