LABELS: Opera Rara
PERFORMER: Carmen Giannattasio, Patricia Bardon, Paul Nilon, Colin Lee, Bülent Bezdüz, Graeme Broadbent; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; London PO/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: ORC 42
A stellar cast with a libretto from a respected writer and an ancient Classical story that had moved audiences for generations… It’s a mystery why Ermione, based on Racine’s tragedy Andromaque (anglicised as Andromache, the widow of the Trojan hero Hector), should have failed to please in Naples in 1819.
Yet Rossini treasured this orphan among his operas, describing it as his ‘little William Tell’. The implications are clear: the composer was looking to France for his model and intending to stretch the musical rules of opera seria.
This deeply committed reading just about convinces. The dark descending chords that introduce the overture have the kind of grandeur you might hear in French tragédie lyrique while the unseen chorus of Trojan prisoners is a masterstroke.
The end, too, with Ermione alone on stage, triumphant in her ruin, is superb. And in Carmen Giannattasio we have a dramatic soprano ready to explore one of Rossini’s most achieved heroines.
In her recitatives Giannattasio has something of the limpid lyricism of the young Sutherland, though it also has to be said that under pressure at the top of her register her diction is as inchoate as La Stupenda’s could be!
Paul Nilon, who quite simply is singing better and better, is by turns a tyrannical and sympathetic Pirro, torn between Ermione and Andromaca. Colin Lee makes a handsome Oreste, Patricia Bardon lavishes rich round tone on the ever-tearful Trojan princess while David Parry expertly leads the LPO through this fine piece as if they had been playing it all their professional lives. Christopher Cook