TOO GOOD FOR OBSCURITY
Halvor | United States | 08/28/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of Rossini's most lively, exciting dramatic operas. It is also in some ways different than his other output. There are some daring modulations, no crescendos, and some innovative formal structures. As far as this performance goes, Claudio Scimone does a superb job of directing the orchestra and chorus, never overshadowing the singers. His pacing is perfect. As the eponymous heroine, Cecilia Gasdia is in quite good voice, is expressive, and can handle the coloratura. Bernarda Fink has got to be an underestimated opera singer! She has a beautiful voice, a large range, and can she sing coloratura! Godfrey Daniels! Jose Garcia (Polidoro) on the other hand, does a few things nicely, but basically, his razor-edged voice could open a can. He is definitely the weak link in this cast. Tenor Chris Merritt has an astonishing range; in this performance he sings a A on the bottom space of the bass clef clearly and strongly, and also sings a powerful D above tenor high C. He sings the part of Antenore with beauty and power. Bill Matteuzzi, the other tenor, is also in good voice as Ilo, but sometimes his coloratura is good, sometimes it is messy, particularly in descending passages (which are more difficult from a support standpoint than ascending passages.) He basically sings with a good sound, except for some awful forays above tenor high C, where the tonal production becomes excruciatingly shrill. The secondary singers perform their parts in the spirit of the production. The improvisations taken with high notes and the decorations added to second stanzas of cabalettas, which are common here, were not sanctioned by Rossini. He hated this practice, so he wrote out all the ornamentation as he wished it to be. This, however,is not to keep this recording from being a must for your library. It ranks highly on Halvor's Personal Favorites List and it will on yours, too."
T. Miller | Philadelphia, PA | 07/10/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I think the strongest voices on this recording are Chris Merritt, William Matteuzzi and Bernarda Fink. I really would have preferred another soprano, other than Cecilia Gasdia, in the title role. There are moments when I find her tone somewhat grating and her coloratura passages lacking in rhythmic precision. I found her singing a bit more pleasing on the recording of Rossini's "Ermione" (also on Erato with the same cast and orchestra). Unfortunately these are two of Rossini's least recorded operas but I found the music to be very rewarding and definitely worth a listen. There is another recording of Zelmira on Opera Rara, with Elizabeth Futral in the tile role, which I would consider buying if it weren't so ridiculously expensive ($74 for the lowest Amazon listing!!!). I have heard this soprano in other Opera Rara recordings and would have preferred her to Gasdia.
There is one aria that especially surprised me by the sparseness of the scoring - "Perche mi guardi" (Disc 1, #16). It sounds like only 2 instruments accompanying the singers: English horn and guitar (or harp), which is unusual for Rossini. But the effect is quite haunting. The melody is very plaintive and elegiac.
One other flaw of this recording is the booklet ('ve noticed this in other Erato opera recordings). The quality is not that good - the track numbers on the contents page don't always match up with the numbers in the libretto. And the translation is pretty bad."