ROSSINI Eduardo e Cristina (Gelmetti)
Eduardo e Cristina is the operatic pastiche Rossini cobbled together for Venice’s Teatro San Benedetto in the spring of 1819. It was a contract he should never have signed, such were his existing commitments to the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. His latest opera, Ermione, had opened there on March 27 and its successor, La donna del lago, due in late October, was already in the early stages of composition. To retrieve the situation, he commissioned a rewrite of a libretto, first used by Pavesi in Naples 1810, to which he fitted music from three of his most recent operas: Adelaide di Borgogna, Ricciardo e Zoraide and Ermione itself, following its summary removal from the San Carlo repertory after just five performances. It was a ploy that worked. Eduardo e Cristina was cheered to the rafters by the Venetians. Indeed, it went on to be lauded throughout Europe, as star singers made their own additions to the smorgasbord of items already taken from Rossini’s works.
In 1997 the Rossini in Wildbad festival staged the pastiche in a new performing edition by the Swedish musicologist Anders Wiklund. And it was this that was revived in 2017. Audience reaction suggests that it made an agreeable evening in the theatre. However, it is a rather different story on record, given that neither the recycled music nor the drama – a dramatically inert tale of the tangled love-life of a Swedish princess and her warrior husband – is of any great distinction.
It’s good to have an experienced Rossinian, Gianluigi Gelmetti, in charge of the musical proceedings, and there are two excellent lead singers: Kenneth Tarver as the Swedish king and mezzo-soprano Laura Polverelli in the travesti role of his unwanted son-in-law. Unfortunately, the eponymous Swedish princess disappoints. Other drawbacks include inconsistent and often poorly balanced recorded sound, and an absence of pertinent background information on the opera itself – in this instance, what, precisely, comes from where? – of the kind usually provided by Naxos in these generally well-edited Wildbad booklets.