PERFORMER: Ernesto Palacio, Marilyn Horne, Nicola Zaccaria, Lella Cuberli, Bernadette Manca di Nissa, Patricia Schuman; Teatro La Fenice Chorus & Orchestra/Ralf Weikert
CATALOGUE NO: S3K 39073 DDD (Reissue, 1985)
Tancredi, its libretto derived in part from Voltaire’s tragedy, is the earliest serious Rossini opera of any consequence. (It was preceded mainly by comic pieces, many of them in one act.) Though uneven, it contains some of Rossini’s finest music, and was highly acclaimed by its first audiences in Venice in 1813.: one of its arias, ‘Di tanti palpiti’, became so popular that it was hummed and whistled in the streets and alleyways. This live recording, made in 1983 at the Teatro La Fenice, where the opera had its premiere, does full justice to the work, with Lella Cuberli an expressive and vocally exciting heroine (Amenaide), and Marilyn Horne in splendid form as the eponymous hero who sings the opera’s pop tune. Ernesto Palacio’s agile tenor makes light of the difficult role of Argirio, the heroine’s father. Ralf Weikert conducts efficiently, using Rossini’s second (and preferable) version of the finale, which has Tancredi dying on stage instead of living happily ever after with Amenaide.
Composed six years later, La donna del lago is only loosely based on Scott’s narrative poem The Lady of the Lake, yet succeeds in conjuring up the atmosphere of the Scottish Highlands. This tuneful, delicately orchestrated opera of innocent Romantic charm is given a splendid performance by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe under Maurizio Pollini (also recorded in 1983), and its cast could hardly be bettered today. Katia Ricciarelli brings to the title role rich creamy tone and a fine appreciation of the style, and Lucia Valentini Terrani is impressive in the travesti role of Malcolm. The two high-lying tenor parts are sung with assurance by Dalmacio Gonzales and Dano Raffanti, and Samuel Ramey is a tower of strength as Douglas, the heroine’s father. The recording is admirably clear and sensibly balanced. Charles Osborne