LABELS: Opera Rara
WORKS: Elisabetta regina d’Inghilterra
PERFORMER: Jennifer Larmore, Bruce Ford, Majella Cullagh, Antonino Siragusa; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, LPO/Giuliano Carella
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 22
Even by Opera Rara’s customary lofty standards and characteristic zest for dusting off neglected pieces, this new recording must rate highly in the company’s catalogue. There is surely no work of Rossini not worth investigating, and while Elisabetta has enjoyed the occasional revival it has remained a rarity: the reasons have surely less to do with its music, or even its historically fanciful plot, than the casting it requires. Two sopranos, a mezzo and three tenors of the kind able to fulfil Rossini’s demands are hard to find even in an era when Rossini-singing is coming back into fashion.
Composed in 1815, just months before Il barbiere di Siviglia, the opera shares its overture with that most famous of Rossini’s works. Perhaps the composer never expected Elisabetta to be revived, but the big ensembles are masterfully written and some numbers show great imagination. This was the work that ushered in Rossini’s Neapolitan period, and the Teatro San Carlo’s celebrated orchestra allowed accompanied recitatives throughout – a Rossini first.
Giuliano Carella conducts the LPO solidly enough, and the cast is much more than solid. Technically a mezzo, Jennifer Larmore has no trouble bringing expression to the title role, and Majella Cullagh provides some spectacular singing as Matilde. Bruce Ford’s tasteful yet exciting singing as Leicester shows up Antonino Siragusa’s dry tone somewhat, but his Norfolk does turn in some very impressive coloratura. The smaller parts of Enrico and Guglielmo are capably filled by Manuela Custer and Colin Lee. John Allison