A "Paragon," indeed...and young Carreras, too!
Joseph A. Newsome | Burlington, NC United States | 06/15/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
""La Pietra del Paragone" decidedly is not Rossini at his "Barbiere," "Cenerentola," or "Semiramide" best, but when notes came from Rossini's pen they were never less that stylish and inevitably entertaining. The story of lovers attempting to outwit one another is one familiar to those familiar with Rossini's works. Conductor Newell Jenkins presides over the work with artistic and dramatic committment. Although the Clarion Concerts Orchestra and Chorus is not ideal in purely technical terms, they easily overcome many more accomplished orchestras by the sheer vivacity of their playing/singing. The soloists are an interesting group, all of them technically adequate and expressive. Mezzo-soprano Beverly Wolff does not make the strong impression that one may expect after hearing her performance on the RCA/Beverly Sills recording of Handel's "Julius Caesar," but the voice is in good condition and she certainly gets inside her role. Soprano Anne Elgar has a rather small, acidic voice, but she uses it quite well and achieves some impressive top notes in her only aria. Justino Diaz proves a top-quality Rossinian, singing with glorious gusto and appropriate inflection--only his distortions in his "nonsense" aria seem overdone. Baritone John Reardon adapts his narrow, coloratura-challenged voice to Rossini's sometimes fiendish writing with wit and genuine affection for the role. Yet, all of these attractions are almost pushed aside by the fact that this was Jose Carreras' first studio recording. Carreras' role is not large and is mostly inconsequential, but the beauty of post-Karajan Carreras' voice is a testament to his acclaim. In his small forest scene, he veritably trails clouds of glory. Anyone who doubts the integrity of Carreras' artistry need look no further than this exemplary recording. With much to commend it, this recording should not be missed!"
John Cragg | Delta(greater Vancouver), B.C Canada | 03/06/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"La Pietra del Paragone was Rossini's first big hit. It was highly admired by contemporaries such as Stendhal. Apparently pushed aside by his later operas buffa, its obscurity is hardly deserved. While portrayal of character may not be as vivid as in some of the later work, the opera is full of vigorous and lively music and is embued with a wonderful sense of fun. The opera displays the fact that already Rossini was second only to Mozart in his ability to build ensembles which are not only exciting musically but which also move the plot forward effectively.This is a splendid performance, well conceived, executed and engineered. With one exception, the performers did not achieve stellar status, but all perform very well, enough so as to make one wonder why they are not better known. The exception is Jose Carreras in what is billed as his first studio recording. The tenor role here is not very large, so that it is lucky that the producers caught Carreras before he achieved greater prominence. Here his fresh, silvery voice shines to perfection and is ideal for the role. Furthermore, Carreras judges his performance so as not to greatly outshine the others, a feature that is most noticeable when he blends with other voices. Altogether, this is a marvelous recording. The conducting is first rate, the voices well presented, and the whole filled with a sense of fun. The booklet is a model of its type. For anyone who likes the Barber or La Cenerentola, this recording can be recommended without hesitation."
Rossini at his best
D. J. Marconi | 10/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Such a pity that this gem has not been reissued. The music, in my opinion, eclipses any of his other comedies. The glorious melodies are non stop here; great conducting and singing throughout."