ALBUM TITLE: Rossini: Maometto secondo
WORKS: Maometto secondo
PERFORMER: Sian Davies, Caitlin Hulcup, Darren Jeffrey, Paul Nilon, Christopher Diffey, Richard Dowling; Garsington Opera Orchestra & Chorus/David Parry
CATALOGUE NO: AV2312
The production recorded here was the hit of Garsington’s 2013 festival, when this almost unknown Rossini opera turned out to be special. It dates from 1818, during the composer’s period as music director to the Royal Theatres of Naples, when his job involved supplying new scores to the Teatro San Carlo, at that time Italy’s most forward-looking opera house. Even so, Maometto secondo failed, though it enjoyed a second existence in its subsequent, much revamped French version as Le siège de Corinthe (1826).
Generally preferred by Rossini experts, the original’s plot resounds with the growing contemporary obsession with the cause of Greek Independence from the Ottoman Empire – though it is actually set during the 1470s, when the Turks are besieging a Venetian colonial outpost at Negroponte. With the aid of brave young general Calbo, Venetian leader Erisso puts up the best defence he can until matters are complicated by the discovery that his daughter and Calbo’s beloved, Anna, has previously fallen in love with the Turkish conqueror Maometto in disguise in Corinth.
Rossini mines the plot’s expressive possibilities in a truly magnificent score. It’s also of stupendous vocal difficulty, and, though not all of Garsington’s singers meet its more formidable challenges, theirs is still an appreciable achievement. Paul Nilon offers a monochrome Erisso, but Siân Davies’s Anna, Caitlin Hulcup’s Calbo and Darren Jeffery’s Maometto supply vital vocalism. David Parry’s stylish conducting provides momentum, though the open-air sound is so-so.