WORKS: L’equivoco stravagante
PERFORMER: Petia Petrova, Marco di Felice, Marco Vinco, Dario Schmunck, Monica Minarelli, Eduardo Santamaria; Czech Chamber Chorus & Soloists/Alberto Zedda
CATALOGUE NO: 8.660087-88
One way in which the teenage Rossini made a name for himself was to get this, his first full-scale two-act opera, banned after only three performances. The plot of L’equivoco stravagante (‘The Absurd Misunderstanding’) proved too saucy for the Bologna censor in 1811: it turns on the attempts of the impoverished hero Ermanno to put the ‘rich and stupid’ buffo Buralicchio off the heroine Ernestina by telling him that she is really a castrato in drag. As the composer never expected the opera to surface again he made use of some of its stronger numbers in later works. From today’s perspective, the harmless sexual ambiguity of the libretto merely illustrates the unhappy status of castratos surviving in 19th-century Italy.
Alberto Zedda conducts his forces with verve on this live recording, but the Naxos packaging creates some ‘misunderstandings’ of its own. The recording was made at the Rossini in Wildbad Festival in 2000, not 2001 as stated, and is not a ‘world premiere’ on disc as claimed (a live Naples recording has appeared before) – unless allowances are made for the new edition used here. The two lovers are strongly sung by Petia Petrova (though her glinting mezzo occasionally curdles) and Dario Schmunck (a stylish lyric tenor), and if the stupid suitor (Marco Vinco) and the girl’s nouveau riche father (Marco di Felice) sound rougher that is not entirely inappropriate. John Allison