Rossini: La gazza ladra (in English)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: La gazza ladra (in English)
PERFORMER: Majella Cullagh, Jeremy White, Susan Bickley, Barry Banks, Russell Smythe, Christopher Purves; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, Philharmonia Orchestra/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3097(2)
This performance is based on the successful production of Rossini’s opera last year at Garsington, though with a number of changes in personnel as well as a switch in language. Here it is sung in Jeremy Sams’s effective English translation as The Thieving Magpie.

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Irish soprano Majella Cullagh leads off with excellent diction and high-quality vocalism as the heroine Ninetta, condemned to death for a theft she didn’t commit. As her boyfriend Giannetto, Barry Banks hurls himself at Rossini’s ornate writing with a high degree of accuracy. There’s a characterful portrayal of Giannetto’s father Fabrizio from Jeremy White, and a powerful one of his domineering mother Lucia from Susan Bickley. Ninetta’s father Fernando receives sympathetic treatment in Russell Smythe’s humane reading, and even the wicked Mayor is allowed a complex personality by Christopher Purves.

As at Garsington, David Parry conducts, hurrying the score in places but generally presenting it with vivacity and spirit. The Philharmonia is on magnificent form and the overture sounds thrilling.

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The work itself is one of Rossini’s most interesting pieces, couched in the semiseria genre that blends darker elements into a broadly comic mix. It inspires some of his finest dramatic writing, though his sheer exhilaration remains undimmed. The edition makes some cuts – it’s some 40 minutes shorter than Gelmetti’s live Sony account, for instance – but the heart of the score is here, and beating healthily. George Hall