Notes and Editorial Reviews
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Review of live performance:
Sigismondo is constructed round a tale of insanity, both real and imagined (the two are often related.) Sigismondo, king of Poland, has been deceived by an Iago-type character –Ladislao (unusual for Rossini to require a virtuoso tenor in the villain’s role) into believing that the king’s wife, Aldimira, daughter of Ulderico, the king of Bohemia and Hungary, has been unfaithful and is so banished from Sigismondo’s Court,
awaiting execution. All that before the curtain rises. The action turns on Sigismondo’s uncovering of Ladislao’s machinations and his eventual reconciliation with Aldimira. I won’t need to spell out the operatic opportunities in all this.
Giuseppe Foppa provided Rossini with one of his weakest librettos for this sorry tale. The librettist seems to want to lead the audience up the garden path in the manner of a whodunit. In any case, there are too many garden paths leading nowhere and consequently creating frustration and boredom in the audience. This in itself may account for the flop of the opening at La Fenice, Venice on 26 December 1814.
Having got the main obstacle out of the way, I hasten to add that the composer was Gioachino Rossini so there was plenty to admire in the ROF’s revival of the opera in Pesaro.
Self-plagiarism was a common Rossini practice. The tune in the Allegro section of the overture had already appeared in
Il Turco in Italia (1814) and would be used again in
Otello (1816). But this is the first time the maestro uses material from the overture in the melodrama which follows.
The orchestra of the Teatro Comunale of Bologna played well for the most part, with their chief conductor, Michele Mariotti (who recently followed Riccardo Chailly and Daniele Gatti in this post). Michele Mariotti could be said to have been born into the Rossini business. His father, Gianfranco Mariotti, is the founder and Sovrintendente of the Rossini Opera Festival. At the time of Michele’s birth, Mariotti senior probably played an important part into bringing this hugely talented son into the world, as he was still working as a gynaecologist. Both Michele and the ROF share a birthday, aged thirty one but this is Michele’s first appearance at the festival and on his present showing, we should hope there will be a lot more.
Mariotti junior shows all the finesse you might expect from such a pedigree: attentive to and considerate of singers, wonderfully precise, as Rossini above all others must be, and never missing an orchestral trick. Any restrictions on this outstanding talent were not his doing but rather the limitations of some of the players. The oboe solo of the Adagio of the overture lacked conviction and the principal double bass found himself wanting in the outrageously demanding duet which Rossini writes for this instrument with Ladislao.
Damiano Micheletto had the bright idea of setting the opera in an imaginary Poland at what to an Englishman looked like the Edwardian era (Paolo Fantini’s dignified sets and Carla Teti’s handsome costumes). In the first act we are in the confines of a psychiatric hospital. Zenovito (pleasingly sung by Andrea Concetti, with appropriate dignity) is the Polish nobleman who gives hospitality to Aldimira while she is awaiting her execution. In this edition, he becomes the chief doctor of the psychiatric institution. This transfer neatly lends dramatic credibility to the plot.
Whenever Daniela Barcellona is on stage you may be sure that every
i will be dotted and every
t crossed, however demanding Rossini’s requirements. He certainly puts her through a severe test in the trousered role of Sigismondo. She passed that test with all laudable plaudits, as no other singer of today could. Not only that. She demonstrated immense skill as an actor without drawing on exaggeration. Her first appearance as the demented king was frightening as well as inducing sympathy from the audience. Barcellona is easily the tallest person on the stage, but were you seeing her for the first time, you would not have known this until she acknowledged her deserved ovation at the end. She was otherwise bent and with the uncertain expressions of a wandering mind. However does she manage all her perfectly articulated coloratura in this doubled-up state? She knows too how to apply the actor’s golden rule whereby less is more although some credit should probably go to Damiano Micheletto for directing these convincing movements.
The Russian soprano, Olga Peretyatko (Aldimira) also proved equal to Rossini’s demands. She is tall, slender and beautiful and never misses an opportunity to make a dramatic effect, which in this role is almost always the right effect. She is also possessed of a voice with what Anna Russell used to call unkindly, but not inaccurately, “a good cutting edge”. This makes her participation in ensembles unbalanced; she blasts through everyone else.
Antonino Siragusa is no stranger to the ROF. He brought all the necessary menacing power and passion to the part of the evil Ladislao. He found a way of making what in many respects is the opera’s leading role, into a chilling, unforgettable study of evil. His movements too were in keeping with the role, despite moments –appropriate, in my view- of being festooned with mimes as lunatics, and even in one scene as seductresses.
Enea Scala gave all you could hope for in the minor role of Radoski. Watch this name; he is a recent product of the Accademia Rossiniana. Another young singer, Manuela Bisceglie, made a promising debut as Ladislao’s sister Analgilda, until towards the end of the second act, when Rossini saddled her with a demanding aria which for the moment, proved just beyond her reach.
The flop of the 1814 opening of
Sigismondo was blamed on the shapeless libretto.
The composer must have found incomprehensible difficulties in trying to render into musical sense such senseless words, wrote one critic. I did indeed feel Rossini grappling –and not always successfully- against the odds. Even so, what made this Pesaro revival work so well was the astute and insightful intelligence which the conductor, director and singers all brought to their tasks.
-- Jack Buckley, MusicWeb International [8/15/2010]
Sigismondo – Daniela Barcellona
Aldimira – Olga Peretyatko
Anagilda – Manuela Bisceglie
Ulderico / Zenovito – Andrea Concetti
Ladislao – Antonino Siragusa
Radoski – Enea Scala
Teatro Comunale di Bologna Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Paolo Vero)
Michele Mariotti, conductor
Damiano Michieletto, stage director
Paolo Fantin, stage designer
Carla Teti, costume designer
Alessandro Carletti, lighting designer
Recorded live from the Rossini Opera Festival Pesaro, 2010
- The Making of Sigismondo
Picture format: 1080i Full-HD
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Korean
Running time: 164 mins (opera) + 19 mins (bonus)
No. of Discs: 1 (Blu-ray)
Works on This Recording
Sigismondo by Gioachino Rossini
Andrea Concetti (Bass),
Olga Peretyatko (Soprano),
Daniela Barcellona (Mezzo Soprano),
Antonino Siragusa (Tenor),
Enea Scala (Tenor)
Bologna Teatro Comunale Chorus,
Bologna Teatro Comunale Orchestra
Written: 1814; Italy
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