Rossini: Matilde di Shabran

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Decca
ALBUM TITLE: Rossini
WORKS: Matilde di Shabran
PERFORMER: Annick Massis, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Taddia, Hadar Halevy, Marco Vinco, Bruno de Simone; Prague Chamber Choir; Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia/Riccardo Frizza
CATALOGUE NO: 475 7688
One of the least known of Rossini’s mature operas, this 1821 melodramma giocoso provided the vehicle for Juan Diego Flórez’s leap to fame when, back in 1996, he took over the staggeringly difficult role of Corradino from an indisposed Bruce Ford at Pesaro. Flórez returned to the same production in 2004 when Decca made this live recording, in which his technique and vocal suavity shines once again. In the title role, French soprano Annick Massis is not quite so secure but nevertheless communicates Matilde’s lightness and gaiety. There’s able support from Marco Vinco’s firm Aliprando, Hadar Halevy’s reliable Edoardo and especially Bruno de Simone’s expert delivery of the comic poet Isidoro.

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The opera turns out to be extremely worthwhile. On the debit side, the first Act is a little long, and Rossini ends it with a marginally less effective piece than the brilliant quintet that comes a little earlier, and which is a real tour de force of compositional ingenuity. The piece’s mode is mainly comic – misogynistic man-of-valour Corradino is won over to the attractions of women by Matilde, though not without threatening to have her hurled off

a cliff out of misplaced jealousy.

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Pressed for time when he wrote it, Rossini called upon Giovanni Pacini to help him out by writing half a dozen numbers, but we hear the later, Neapolitan version, which is entirely his own work. Spirited conducting from Riccardo Frizza, slightly raw sound. George Hall