PERFORMER: Simon Edwards, Inga Balabanova, Soon-Won Kang, Filippo Morace, Massimiliano Chiarolla; Bratislava Chamber Chorus, International Orchestra of Italy/Paolo Arrivabeni
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 397 (distr. Priory)
All the music for this 1826 opera is by Rossini, but it’s a pasticcio (literally, a ‘pudding’), in which music written for previous scores has been recycled to new words and for new situations. It’s a practice not unknown in other pieces by the composer and many others up to the beginning of the Romantic period, though here, bar a couple of recitatives and a horn solo, Rossini composed nothing new, and seems to have farmed out the bulk of the adaptation.
It’s difficult not to regard the result as cynical, the more so since the piece is so lacking in consistency. (In the case of Le comte Ory, largely recycled from Il viaggio a Reims, the adaptation – entirely in Rossini’s hands – is brilliant.) Here we have large chunks of Semiramide (including the overture), Cenerentola, Armida, La gazza ladra and seven other works, now telling the story of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Perhaps the two heroines of the latter were too expensive for the Théâtre de l’Odéon. In any case Rowena and Rebecca have coalesced into Leïla who, like her father Ismael, is a Muslim (Rebecca and her father Isaac were Jewish). It’s a considerably slimmed-down plot in any case.
The young singers work hard with Rossini’s far from simple vocal lines, and Inga Balabanova’s Leïla comes closest to meeting their demands, with Soon-Won Kang’s Brian de Boisguilbert an honourable second. The rest is acceptable, though the work itself is probably only for Rossini completists. George Hall