Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a cast so expert and experienced they can't fail to bring the score wonderfully to life. Ramey's performance is masterly, acted with relish and richly sung.
Witty and sentimental but also at times hair-raisingly cruel, Il Signor Bruschino is the last, and arguably the best, of the one-acters Rossini wrote for the tiny Teatro San Moise in Venice between 1810 and January 1813. On stage, it works brilliantly—the Teldec LaserDisc (11/91), recorded in the exquisite small Schwetzingen theatre, is a delight—but it also works well on record. In Bruschino as in Il barbiere the best jokes are the musical jokes.
Not that it has been much recorded. Prior to the arrival of this stunningly cast DG disc (where
the tiny part of the chambermaid is taken by Jennifer Larmore, no less!) there had been just one generally recommendable recording, a 1985 Polish production conducted with exactly the right kind of abrasive brilliance by Jacek Kaspszyk. The Pavane CD is still one I wouldn't wish to be without. The Polish singers are never in the same league as the likes of Samuel Ramey but the whole performance is so vital, so stunningly focused, it is almost as if we are there in the Teatro San Moise with the kind of fired-up cast of young hopefuls for whom Rossini wrote the opera back in 1813.
These early farse can get by on tolerably good singing. What they absolutely can't do without is first-rate conducting—and, on record, clear, sharply defined orchestral sound. Choosing between the conducting of DG's Ion Marin and Claves's Marcello Viotti isn't all that difficult. Marin is far more vital. Once under way, the performance goes along pretty well. (I say 'once under way'; the overture is all over the place rhythmically and Florville's cavatina threatens to outstay its welcome.) DG's engineers have also failed to get a consistently focused Rossini orchestral sound. Compare the impact of the harmonically poisonous, heavily syncopated bass writing in the terrible central scenes where old Bruschino is being baited like a bear at the stake, and there is no doubt that Kaspszyk, his Warsaw Chamber Orchestra and the Pavane engineers are better able to put us in the picture than the DG team.
Still, what a cast there is on DG—a cast so expert and experienced they can't fail to bring the score wonderfully to life. Central to the whole enterprise is the Bruschino of Claudio Desderi, a superbly rounded portrait of a man who, despite the sweltering heat and the machinations of everyone around him, finally gives as good as he gets. Desderi is both funny and moving in his aria-ensemble ''Ho la testa'' (''Tyrannic gods, O let my plight move you to pity''—part of LS's excellent new translation for the DG booklet).
Ramey's portrait of the many-faced philosophizing bully of a bourgeois gentilhomme Gaudenzio Strappapuppole is masterly, acted with relish and richly sung. He and Desderi work well with the rather baritonal-sounding Florville of Frank Lopardo; better, perhaps, than Kathleen Battle who gives the curious impression of merely shadowing him in their early duettino. Battle gives a ravishing account of Sofia's aria ''Ah!, donate il caro sposo'' with its cor anglais colourings. Occasionally there is in her performance a lingering rallentando way with phrasing and attack that is unRossinian but it is a point barely worth mentioning.
...it is difficult to imagine a better-cast account of one of these Rossini farse.
-- Richard Osborne, GRAMOPHONE
This set includes a full libretto in English and Italian.
Works on This Recording
Il Signor Bruschino by Gioachino Rossini
Frank Lopardo (Tenor),
Claudio Desderi (Baritone),
John [english horn] Brown (English Horn),
Octavio Arévalo (Tenor),
Michele Pertusi (Bass),
Jennifer Larmore (Mezzo Soprano),
Samuel Ramey (Bass),
Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
English Chamber Orchestra
Written: 1813; Italy
Date of Recording: 05/1991
Venue: Henry Wood Hall, London
Length: 76 Minutes 19 Secs.
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