The ideal Cenerentola, softer and more vulnerable as well as strong and vibrant.
The success of his Tancredi, premiered at Venice’s La Fenice on February 6th 1813, firmly established Rossini’s reputation in the upper firmament of Italian composers. He quickly consolidated that position with the sparkling L’Italiana in Algeri, premiered at Venice’s Teatro San Benedetto on May 22nd of the same year. Whilst Milan was less impressed with Il Turco in Italia (August 14th 1814) other Italian cities took it up with enthusiasm and, together with the earlier works, put Rossini in a pre-eminent position among his competitors. In the spring of 1815 he was summoned to Naples by the influential impresario Domenico Barbaja andRead more offered the musical directorship of the two royal Theatres of that city, the San Carlo and the Fondo. Under the terms of his contract, Rossini was to provide two operas each year for Naples whilst being permitted to compose occasional operas for other cities. Rossini spent eight years in Naples composing nine of his opera serie which contain some of his greatest music. In the first two years of his contract he also composed no fewer than five operas for other cities, including four for Rome. The second of these Rome works was Il Barbiere di Siviglia. Premiered on February 20th 1816 it was only modestly received, but it has become the composer’s most popular work and has never gone out of fashion.
On his return to Naples, Rossini presented two operas including Otello premiered on December 4th 1816. Before leaving Rome after Il Barbiere he had agreed to compose an opera to open the Carnival Season on December 26th. Rossini arrived back in Rome in mid-December to find that the Papal Censors had rejected the proposed libretto provided by Jacopo Ferretti. At a late night crisis meeting with the impresario and Ferretti the subject of Cinderella was agreed, as was a postponed premiere. Ferretti’s libretto owes as much to plagiarism of another poet’s work as to Charles Perrault’s original fairy tale. Likewise, in the pressure of circumstances, Rossini re-used the overture of La Gazzetta, written a few months earlier for Naples. He also employed a local musician, Angolini, to assist him by composing all the secco recitatives as well as other pieces. These additions by Angolini are now omitted in performance and recordings, which follow the conductor and Rossini scholar Alberto Zedda’s Critical Edition, used but not acknowledged, in this issue. La Cenerentola survived a noisy first night to be performed twenty times before the end of the Teatro Valle season in mid-February. It was heard throughout Italy by the end of the year and in France and England within two years. In the present day it is second only to Il Barbiere in popularity among the Rossini oeuvre.
On record La Cenerentola has had a charmed life. A Sony recording of 1983 featured Vallentini-Terrani as the eponymous heroine together with Francesco Araiza as a strong Ramiro and the Rossini experts Enzo Dara and Alessandro Corbelli. This version was well conducted by Gabriele Ferro and ran alongside a zestful performance by Abbado with Teresa Berganza (DG). A Philips issue of 1987 featuring the tangy mezzo of Agnes Baltsa as Angiolina together with Araiza, Ruggero Raimondi and Simone Alaimo, under Neville Marriner’s sympathetic baton, largely displaced both as critical favourite. It in turn became second favourite to many ears with the arrival of a Decca full-priced 1992 recording featuring the formidable Angiolina of Cecilia Bartoli under Chailly’s idiomatic baton. This issue, with the exception of William Matteuzzi as Ramiro, featured a wholly Italian cast orchestra and chorus. Despite its verve and vocal strengths, admired by many critics, I personally found Bartoli’s Cenerentola a little overpowering with her Angiolina likely to make short shrift of her stepsisters. Nor was I wholly happy with Matteuzzi as the Don Ramiro. However, I found my ideal with the 1994 Teldec recording of which this is a re-issue. Jennifer Larmore initially presents an appropriately softer and more vulnerable Angiolina than some of her rivals. Her Una volta is poignant and expressive, with a lovely creamy tone, whilst her contribution to the stirring rondo finale is strong and vibrant without being overwhelming or showy. Throughout her performance her coloratura is secure and free whilst her phrasing and expression are exemplary. As her suitor Raúl Giménez’s stylishly phrased but rather tightly focused tenor takes the runs without aspirants. Whilst his voice is a little reedy his musicianship and understanding of the role shine through. His virtues can be heard in his rendering of Si, ritrovaria, and scene with his mentor Alidoro, as Ramiro determines to re-assume his identity from Dandini and search for Cinderella. The smooth well-phrased baritone of Gino Quilico as Dandini, the Prince’s stand-in, is well differentiated from Alessandro Corbelli’s superbly characterised Don Magnifico. Their duet, Un segreto, when Dandini revels in revealing his true identity to the father of the ‘ugly’ sisters is a highlight. The role of Don Magnifico fits Corbelli like a glove. His singing and characterisation surpasses his Dandini on the Chailly version. Alastair Miles is characterful and expressive as Ramiro’s wise tutor-cum-mentor; his rendering of La del ciel is well-phrased and sonorous. Rossini wrote this aria for a revival at Rome’s Apollo Theatre in 1821, replacing music originally provided by Angolini. The Clorinda of Adelina Scrabelli and Tisbe sung by Laura Polverelli, make the most of their opportunities in the ensembles. Their easily flowing Italian is an added plus.
It is the rhythmic vitality of the ensembles together with the dynamic verve of the chorus and the pacing of the conducting which make or break a performance of La Cenerentola. The conductor Carlo Rizzi has a well practised and innate feeling for this genre and these characteristics are present throughout. The result is a highly recommendable performance that is also well recorded with a natural ambience and balance between singers and orchestra.
This is a welcome return to the catalogue of an excellent performance. For those who do not wish to add another complete recording of this delectable work to their collection, there is
a generous highlights disc of this performance available on the Warner Apex label.
-- Robert J Farr, MusicWeb International Read less
Works on This Recording
La Cenerentolaby Gioachino Rossini Performer:
Alessandro Corbelli (Bass),
Gino Quilico (Baritone),
Raúl Giménez (Tenor),
Laura Polverelli (Soprano),
Jennifer Larmore (Mezzo Soprano),
Adelina Scarabelli (Soprano),
Alastair Miles (Bass)
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra,
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Period: Romantic Written: 1817; Italy Language: Italian