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Rossini: Elisabetta / Masini, Caballe, Carreras, Masterson

Release Date: 04/07/2008 
Label:  Philips   Catalog #: 432453   Spars Code: ADD 
Composer:  Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Neil JenkinsUgo BenelliMontserrat CaballéJosé Carreras,   ... 
Conductor:  Gianfranco Masini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony OrchestraAmbrosian Singers
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Caballé is regal, and her final scene is a miracle of soft sweet inwardness.

The Naples years, 1815 to 1822, are at the very centre of Rossini's creative life. It is here that genius—''I had facility and lots of instinct''—was put to school. And firmly so: the serious masterpieces of the Naples years take as their subjects the Bible and Shakespeare, Scott and Racine, Tasso and English historical romance.

Rossini made his debut in Naples with Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra. It is a verse reduction of a half-remembered drama by an Italian advocate out of an English romance. It is historically dubious and dramatically ingenuous, but the central situation is interesting (whilst campaigning in
Read more Scotland, Leicester, the Queen's inamorato, has married a young girl, a scion of the house of Mary Queen of Scots). As a text it offered the young composer substantial spaces to fill. And being Rossini he filled them with aplomb; yet gracefully and truthfully too. The Philips recording, conducted by Masini with unhurrying grace, has a fine cast. The Matilde is Valerie Masterson, affecting and sweet-sounding. Benelli is a stylish and generally fresh-toned Norfolk; with the young Carreras trailing clouds of glory in the di Stefano style, full of fiery brilliance, well parted as Leicester.

The Elisabetta is Monserrat Caballe, no less. There are some who might want less diplomatic restraint from the jilted Queen than Caballe offers us. She talks of fierce distress but is rarely fierce; her great injunction to Matilde ''Renounce!'' is eloquent rather than imperative. Stendhal described Isabella Colbran, the creator of the role, as a modern commentator might have described Callas. ''When Signorina Colbran talked with Matilde it was impossible to escape the irrefutable conclusion that this woman had reigned for twenty years as a queen whose authority was absolute and supreme. It was the ingrained acceptance of manner and mannerism bred by despotic power which characterized this great artist.'' Caballe communicates little of this vocally. Yet she is regal, and very feminine. Rightly so, for Elisabetta's music is exquisitely rather than fiercely wrought. Elisabetta's final scene is a miracle of soft sweet inwardness; and the glorious duet with Matilde is like an ethereal preview of ''Mira, o Norma''. The libretto, in fact, dictates a sweet reasonable queen.

-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone [12/1992]
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Works on This Recording

Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Neil Jenkins (Tenor), Ugo Benelli (Tenor), Montserrat Caballé (Soprano),
José Carreras (Tenor), Valerie Masterson (Soprano), Rosanne Creffield (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Gianfranco Masini
Orchestra/Ensemble:  London Symphony Orchestra,  Ambrosian Singers
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1815; Italy 
Language: Italian 

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