LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Il crociato in Egitto (excerpts); Romilda e Costanza (excerpts); Emma di Resburgo (excerpts); ‘Pensa e guarda’ from Margherita d’Anjou; Semiramide riconosciuta (excerpts); L’esule di Granata (excerpts)
PERFORMER: Yvonne Kenny, Bronwen Mills, Linda Kitchen, Diana Montague, Della Jones, Bruce Ford, Alastair Miles, etc; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra, RPO/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: ORR 222 Reissue
German by birth and French by reputation, Giacomo (né Jakob) Meyerbeer consolidated his reputation as a composer in early 19th-century Italy, where in terms of popularity, not to mention style, he rivalled his contemporary Rossini.
The ever-enterprising Opera Rara has done much to champion Meyerbeer’s Italian operas, all six of which are featured here. So perhaps it’s inevitable that more than half this vastly entertaining and absorbing compilation should come from the label’s complete recording of Il crociato in Egitto, the last and most spectacular of his Venetian works.
Opera Rara’s skill lies as much in its casting as in its scholarship and tenacity in unearthing forgotten masterpieces. Bruce Ford shows off the breathtaking agility and lucent, steadfastness of his upper register in the excerpts from Il crociato, as does the redoubtable Della Jones, whose bravura coloratura skills are put to thrilling use. Yvonne Kenny is refulgently lovely as the cross-dressing Babylonian queen in her scene from Semiramide riconosciuta. And there’s a winningly precise cameo from Russell Smythe, in the patter element of the trio ‘Pensa e guarda’ from Margherita d’Anjou, a complete issue of which is due in September. David Parry deftly prevents the Philharmonia and RPO (in Il crociato) from abandoning themselves entirely to the captivating, tum-ti-tum rhythms. Just a pity no texts, let alone translations, are included. Claire Wrathall