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Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri
Gaetano Donizetti, Jules Massenet, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Rossini: L'Italiana in Algeri
Genre: Classical
  •  Track Listings (24) - Disc #1
  •  Track Listings (17) - Disc #2


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CD Reviews

L. Mitnick | Chicago, Illinois United States | 01/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This wonderful and legendary performance of Rossini's "L'Italiana in Algeri" conducted by Carlo Maria Guilini is based on a spectacular staged production at La Scala in 1953, during which time the presence of Maria Callas at La Scala spawned revivals of operas of Rossini, Bellini, and Donizetti all over Europe. "L'Italiana" was not an opera for Callas (the leading role is written for a mezzo with a generously low extention to her voice), but proved an ideal vehicle for the great mezzo Giulietta Simionato, who partnered Callas in such celebrated roles as Norma and Anna Bolena. But in Rossini's L'Italiana", it is Simionato who takes center stage and dominates this delightful Rossini buffa - and a great opera buffa it is. It must be said that the legendary Simionato, while executing the Rossinian cadenzas and roulades in a totally satisfactory manner, is a distance away from being able to contrive the impressive vocal effects later achieved by Teresa Berganza a few years later, and thousands of miles away from the vocal fireworks ignited by Marilyn Horne in this opera in the 1960s', 1970's, and into the early 1980's. But that said, Simionato has the ability to act with her voice, and to bring a unique quality all her own to the comedic role of the Italian girl Isabella shipwrecked in Algeria in search of her lover, who has been enslaved by the Bey of Algers. The comedy is very broad, of course, but the musical effects are a delight, and the Rossinian patter music (not unlike that of Gilbert and Sullivan) is really delicious. Much of the success of this performances must be credited to the great Carlo Maria Guilini, who creates a crispness and tautness in the orchestra that helps to heighten the comedy. The performance has a breezy quality that carries through to the conclusion. The performance, unfortunately, is somewhat cut ----- a couple of arias heard on the London-Teresa Berganza and the Erato-Marilyn Horne versions (and all other subsequent versions with Valentini-Terrani, Agnes Baltza, and Jennifer Larmore as well) are not heard here, but we must remember that at the time of this recording (1954), it was usual practice to make cuts. But there are still other bonuses here: the great lyric tenor Cesare Valletti sings a stunning Lindoro, full of grace and elegance (but sans some of the very highest notes heard on other versions), and bass Mario Petri makes a wonderful dunce of a Bey. Is this the only version of this opera to own? Probably not ----- but it is a wonderful supplement to some of the more glossy versions recorded since, and in a few instances, betters all of them. One must consider that at the time this recording was issued, this version was considered definitive. It remained the only commercially available version of the opera for a decade until the arrival of the London version with Teresa Berganza, which, of course, was in stereo. Speaking of sound, the monophonic sound here is quite acceptable, having been remastered --- but having owned the original pressing on LP, I never found much to complain about with respect to the sonics. A wonderful and enjoyable performance presented with a Rossinian verve and style."