Rossini: Aureliano in Palmira
Rossini’s early opera seria was not an enormous success in its initial production (La Scala, 1813) and its subsequent career was relatively limited; in 1816, the canny Rossini recycled sections in his comedy The Barber of Seville, including what would become the famous overture to the latter work. The original opera nevertheless possesses a high-quality and richly ornate score. It tells of how the Queen Zenobia of Palmyra and her lover, the Persian prince Arsace, are defeated by the Roman emperor, Aureliano, but are eventually welcomed into the Empire – on condition they behave themselves.
Opera Rara’s performance is a fine one, conducted with stylistic assurance by Maurizio Benini and sung by a good cast, able to rise above the music’s considerable technical challenges to achieve real expressive distinction. In the title role, tenor Kenneth Tarver reminds us of his excellent Rossinian credentials, with a light and airy tone and fluent top register. Spanish mezzo Silvia Tro Santafé is also fluent as Aureliano’s military and amorous rival, Arsace. Scottish soprano Catriona Smith equals her colleagues’ skills as Zenobia.