Notes and Editorial Reviews
Il turco in Italia is one of Rossini's most sophisticated early comedies, an elegantly crafted two-act drama buffo that looks back to the world of Mozart's Cosi fan tutte (a relationship interestingly explored in Philip Gossett's booklet essay "Il turco in Italia: poor relation or noble scion?") and forward, like so much Rossini, to aspects of twentieth-century neoclassicism. The Pirandello-like theme of an author in search of six characters has often been remarked on, a casual analogy that hardly begins to explain the character of a piece that working almost exclusively through duets, trios, and larger ensembles, presents a strangely disturbing view of sophisticated, socializing man. Rossini would almost certainly have understood
Harold Pinter's idea of the weasel in the cocktail cabinet.
Unlike Cosi, Il turco is flawed by various acts of omission by Rossini who farmed out to deputies the secco recitatives (crucial to the character of the Pirandellian Poet), several arias, and even part of the Act 2 finale. Chailly's CBS version is almost unduly faithful to the original; Marriner's new version, produced by the record industry's leading Rossinian Erik Smith, is more pragmatic. Out goes Albazar's aria (not by Rossini), in comes a new cavatina, stylishly sung by Raiil Gimbnez, written by Rossini for Don Narciso for Rome in 1815. In practice, the Philips edition works well, scholarship and the demands of theatre locked in happy accord.
The new set has an exceptionally strong cast of philandering and speculating menfolk. You only have to hear how Simone Alaimo, the Turkish prince Selim, articulates his entrance aria to realize that solid musicianship and the rhetorical demands of the stage action are equally in accord. Alessandro Corbelli is the Poet, the admirable Enrico Fissore the feckless Don Geronio. Importantly for gramophone listening, all three baritones are readily distinguishable in voice and character.
If there is a weakness in the set it is the Fiorilla of Sumi Jo. She sings bewitchingly but it is really too sweetly sympathetic a portrayal of the sharp-tongued Fiorilla. (I wondered on more than one occasion if she isn't too far from the microphone; half an inch can make or break a career as any broadcaster knows.) In Fiorilla's breezy cavatina it is Caballé who steals the show on CBS; her tone is more brilliant than Jo's, the vocalization more secure than Callas's on Gavazzeni's characterful (though textually antediluvian) 1954 mono recording on EMI. On the other hand, in the famous Act I duet between Fiorilla and Geronio, only Callas and Calabrese give us the scene as it is: a terrifying musical switch-back in which Geronio is challenged, charmed, duped, dressed down and dismissed by a woman who in Callas's performance is as guileful as Shakespeare's Cleopatra. Caballé and Dara are not in the same class, nor is Sumi Jo who allows her Geronio to emerge bafflingly in command.
But don't make too much of this. As I say, Jo is a charming artist and Il turco is very much an ensemble piece, here cogently conducted by Sir Neville Marriner. Throughout the entire length of Act 2 there is nothing to detract from one's unalloyed pleasure in the music or the music-making. The playing of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields is predictably stylish and, as usual with Philips, the balance of voices, orchestra and ambient acoustic has a near-ideal Rossinian intimacy and point. The Callas set, with the young Nicolai Gedda as Narciso and the veteran Mariano Stabile as the Poet, will always be something of a collectors' item; but among modern versions of Il turco, the new Philips version leads the field by a short head.
-- Gramophone [12/1992]
Works on This Recording
Il turco in Italia by Gioachino Rossini
Enrico Fissore (Bass),
Susanne Mentzer (Mezzo Soprano),
Alessandro Corbelli (Baritone),
Simone Alaimo (Baritone),
Raúl Giménez (Tenor),
Sumi Jo (Mezzo Soprano)
Sir Neville Marriner
Academy of St. Martin in the Fields,
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
Written: 1814; Italy
Be the first to review this title