L'Italiana in Algeri
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Using the critical edition by Azio Corghi, this recording of L'Italiana in Algeri was made at a jubilee performance of the XXth Rossini in Wildbad Festival in 2008. For his tenth opera, the already celebrated 21-year-old Rossini wanted 'a humorous libre
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The conductor is Rossini specialist and musicologist Alberto Zedda, and he certainly knows his way around the score. However, he has decided to add significant amounts of percussion to several numbers where it is not specified.
According to the urtext as published by Ricordi the only numbers that feature "Turkish" percussion are the overture and the quintet in the second act. Rossini referred to the percussion section in the overture as a "Banda Turca", which implies bass drum, cymbals, and triangle, plus any other exotic type percussion that might be available such as a Turkish crescent, or sistrum. Zedda editorially adds percussion to a number of other sections as well... and this includes the Finale to the first act. Regarding that finale, Rossini intended that the percussive sounds be achieved solely through vocal means. Not trusting the composer at this point Zedda adds commentary by his extensive band of percussion instruments. It is an interesting concept, but I am not sure if Rossini would have sanctioned such an intrusion.
Still, Zedda has extensively studied Rossini's scores so perhaps his instincts are correct. However, while I am not completely convinced, the effect is exciting... and with so large a percussion section available it is quite possible that Rossini himself might have sanctioned a bit of ad lib percussion at certain junctures. Still, in spite of having a reputation for overuse of the "bass drum"... Rossini was often quite chaste in his use of percussion. In fact, the original scores of quite a few operas call for absolutely no percussion at all!
In any event, this is a fine recording from a vocal point of view, and added percussion apart, is more than adequately conducted as well. Plus, the sound is good. Recommended, except to those who might be put off by those extra percussive sounds!
The remainder of the cast are very good, if not especially remarkable. Lorenzo Ragazzo is a fine Mustafa. The Taddeo of Bruno de Simone is full of personality. Marianna Pizzolato is more capable than charming in the title role. Her voice has a limited colour palette and comes across sounding rather small and dry. I prefer a juicier voice in this part.
The recording uses the critical edition issued by the Rossini Foundation. I followed along with the piano-vocal score based on the critical edition and published by Ricordi. Maestro Zeddi snips out a few bits of recitative (they aren't missed) and allows the singers a few judicious and tasteful ornaments.
I learned to love this opera from the old EMI set with Giulietta Simonato and Cesare Valetti. That set appears to be no longer available on CD. Even if it were, I'd not recommend it now as a first choice due to the dated sound and severe cuts. Nor would I recommend the set currently under review as a first choice. However, it is a pleasant supplement to the delicious recordings of this work on Decca (Berganza, Alva, Corena, conducted by Silvio Varviso) or Erato (Horne, Palacio, Ramey, conducted by Claudio Scimone).