The Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli is one of the most charming and talented singers to appear on the scene in recent years, and this collection of Italian songs by three great opera composers–Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini–is a most deserving bestseller. There are many small pleasures in the selections, which reflect the bel canto predilections of their authors, and Bartoli renders them artfully. Some will be familiar even to casual listeners (Rossini's La Danza, the famous tarantella); others will be new to most, but equally deserving of a hearing. The sensitive and skillful accompaniment is by conductor-pianist James Levine.
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.
This was to be the end of the line for Italian word-setting by Viennese composers: once the confident sentiments that belonged to the poet Metastasio's opera seria felt the chill and threatening wind of Enlightenment and Revolution, their time was up. Even we, for the most part, prefer to remember the German-speaking Beethoven, Schubert and Haydn. So it is good to be reminded of their responses to the Italian muse (usually as part of their craft-learning student work) in this particularly well-cast recital. Central Europe, in the person of Andras Schiff meets Italy, in Cecilia Bartoli, to delightful, often revelatory effect.
Cecilia Bartoli stars in this ebullient Zurich Opera House production of Rossini’s first French-language comedy opera described by the international press as “pure, unadulterated fun”. A BD from Zurich of the acclaimed production by masters of bel canto comedy, Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier. Bartoli reminds us of her comic gifts and her naturalness as a stage actor — as well as her total sympathy with the music of Rossini. Muhai Tang conducts the historical performance ensemble La Scintilla, and the cast includes the acclaimed young Mexican tenor Javier Camarena in the title role.
Rossini composed comic operas of the bel canto repertoire, which were very popular in the first half of the 19th century. Rossini's music was sparkling, inventive, Mozartian, and the vocal lines of his operas were showcases for tenors and sopranos of the day. Rossini popularized comedy in opera. It was his Barber Of Seville that began a tradition that is still strong to this very day. In the first half of the 19th century, tenor Manuel Garcia and his daughters, both of them acclaimed mezzo sopranos, delivered masterful performances of Rossini's operas…
By Rachel Garret
Il turco in Italia is one of Rossini's wittiest but most neglected works. It is full of ingenious and freshly composed invention. It is Rossini's first collaboration with Felice Romani - Bellini's librettist - on this opera and Romani understood perfectly Rossini's love of pastiche and parody. He provided a commedia dell' arte scenario that gave Rossini plenty of opportunity to mock traditions he had helped to cultivate in the first place. The plot of Il turco is delightfully salcious and among the many jewels in the score, the duet for Geronio and Selim, in which the Turk tries to persuade the ageing husband to sell his wife to him, is widely considered one of the composer's masterpieces.
Rossini’s unusual scoring of the drama calls for three tenor supporting roles – here sung to universal acclaim by long-standing Bartoli collaborators John Osborn and Javier Camarena and newcomer Edgardo Rocha. Bartoli’s dramatic command and vocal presence dominate the stage and reveal her artistry to be entering a rich new stage of development.
Bartoli's evident, and infectious, enthusiasm and delight in studying the career of Maria Malibran is sketched in Michael Sturminger's documentary, in whichwe follow her to many of the theatres and streets associated with the diva beloved of the Romantic imagination. In libraries and museums we are able to view some of the scores used by Malibran in her brief and stormy progress through the capitals of Europe. From the opening shots of a gondola in Venice passing through the Rio Malibran, to the final glimpse of her tomb in Brussels, one gets some idea of the impact she made on audiences in the 1820s and '30s.