An enthusiastic performance of a rare Rossini sparkler
Joseph Newsome | NC, USA | 12/28/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"First, I must say that I disagree with the previous reviewer when he states that TURCO is an unquestionable masterpiece. Compared alongside the great scores of Rossini's maturity -- comic, tragic, and semi-seria -- I feel that TURCO ultimately emerges in a placement more toward the bottom of Rossini's collected works, and certainly cannot stand direct comparison with scores like BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, SEMIRAMIDE, and even the much-maligned OTELLO (which, contrary to what one often reads, contains much inspired and truly beautiful music -- a fact of which Verdi was well aware when Boito and Ricordi approached him with OTELLO on their minds). Still, TURCO has much to offer, and one is always grateful to Naxos for giving us their always competent and often truly competitive recordings at budget prices.
A word, then, concerning the provenance of this recording. The technical notes state only that the recording was made 'during October 2003.' There is a good bit of mostly unobtrusive stage noise but no audience 'participation' that I can discern (though the sources of a few coughs are questionable -- choristers, perhaps?), all of which leads me to suspect that the recording was drawn mostly from rehearsals.
Most of the singing is quite fine. The Greek soprano, one Signora Papatanasiu, has a very pleasing timbre but is no more than competent in coloratura (and occasionally slightly less than competent) and avoids the extreme upper register throughout -- defensible as careful observance of the letter of the score, of course, as the lion's share of the top notes one expects are interpolations, but it is admittedly somewhat disappointing when the two act finales are not capped with ecstatic, ringing interpolations in alt. Furthermore, Papatanasiu brings neither the dramatic ferocity of Callas nor the vocal sheen of Bartoli to her performance. She is also inferior to Sumi Jo, whose performance on the Gardiner recording is nonetheless disappointing.
The principal tenor, Amedeo Moretti, previously known to me solely from a 'live' recording (drawn from a concert performance) of Donizetti's PARISINA D'ESTE (available on the Dynamic label), is capable but shows little real fluency in Rossinian style. His fiorature in Narcisco's aria are labored but accurate, but at least he interpolates a strained but on-pitch top note in the stretta.
I remain unconvinced of the greatness attributed to Natale de Carolis. His is a convincing performance, in some ways charming, but the voice lacks the focus and tonal allure of the finest of his rivals in this repertory. Still, it is a pleasure to hear an Italian voice in Selim's music.
The orchestra and chorus are professional if perceptibly provincial in certain regards. I find Maestro Conti's conducting on the whole very persuasive.
Naxos is to commended for their effort in giving us this new TURCO. At this price, it is perhaps too much to ask that some new insight into the drama be given to the listener, but there are at least 140 minutes of enjoyable music, enthusiastically and engagingly performed."
A Fine Budget-Priced 'Turco in Italia'
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 12/26/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This recording of Rossini's masterful comedy 'Il Turco in Italia' has very strong competition. There is the classic Callas recording again available on CD, and there is a recording of Cecilia Bartoli in a La Scala production conducted by Riccardo Chailly. There's another recording from La Scala that features Monserrat Caballé, but she's not at her best in that recording, although the male singers are topnotch. Further, there is a recently released DVD of a Zurich Opera production with Bartoli again singing (and acting in her inimitable fashion) Fiorilla. The DVD is a high-concept production that might not appeal to some although I found it delightful.
This production, from the provincial Teatro Marrucini di Chieti features young but, on the whole, excellent singers. It's actually quite a good recording, although there is not the final polish that one expects from a major house. Further, no libretto is furnished, as is typical of Naxos opera recordings; a libretto (in Italian only) can be found on the Internet, though, at http://www.karadar.com/Librettos/rossini_turco.html, if one is inclined to follow along. There is quite a good and detailed synopsis provided in the Naxos booklet.
When 'Turco in Italia' was premièred in 1814 the Milanese audience, who had warmly embraced the recent 'L'Italiana in Algeri,' thought it was a rehash of that opera, and they apparently felt they were being cheated. But in fact this is an entirely new opera, with no borrowings from any of Rossini's earlier outings, and further, it may well be his comic masterpiece. There was confusion, also, for many years about the opera because Rossini revised it repeatedly after its première and the whole thing got confused as to what was original and genuine and what wasn't. Indeed, in this performance the cavatina for Geronio's 'Vado in traccia d'una zingara' is actually by an unknown composer other than Rossini. Still, both in plotting and in characterization (not to speak of musically) this is one of Rossini's best efforts. The opera lay unperformed for many decades before Maria Callas resurrected it in 1950.
So, my advice would be that if you want a budget version of this opera, i.e., don't want to spend the money for the other CDs or the new DVD, and don't necessarily need an English translation of the libretto, this one would do nicely.