ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

Opera Rara always offers so fine a booklet lavishly illustrated and
with well-written detailed essays, that many an opera collector I know buys
every issue, just for the good read and to have the full series in his/her
collection. The two page essay in the Dynamic issue clearly cannot compete
with the Opera Rara rival though there is compensation as Dynamic usually
sells for lower prices. There is a second reason why Opera Rara will be
difficult to be superseded and thatís Rossiniís. Iíve owned the Opera
Rara set for many years and Iíve played this newer set several times and I
donít succeed in catching the tunes. The music sounds pleasant and very
Rossinian and thatís it. It goes by without making a deeper impression and
seems to be one of the composers rather run-of-the mill affairs.

The composer hastily travelled to Milan between turning out a series of
operas for Naples in quick succession. After the first performances of La
Donna del Lago
at the end of October ñ beginning of November he
arrived in the middle of November 1819 in the capital of Lombardy. He got a
libretto by Romani and started composing a work of fully three hours of
music. And one month and a few days later, on December the 26th , the world
premiËre took place. No wonder the review in Gazetta di Milano was not
favourable. Indeed, no one hearing a recording of the work and not
understanding the words will have a clue to what is happening, except that it
seems to be something about a charming though lightweight affair. There is
little in the music that reminds one of a tyrannical father wanting his
daughter to marry a man she doesnít love and a daughter who is willing to
risk her life to have her and her loverís life to have her way. As a
result, this is an opera one can enjoy listen to but not one that has to sit
on oneís shelves in every available version. The first contender therefore
mostly takes it all; especially as there are no glaring differences in
quality of singing.

The Prague orchestra on Dynamic is not on the same level as the London
Philharmonic whose sound is more rich and better recorded. Renato Palumbo
however knows his Rossini and brings energy to the score together with a fine
understanding for his singers who have to do the most of the work. Iím
always surprised how much tempi can differ in one of those interminable acts
of Parsifal. Yet in Rossini one rarely notes this idiosyncratic
behaviour of conductors. As (happily) both recordings are really complete it
is remarkable that the long second act doesnít differ too much in minutes
though Palumbo is more incisive than Opera Raraís Parry and his slightly
quicker tempi make the opera more digestible. Another asset for Dynamic is
mezzo Daniela Barcellona. She has the virtuosity for the intrinsic Rossinian
writing and her noble timbre for the hero has the apt volume as well which
makes this trouser role acceptable for a modern audience. Larmore on Opera
Rara is less a technician than Barcellona and her natural means are more
modest. Francesco Meli on Dynamic is not a belcanto singer like Barry Banks
but he too wins as his tenor is far more Italian than his rival. The
difference between Maria Bayo and ORís Majella Cullagh is marginal but
personally I think Bayoís tone too thin. She doesnít sound a Venetian
noble lady that raises in revolt to her fatherís dictates. Carlo Lepore too
hasnít the depth and freshness of sound that Ildebrando DíArcangelo
displays on OR. All in all, the choice between those two versions will depend
upon the personal like or dislikes for one or more singers and the
non-musical aspect will probably make a difference for many a collector.

Jan Neckers

image_description=Gioacchino Rossini: Bianca e Falliero
product_title=Gioacchino Rossini: Bianca e Falliero
product_by=Maria Bayo (Bianca), Daniela Barcellona (Falliero) ; Francesco Meli (Contareno), Carlo Lepore (Capellio), Dario Benini (Priuli), Ornella Bonomelli (Costanza), Jiri Prudic (Loredano), Karel Pajer (Ufficiale), Stefan Cifolelli (Cancelliere). Coro da camera di Praga e Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia conducted by Renato Palumbo.
product_id=Dynamic CDS 501/1-2 [3CDs]