LABELS: RCA Living Stereo
WORKS: Il barbiere di Siviglia
PERFORMER: Robert Merrill, Roberta Peters, Cesare Valletti, Giorgio Tozzi, Fernando Corena Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Erich Leinsdorf
CATALOGUE NO: 09026 68552 2 ADD Reissue
The first on record to contain almost all of Rossini’s score, this Met-based Barber from 1958 is of more than historic interest, though on its initial release it faced stiff competition from the classic but heavily abridged Callas/ Alva/Gobbi account of the year before.
It still holds its own well despite recent appearances of more musicologically sound alternatives which are often strong on rectitude but short on joie de vivre. Purists will no doubt baulk at Roberta Peters’s sopranino Rosina, but her perky delivery and dazzling virtuosity should silence all but the hardest of hearts; and the lower voices – Merrill’s robust Figaro, Tozzi’s solid Basilio and Corena’s witty Bartolo – make up a close-knit, stylish team, ably supported by Leinsdorf’s alert if not always sparkling direction.
The real star of the show, however, is Cesare Valletti, as mellifluous and aristocratic an Almaviva as one could hope for, whose effortless vocal fioriture seem a natural extension of his personality and are well captured on this no-nonsense recording. Antony Bye