Rossini: Il turco in Italia

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Philips
WORKS: Il turco in Italia
PERFORMER: Simone Alaimo, Sumi Jo, Alessandro Corbelli, Raúl Gimenez; Ambrosian Opera Chorus, Academy of St Martin in the Fields/Neville Marriner
CATALOGUE NO: 434 128-2 DDD
This year’s Rossini bicentenary has resulted in numerous reissues but little in the way of new recordings. It is good to see, then, a new performance of this rare work, the first new recording since Callas’s abridged version made for EMI in the mid-Fifties.

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Too often and unjustly dismissed as an inferior reworking of L’italiana in Algeri, Il turco is an engaging if silly and rather contrived dramma buffo. The performances here have just the right sparkling quality, but however effervescent and attractive, there isn’t really sufficient variety in the characterisation to sustain interest for the full two and a half hours. Sumi Jo, as the capricious heroine Fiorilla, sings with great sweetness and clarity and is breathtakingly accurate in the coloratura passages, but there is a fragility and earnestness about her manner that makes her unconvincing as a character ostensibly so adept at manipulation and manufacturing intrigue.

The men are more impressive: particularly Simone Alaimo (an outstanding Leporello on Philips’s Don Giovanni, also with Marriner, last year) as the eponymous Turk, Selim, whose performance balances brilliantly the lightness and authority required by the character; and Raúl Gimenez as Fiorilla’s admirer Don Narciso, whose legato passages are seductively lyrical and whose melismatic singing is faultless.

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The sound throughout is sharply focused, expansive and clear, to the extent that even some of the page-turning is audible. Claire Wrathall