Rossini – The Italian Girl in Algiers (extracts in English)

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Rossini
LABELS: Chandos
WORKS: The Italian Girl in Algiers – extracts (in English)
PERFORMER: Alastair Miles, Sarah Tynan, Anne Marie Gibbons, David Soar, Barry Banks, Jennifer Larmore, Alan Opie; Geoffrey Mitchell Choir; Philharmonia Orchestra/Brad Cohen
CATALOGUE NO: CHAN 3160

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In so many ways Rossini got it right in The Italian Girl in Algiers: the perfectly placed crescendo in the overture, the vari-speed extended finale and the deft balance between aria and ensemble.

Yet like so many of his great comedies, Act II never quite lives up to the first, the fizz of the first part has turned a little flat after the interval. Not that you would know that from this generous selection of highlights from the opera that are sung here in David Parry’s elegant translation.

Chandos have certainly fielded a handsome cast. Barry Banks is a properly plaintive Lindoro, though’s there’s a tad too much vibrato in his cavatina ‘In dreams of endless pleasure’, and Alastair Miles’s soft-grained bass makes the lovelorn Mustafà an oddly touching figure.

Jennifer Larmore, however, may not be every listener’s ideal Isabella; here the girl of the title is more a dowager-in-waiting than a strong willed young woman who refuses to be hurried into the harem.

The top of the voice is as beefy as you could hope for at the end of ‘Sweetest treasure, dearest pleasure’ in Act II, but dropping into the chest register in her Act I cavatina ‘Fate is cruel’ puts years on the character.

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Best of all is the utterly dependable Alan Opie who turns tiresome Taddeo into much more than Isabella’s lap dog. In the pit, Brad Cohen keeps things on the move, though the sound is sometimes a shade too bright. Christopher Cook