Saturday, September 29, 2012

Claudio Abbado conducts The Barber of Sevilla

   Among great Italian operas of 19th century Il barbiere di Seviglia is the one occupying a place reserved for the rarest phenomena. This is much more than the perfect stage comedy or operatic work full of beautiful arias, duets and melodies. Gioacchino Rossini made this work more than a study, maybe a kind of practical treatise on borders of opera buffa. In its original version it was opéra comique for some spoken scenes. One week after premiere became failure, what was provoked by Giovanni Paisiello’s proponents, next performance became a great success. Paisiello was Rossini’s rival and composer of prior version of opera to this Pierre Beaumarchais comedy. Master qualities of Rossini’s version is unquestionable and the way he introduces some of music played on stage as a part of narration and how he comments Beaumarchais’ text can be considered as the contribution to 19th century musical esthetics.
   This was never the simple comedy as it is attempting to be. There are many layers the text and music can be understand and decoded. This is one of very few masterpieces every new generation find in new outlook, thus The Barber of Sevilla is still active in modern discourse on gender, political, social or cultural issues. Dozens of performances in various cultural and historical staging contexts show how capacious and flexible this opera still can be. Maybe most classical production of this opera is Deutsche Grammophone 1971 recording, released one year later in video version in television staging of Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and in 1973 as one record cross section. This rendition became a master class for Rossini’s interpreters for several decades.

Gioacchino Rossini – Il barbiere di Siviglia (excerpts, 1973)

   Although the complete editions are much more valuable and appreciated, the album published by Deutsche Grammophone as Repräsentative Opern-auszüge (Representative opera excerpts) is perfect. One record is enough to present stars of this setting. Neatly set in title role Herman Prey showing full possibilities of his baritone. Great voice of Luigi Alva, probably best tenor leggiero of our time, exquisite in Mozart and Rossini’s operas, performs here with great culture of sound and elegant phrase. Alva is undeniably the star of this performance. Absolute success achieved here Teresa Berganza, perfect vocal technique and beautiful timbre gave Rosina the energy of young lady in love. With massive bass Paolo Montarsolo constructed Basilio’s La calunnia air.

   If featured parts were known in many great appearances, the role of Bartolo was often underestimated. This time with Enzo Dara’s voice and acting possibilities, with technical proficiency, Bartolo is one of main characters of the story. Only lack of space on this “representative excerpts” record can explain why Stefania Malagu singing role of Berta was not taken into account. She is present not with the air but in finale ensemble only. A separate place must be given to the London Symphony Orchestra and the Ambrosian Opera Chorus. In Italian opera dynamics and emphasis are as much matter as balance of phrase and precision articulation. And Claudio Abbado conducting these ensembles has it all. The result is one of best opera renditions, a congenial performance of masterpiece.

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