Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia

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COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: EMI
WORKS: Il barbiere di Siviglia
PERFORMER: Jerry Hadley, Bruno Praticò, Susanne Mentzer, Thomas Hampson, Samuel Ramey; Orchestra della Toscana/Gianluigi Gelmetti
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 7 54863 2 DDD
EMIalready leads the field in the Barbiere stakes with two classic accounts from the 1950s (with Callas and Gobbi) and Sixties (with de los Angeles and Bruscantini). Will they score a hat trick with this one? On paper this new Barbiere has a lot going for it: an absolutely complete text (the recent critical edition by Alberto Zedda is used) shorn of the accretions of nearly 200 years, and singers of the calibre of Thomas Hampson and Samuel Ramey. Hampson’s Figaro and Ramey’s Basilio are indeed true to form, though Hampson is rather humourless, and there is a fine, younger than usual Bartolo from Bruno Praticò. Otherwise this new version can’t compete with its older competitors. Jerry Hadley’s tone is often raw and he is overtaxed by Almaviva’s coloratura. Susanne Mentzer is a charmless and often shrill Rosina. And despite some disciplined and often vivacious playing from the Orchestra della Toscana under Gianluigi Gelmetti the performance overall refuses to lift: the essential Rossinian sparkle, such an attractive, not to say vital, feature of both earlier EMI sets, is conspicuously absent. Antony Bye

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