Amici e Rivali: Duets and ensembles from Il barbiere di Siviglia, Ricciardo e Zoraide, La donna del lago, Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra, Otello, Le Siège de Corinthe and Armida
Lawrence Brownlee, Michael Spyres (tenor); with Tara Erraught (mezzo-soprano), Xabier Anduaga (tenor); I Virtuosi Italiani/Corrado Rovaris
Erato 9029526947 79:02 mins
An unusual disc, focusing on tenor-tenor duets – something that Rossini, given the plethora of this voice-type he had available to him during his Neapolitan period (1815-22) – was able to indulge in. His Armida, for instance, involves no fewer than six tenors – though admittedly some of them occupy minor roles.
Lawrence Brownlee takes the higher parts. Airy and buoyant in his top register, he can negotiate all the notes with ease. Michael Spyres is equally stylish, though there are a couple of moments when he’s less than ideally fluent.
They are both at their best in the Agorante/Ricciardo duet from Ricciardo e Zoraide, where they prove equally adept in matching the piece’s exacting requirements, and in an excerpt from Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra in which Spyres’s stirring Leicester is confronted by Lawrence Brownlee’s false friend Norfolk.
Right at the beginning they tackle the Almaviva/Figaro duet from The Barber of Seville, with Spyres assuming the baritone title role; though there are precedents, this is not what the composer intended.
Rich-toned mezzo Tara Erraught makes vital contributions to extracts from Otello (as Desdemona), La donna del lago (as Elena) and Le Siège de Corinthe (as Pamyra). In an excerpt from Armida, the young Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga takes on the secondary role of Carlo; he’s also a worthwhile presence in the Otello duet and one of two from Ricciardo.
With plenty of forward drive under Corrado Rovaris, the period-instrument orchestra is neat, accurate and light-textured. Nicely regulated sound.