Notes and Editorial Reviews
Giulini's lively and sensitive accompanying are of immense value and the orchestra have evidently responded to him wholeheartedly. There are, as has been seen, criticisms to be made about the casting of the opera from the dramatic point of view, but this is, nevertheless, a most enjoyable issue and musically an exceedingly good one.
This is a 2 CD set with a bonus CD-Rom containing a libretto and synopsis.
The opera gets off to a flying start with a brilliant performance of the Overture, in which the precision of the chording, the clarity and phrasing of the woodwind, are particularly good. One feels at once that everything will be safe in the hands of Carlo Maria Giulini. It is obvious, too, that the
recording is of fine quality. It remains so throughout. I have often wondered how Italian audiences in Rossini's day listened to such long Overtures as this one, and whether they talked through them. Stendhal gives the answer in his life of the composer. "The Overture begins" and so intense is the attention that you may hear the buzzing of a fly. On its conclusion there is a perfect uproar ; it is either applauded to the skies, or hooted without mercy ". Before leaving Stendhal I must draw attention to the sentence, "Rossini presides at the pianoforte" but in this performance Giulini presides at the harpsichord. This seems a little behind the times, but it may still have been in use in the theatre, for all I know, in 1813, when Rossini, then twenty-one years old, composed the opera.
The music remains extraordinarily fresh and melodious and, needless to say, the composer takes full advantage of the many humorous situations in the ridiculous story. At the same time the cuts that have been made in the recitatives and most of the numbers are probably all to the good, for otherwise the opera would have spread onto three discs and would have contained a lot of repetitious matter. I do particularly regret, however (among the total cuts), the omission of Haly's aria (after the quintet in Act 2), Le femmine ditalia, which should not have been sacrificed.
To come to the cast. The two "supporting" ladies do the little solo work that is allotted to them very well: most of their excellent work lies in the concerted numbers. Cesare Valletti proves himself an admirable singer in his formidable aria, Languir per una bella, with its many florid passages and high notes. His has a supple and lyrical tenor voice of great charm and could not have been better cast.
I heard Mario Petri in Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne in 1951. He looked magnificent—he is very tall—but he was a lightweight Don with a predilection for singing mezza voce and his rather cavernous voice is not what is wanted for the part of Mustafa. Some readers will recall the rich and ripe tones of Vincenzo Bettoni, who recorded the duet "Oh! che muso" with Supervia for Parlophone, and possessed, surely, the type of voice Rossini had in mind. The lack of weight in Petri's lower register shows up in the concerted pieces for example in the "ensemble of perplexity" (septet) in the first act, when he begins "Confusi e stupidi", sharing this tune with Lindoro, with the other five characters joining in independently.
Mustafa's big showpiece, "Gin d'insolito ardore," is inexplicably cut altogether and we go straight from the delightful "quarrel" duet between Isabella and Taddeo to the chorus of eunuchs singing the praises of "Mustafa, scourge of women". Petri tackles the difficulties of his part manfully in general, but on the whole he is too often melancholy without being funny.
Marcello Cortis forgets, except here and there in the second act, that he is supposed to be an elderly man (his part has been described as needing "a thin and whining voice"), but if he sings robustly he sings well, and catches the humour of his role.
Giulietta Simionato sings her difficult florid part gloriously, but when she is confronted with Mustafa and sings "Oh! che muso, che figura!", there is little in her tone of voice to suggest she is highly amused at his appearance, and the comic possibilities of the duet between the two that follows are not fully realised. She sings the lovely aria "Per lui che adoro" tenderly and beautifully, but the quick section, "Turco caro", in which Lindoro, Taddeo, and Mustafa join, lacks the irresistible sparkle of Supervia as she enunciated the words.
In the septet (which begins with Elvira's "Nella testa") everyone's sense of fun begins to wake up and the "din din", "cra era", "tac tac" interjections are really comic. The celebrated "Pappataci" trio for the three leading men also goes very well—it's a surefire encore piece—and the finale, which begins with an enchanting waltz, is most delightfully done. I must also mention Simionato's magnificent performances of "Cruda sorte!" and the bravura aria "Pensa alla patria", before the finale, which is sung in the grand manner that comes most naturally to this fine artist.
All through Giulini's lively and sensitive accompanying are of immense value and the orchestra have evidently responded to him wholeheartedly. There are, as has been seen, criticisms to be made about the casting of the opera from the dramatic point of view, but this is, nevertheless, a most enjoyable issue and musically an exceedingly good one.
-- A.R., Gramophone [2/1955]
Works on This Recording
L'italiana in Algeri by Gioachino Rossini
Giulietta Simionato (Mezzo Soprano),
Graziella Sciutti (Soprano),
Mario Petri (Bass),
Cesare Valletti (Tenor),
Marcello Cortis (Bass)
Carlo Maria Giulini
Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,
Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Written: 1813; Italy
Date of Recording: 1954
Venue: Live Teatro Alla Scala, Milan, Italy
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