Rossini L'italiana in Algeri
Rossinians must count themselves lucky as they are showered with more and more goodies both in the opera-house and on CD. This latest addition to the growing discography of the composer’s operas is bliss, hard to fault on any count. Lopez-Cobos, as on his equally desirable Barbiere for Teldec (11/93), revels in all aspects of this dotty comedy, timing everything to perfection, enthusing his accomplished orchestra and cast to enjoy their collective self. As a template of the set’s achievement, try the Act 1 finale. First there’s a magic moment as Isabella and Lindoro espy each other for the first time, and comment on the joy of reunion; then the main section gets under way to a perfectly sprung rhythm from the conductor, with all the passage’s detail made manifest; finally the stretta is released with the kind of vitality that sets the feet tapping. To cap one’s pleasure, producer James Mallinson and his team catch the spirit of the performance in the truthful manner that typifies so many sets from the Teldec stable.
Individually, the singers all excel themselves. Larmore has little to fear from comparison with Horne on the Erato set. She enjoys the role just as much and conveys that enjoyment in singing that matches warm, smiling tone to bravura execution of her fioriture. She is a mettlesome Isabella, who knows how to tease, then defy her would-be lover, Mustafa, and charm her real amour, Lindoro, her “Per lui che adoro” sung with an immaculate line and sensuous tone, its repetition deftly embellished. Finally “Pensa alla patria” evinces a touch of true elan.
Lindoro is taken by that paragon among Rossini tenors, Raul Gimenez, who presents his credentials in “Languir per una bella”, honeyed tone succeeded by fleet runs, his sound so much more pleasing to the ear than that of his American rivals in Rossini. He is no less successful in his more heroic Cavatina in Act 2 (he does just as well by its subtler, more elaborate, almost Mozartian alternative, with its important clarinet obbligato, given in an appendix). Corbelli, another master-Rossinian, is as witty as ever as the put-upon Taddeo, his textual facility a marvel. The American bass-baritone, John del Carlo, well known in buffo and other roles at the Metropolitan, and abroad, is a characterful Mustafa, managing to suggest, as Rossini surely intended, a paradox of lovesick tyrant and ludicrous posturing without ever overstepping the mark into farce, and rolling Italian and his rotund roulades off his tongue with idiomatic assurance. Chausson is well in the picture as Haly.
The 1980 Erato set, now at mid price, remains enjoyable, but the new version is the one to have, the kind of recorded performance that really adds something worthwhile to the catalogue – and, more important, adds to the pleasure of life.'