WORKS: Robert Bruce
PERFORMER: Nicolas Rivenq, Iano Tamar, Simon Edwards, Davide Cicchetti; Bratislava Chamber Choir, International Orchestra of Italy/Paolo Arrivabeni
CATALOGUE NO: CDS 421
Resisting requests for new stage works, Rossini remained adamant that Guillaume Tell was his operatic swansong. So ‘new’ Rossini operas had to be conjured by other means. Robert Bruce was one such concoction, created for the Paris Opéra by the composer Louis Niedermeyer, who plundered extensively from La donna del lago and Zelmira, filched the odd number from other Rossini operas and composed his own interlinking bits of recitative. The plot, set in a romanticised medieval Scotland, has obvious affinities with that of La donna del lago; and some of the music recycled from that opera works well enough in its new context. But too often the music meshes vaguely, if at all, with character and situation.
Except for the imposing, if occasionally raw Bruce of Nicolas Rivenq, the singers’ French on this new recording ranges from flawed to dire. But there are several committed performances, not only from Rivenq, but also from tenor Simon Edwards as Marie’s English lover Arthur, and, especially from Iano Tamar, whose distinctive, rich-toned soprano encompasses the finesse and tenderness for the heroine’s lyrical music and the fire for her impassioned outbursts. Some of the smaller parts are roughly done. And both the orchestra (unflatteringly recorded) and chorus, under Paolo Arrivabeni’s routine direction, are distinctly provincial-sounding. Rossini-lovers will want to hear this curiosity once, perhaps, and then return to the recordings of La donna del lago under Pollini (Sony) and Zelmira under Scimone (Erato) to hear most of the music in its proper context. Richard Wigmore