"La scala di seta" is an operatic farsa comica in one act by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa. It was first performed in Venice, Italy, at the Teatro San Moisè on 9 May 1812. The overture has been frequently recorded and continues to be featured in the modern concert repertoire.
From 1810 to 1813, the young Rossini composed four Italian farse, beginning with La cambiale di matrimonio (The Bill of Marriage), his first opera, and ending with Il Signor Bruschino. These types of short pieces were popular in Venice at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century. The pieces were intimate, with a cast of five to seven singers, always including a pair of lovers, at least two comic parts, and one or two other minor roles. The style called for much visual comedy improvised by the players. As compared to many genres of opera, acting and comedic talent is more important relative to the required singing ability. Rossini’s farces also have a significant sentimental element.
For the later part of her career, Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli has apparently settled on a campaign of major conceptual releases covering all-but-unknown repertory, and St. Petersburg fits right in. It's a collection of arias from operas written in the second half of the 18th century for the Russian imperial court, which had imported the best Italian and German composers money could buy. The names of all but Mozart's contemporary Domenico Cimarosa are unknown today. Most of the arias are in Italian, but a couple are in Russian, and to untutored ears Bartoli brings her trademark passion to them. This is the kind of release where one can quibble with any number of details. Bartoli sounds thick in some places, strained in others. The material is a bit uneven, with especially the last two pieces creating a bit of a letdown, although much of it does indeed live up to major-forgotten-works billing. The booklet brings up the Catherine the Great horse legend for no very good reason. Yet, as so often with Bartoli, the whole adds up to so much more than the sum of the objections. She is fearless in many ways here, not just in convincingly bringing home repertory her listeners will never have heard, but in blowing past classifications of vocal range: Bartoli may conventionally be seen as a mezzo, but the material here ranges from full-blown opera seria soprano almost down to contralto in a few cases, where Bartoli's voice takes on a lovely burnished tone. Whatever faults you might find, this is tremendously exciting stuff, not boring for a second. (James Manheim)
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.
‘Semele’ is presented in Robert Carsen’s stylish modern dress production, originally seen in London, and most recently staged at the Zurich Opera in 2007. The drama tells of the ambition of the beautiful mortal, Semele, who, not satisfied with being Jupiter’s mistress, strives with fatal results to supplant Jupiter’s wife, Juno. Conceived as an oratorio but nowadays presented as a stage drama, it is a superb vehicle for all the principals, not least the substantial title role, which includes such popular arias as ‘Endless pleasure’ and ‘Myself I shall adore’.
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.
Cecilia Bartoli recreates the 1828 triumph of the legendary Maria Malibran - original star and dedicatee of Halévy's "tragi-comedy", Clari. Tracing the love of a callow country-girl for a duplicitous Duke, this hugely entertaining and first-ever modern production of Clari proved the overwhelming hit of the Zurich Opera season. Zurich Opera's own period-instrument orchestra, La Scintilla, under Adam Fischer, contribute a thoroughly researched, stylistically and historically well-informed accompaniment, yet without neglecting the liveliness and spirit of Italian opera.