Notes and Editorial Reviews
Here is a case, I discover, of distance lending enchantment to the view. This Rossinifest, staged 10 years ago in New York's Lincoln Center on the day of the bicentenary of Rossini's birth, first appeared on VHS (6/93), an otiose medium for such an event, before limping onto CD (cut back to 80 minutes) 18 months later (12/94), a marketing decision which managed to make it seem stale and out-of-date.
Ten years on, it all seems rather fine. In the first place, the programming is exemplary. As an introduction to Rossini, erudite but approachable, it could hardly be better done. Secondly, the line-up of singers, several of whom have since retired, renders the set important as a memento of that all-important generation of artists who, with a brilliant team of editors and producers, helped bring Rossini, the erstwhile 'Napoleon of music', back from the brink of near-obscurity. Thirdly, the set wears well, thanks in large measure to Sir Roger Norrington's spruce, stylish, forensically brilliant yet refreshingly unaffected conducting.
Rehearing the gala, I was struck afresh by the astonishing loveliness of the Zelmira duet for soprano (Deborah Voigt) and mezzo (Kathleen Kuhlmann) with cor anglais and harp accompaniments, a treasurable rarity if ever there was one, and by the extraordinarily telling juxtaposition, for those of us interested in Rossini's own particular psychopathology, of Figaro's 'Largo al factotum' (Thomas Hampson's singing a tour de force) and the 'Agnus Dei' from the Petite messe solennelle where the awed choral interjections take on a sublimity of utterance which put me in mind of Sir Roger's fabled early recordings with the Schlitz Choir.
-- Richard Osborne, Gramophone [8/2002]