Rossini: Bianca e Falliero

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3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Bianca e Falliero
PERFORMER: Majella Cullagh, Jennifer Larmore, Barry Banks, Ildebrando D’Arcangelo; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, LPO/David Parry
Rossini’s Bianca e Falliero ran for 39 performances when it opened at La Scala, Milan, in 1819 and this fact alone should arouse our curiosity for this neglected opera seria. The Rossini revival of the last few decades has shown us that some of the greatest discoveries are to be made among his serious operas. And this work of his middle maturity, coming between Maometto II and Semiramide, has some top-drawer Rossini in it. Bel canto enthusiasts owe yet another debt of gratitude to Opera Rara for recording this important work under studio conditions. But, in truth, I found much of this set very difficult to listen to. This is partly due to the vocal timbre of Jennifer Larmore, in the travesti role of Falliero. She has a tendency to sound blowsy in the rhetorical moments and squally in the many florid passages. But this is made much worse by the way the voices have been recorded with a harsh, strip-lighting glare around the sound. There are several dramatic confrontations which come over well under the stylish conducting of David Parry, especially the Act I father-daughter duet which is well sung by Barry Banks and Majella Cullagh. However, this set is strictly for the Rossini completists. Clive Portbury