Matilde di Shabran
Ricardo Seguel, Julian Henao Gonzalez, Giulio Mastrototaro, Michele Angelini, Emmanuel Franco, Victoria Yarovaya, Sara Blanch, Lamia Beuque, Zong Shi; Górecki Chamber Choir; Passionart Orchestra/José-Miguel Pérez-Sierra
Naxos 8.660492-94 185:26 mins (3 discs)
After the premiere of Matilde di Shabran in 1821, one critic declared Jacopo Ferretti’s libretto to be ‘utterly mad’, a work that ‘both delights and angers’. We, too, are puzzled by a work that describes itself as a Melodramma giocoso or opera semiseriaplaying fast and loose with the opera rules. Is it a satire on opera seria, is it a comic melodrama, or is it a new kind of musical comedy?
This splendid recording of the original Rome version of Matilde reveals a hybrid work that looks forward to Il viaggio a Reimsand Le comte Ory. Recorded at the 2019 Rossini Wildbad Festival in Germany with a handful of nips and cuts to the first version, it relishes the almost comic tale of the melodramatic medieval tyrant Corradino conquered by love, or rather Matilde, with a score packed with some of Rossini’s most accomplished music.
Michele Angelini is magnificent as the villain, everything that you hope for in a Rossini tenor – fleet of voice in his runs and trills and with gravity-defying head notes. Sara Blanch’s Matilde matches him note for note. Their Act I duet ‘Ch’io fugga ha già timore…’ is a thrilling lesson in Rossini singing. There’s good work from the rest of the cast, notably the contralto Victoria Yarovaya as Edoardo, who Corradino has unjustly imprisoned and turns tragedy into comedy. Equally pleasing is the Passionart Orchestra conducted by José Miguel Pérez-Sierra. All scrupulously Rossinian including the celebrated horn solo at the beginning of Act II.