Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Gioachino Rossini, Renato Cellini, Cesare Siepi|
Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
A BEAUTIFUL ANTIQUE WITH SOME "CONDITION PROBLEMS"
David R. Eastwood | Long Island, NY | 08/19/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"THE BARBER OF SEVILLE / IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA is one of the greatest comic operas ever written. When it opened in Rome nearly 200 years ago (February 20, 1816), it was loudly booed by an audience packed by Rossini's rival composers. Fortunately, its brilliance was recognized when it was performed in other cities, and Beethoven himself declared it a masterpiece of its kind.
It should be unnecessary to retell the plot of this opera. Suffice to say, what we have in this CD set is almost a dream cast of nearly 60 years ago, led by tenor Giuseppe di Stefano in the role of Il conte d'Almaviva, with excellent support from mezzo Giulietta Simionato as Rosina, Cesare Siepi as Basilio, Enzo Mascherini as Figaro, and Gerhard Pechner as Bartolo.
Sad to say, this 2-CD set is a somewhat flawed transfer of a recording of a stage performance in Mexico City on July 7, 1949. The technical quality of the tracks varies greatly from very poor to fairly good. It sounds as if some of them were taken from scratchy vinyl records that were somewhat warped, judging by the patterns of clicks and other sounds that are audible behind the music itself. Nowadays there is little excuse for this: many amateurs own cheap equipment and software that removes such background noise from their vinyl-to-digital transfers far better than Istituto Discografico Italiano has done with this set.
Fortunately, most of di Stefano's tracks are in fairly good condition, which will be the main concern for most listeners, since he is the only cast member who is still widely known and whose work has been largely preserved on other CDs. Most disappointingly, Simionato's "Una voce poco fa" was very poorly transferred, but portions of this track as well as several other tracks testify to the rich quality of her tone and the great technical ability she possessed for bel canto singing. Siepi's "La calunnia" is in quite good condition, and it was so well received by the audience that night that the conductor (Renato Cellini) and Siepi immediately performed it again (similar to what happens nowadays at the Met at all performances of Verdi's NABUCCO when the chorus sings "Va, pensiero"). Both tracks of "La calunnia" are included on disk 1.
I wish I could recommend this set strongly, for there is much to like here, and the price is fairly low compared to other recordings of this work. Frankly, other inexpensive sets of this opera--with far fewer flaws--are available to beginning listeners. The best I can do is advise di Stefano fans who are "completists" to buy this without high hopes about its sound quality. And for those who are interested in hearing some of the stars of the past, this set DOES have several good tracks by excellent singers who are very difficult to find anywhere else.
Finally, this set does not include a libretto, but it does have a tiny booklet with the track listings for its 134 minutes of music, as well as a handy 2-page historical note about Rossini by Danilo Prefumo. Any further information anyone needs is easily available at most local libraries or on the Internet."