This is Rossini's first-ever performed (and second composed) opera, performed by an international cast of musicians, including American Christopher Franklin conducting the German Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra. The overture sounds a bit skimpy, which could be due to a smaller orchestra or a recording quality that is not optimal. The musicians are, however, keen in their sense of phrasing, and the little runs in the winds are brought out nicely. They play with excellent timing and rhythm and with clear dynamic contrasts. Tomasz Wija's Norton is a bass with a slightly crisp sound, a bit murky from time to time, but overall clear and effective. Francesca Russo Ermolli's Clarina has strong diction (especially the rolled Rs), and she, too, has a bright, crisp timbre that sounds beautiful. In fact, the voices in this production are generally quite well matched: thinner, brighter sounds with clear diction and flexibility. Vito Priante's Tobia Mill is a mature-sounding singer who seems confident in his role, as can be heard in "Chi mai trova il dritto." In pieces such as "Stretta dell'introduzione," for example, it can be a bit difficult to determine which bass is singing which role; while it could be the casting, it could also be an early Rossini learning how to balance voices. Daniele Zanfardino as Edoardo has a nice color to his voice and is expressive, even when a few of his high notes could be supported more. His romantic partner Fanny, sung by Julija Samsonova, sings very well with him in a lovely soprano with fast vibrato that makes for an impassioned character. Slook, as sung by Giulio Mastrototaro, is a second basso buffo (there are three basses in the cast) who has a good command of the language as one can hear in "Grazie…grazie." The sound quality may also be a factor in why this album does not succeed as much as it could; in "Sicchè dunque instruitemi," the harpsichord is nearly as loud as the voices, making the overall result too busy. Certainly one of the highlights of the album is Fanny's solo "Come tacer/Ah, come spiegar il giubilo," where the famous Rossini melismas do not seem to daunt her. In sum, there are many good ingredients here, a cast of talented musicians and a musically sensitive orchestra. But it seems to stop short of its promise, either through Rossini's realization or a need for more emotion and energy. The performance is enjoyable instead of greatly entertaining.
AllMusic Review by V. Vasan
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