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Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia / Bartoli, Quilico, Ferro

Rossini / Bartoli / Stuttgart Radio Sym Orch
Release Date: 03/26/2013 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 102305  
Composer:  Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Gino QuilicoRobert LloydEdith GabryCecilia Bartoli,   ... 
Conductor:  Gabriele Ferro
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony OrchestraCologne State Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Gioachino Rossini

Rosina – Cecilia Bartoli
Count Almaviva – David Kuebler
Figaro – Gino Quilico
Bartolo – Carlos Feller
Basilio – Robert Lloyd
Fiorello – Klaus Bruch
Berta – Edith Kertész-Gabry
Ambrogio – Paul Kappeler

Cologne City Opera Chorus
Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
Gabriele Ferro, conductor

Michael Hampe, stage director
Ezio Frigerio, stage designer
Mauro Pagano, costume designer

Recorded live from the Schwetzingen Festival, 1988

Picture format: NTSC 4:3
Sound format: PCM Stereo
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Read more time: 158 mins
Subtitles: Italian, German, English, French, Spanish
No. of DVDs: 1 (DVD 9)

R E V I E W: 3662860.az_ROSSINI_Il_Siviglia_Gabriele.html

ROSSINI Il barbiere di Siviglia Gabriele Ferro, cond; Cecilia Bartoli (Rosina); David Kuebler (Almaviva); Gino Quilico (Figaro); Carlos Feller (Dr. Bartolo); Robert Lloyd (Don Basilio); Edith Kertész-Gabry (Berta); Cologne City Op Ch; Stuttgart RSO ARTHAUS 102305 (DVD: 158: 00) Live: Schwetzingen 1988

Return with us now to those glorious days of yesteryear, when Rosinas and Almavivas still dressed in 18th-century garb, when the sets didn’t look like a staging of Grease or a rerun of Star Trek, and when singers were hired as much for their ability to, well, sing as much as to act. Sound strange? Well, just imagine how a production like this might look to a younger operagoer who’s only used to modern productions. He or she would think that this is the strangest production of Barbiere they’ve ever seen.

Directed by Dr. Michael Hampe at the time when he was stage director at Cologne, this is a fast-paced Barbiere with almost consistently great singing throughout. The weak link in the cast is the Bartolo, Carlos Feller, better known at the time for being a good stage actor though he didn’t have much of a voice. Yet the name that probably won’t resonate with a modern viewer is that of our Almaviva, David Kuebler, though he did sing at the Metropolitan Opera in such things as Arabella, Capriccio and Doktor Faust. It’s a good, solid voice, and he manages the fioratura very well, but he’s not especially subtle or romantic in either of his first-act serenades, apparently not knowing what the words “mezza voce” or “piano” mean in the score. But unless your name is Frank Lopardo (back in the day when he sang these types of roles) or Juan Diego Flórez, there weren’t and aren’t too many better Almavivas around.

The rest of the cast consists of well-known performers: Cecilia Bartoli (here aged only 22), Gino Quilico, and Robert Lloyd as our Rosina, Figaro, and Don Basilio, and they do not disappoint. Granted, the young Bartoli isn’t quite as natural on stage as she later becomes. Here she seems to be sticking to exactly what the director told her to do, which comes across as an odd combination of studied and over-the-top acting. But no matter: it’s her singing that astonishes and captivates, and that’s what I most prize in any Rosina. The first time I heard Bartoli, I think around 1990 or ’91, I wasn’t particularly impressed by her phrasing. I could tell that the voice had an interesting quality, but she often sang in choppy phrases, somewhat disconnected. Not here. Her “Una voce” sounds remarkably light and witty, with outstanding phrasing and coloratura runs; more than once I was reminded of Conchita Supervia as she sang. Quilico manages his runs well for the most part, only stumbling a bit when things get really tongue-tied. Lloyd is, quite simply, astounding, maneuvering his huge bass voice through Basilio’s music with wonderful adroitness and characterization. Feller, as I say, acts well on stage but not necessarily with the voice.

One of the few criticisms I have of Hampe’s staging is that it looks “stagey” in the contrived sense of the word at times; but then again, this was exactly the time when directors were starting to break away from the “costume dramas” which had afflicted opera for decades. Certain things that might otherwise make the audience laugh, such as Rosina’s producing her letter to Almaviva from her bosom, pass unnoticed here. This, of course, was the one flaw of many conventional productions back then: Familiarity, if it did not breed contempt, bred predictability. A few original touches against this quite gorgeous backdrop would have worked wonders. Conductor Gabriele Ferro also seems to skip a few things in the score, such as the little “turns” in the violin part in the opening tune of the overture, but overall his direction is brisk and energetic. If we look for “extra” stage business nowadays, that’s only because we’ve become conditioned to expect such things. It wasn’t like that back in 1988. One should also be aware that although Berta’s aria is included (often a European tradition even when it was cut at the Met), Almaviva’s second-act showcase aria is not heard.

This performance was first issued in 1993 on an RCA Victor Red Seal VHS tape, then in 2003 on DVD by Arthaus Musik. With the caveats mentioned above, this is still a fine video Barbiere if you don’t already have one that you like. Just hearing Gino Quilico’s barber and the freshness of young Bartoli’s voice is worth the price of this disc.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
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Works on This Recording

Il barbiere di Siviglia by Gioachino Rossini
Performer:  Gino Quilico (Baritone), Robert Lloyd (Bass), Edith Gabry (Voice),
Cecilia Bartoli (Mezzo Soprano), David Kuebler (Tenor), Carlos Feller (Bass)
Conductor:  Gabriele Ferro
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra,  Cologne State Opera Chorus
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1816; Italy 

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