ROSSINI Le Siège de Corinthe (Abbado)

Record and Artist Details

Genre:

Opera

Label: C Major

Media Format: CD or Download

Media Runtime: 173

Mastering:

DDD

Catalogue Number: 765808

765808. ROSSINI Le Siège de Corinthe (Abbado)

Tracks:

Composition Artist Credit
(Le) Siège de Corinthe, 'Assedio di Corinto' Gioachino Rossini, Composer
Carlo Cigni, Hiéros, Bass
Cecilia Molinari, Ismène, Mezzo soprano
Chorus of the Teatro Ventidio Basso
Iurii Samoilov, Omar, Baritone
John Irvin, Cléomène, Tenor
Luca Pisaroni, Mahomet II, Bass-baritone
Nino Machaidze, Pamyra, Soprano
Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI
Roberto Abbado, Conductor
Sergey Romanovsky, Néoclès, Tenor
Xabier Anduaga, Adastre, Tenor

Rossini’s Le siège de Corinthe, written for the Paris Opéra in 1826, was a game-changer in the history of opera. It’s one of Rossini’s most memorable achievements; yet it’s also one of his unluckiest.

The first of two politically charged music dramas adapted from Neapolitan originals, Le siège is a remake of Rossini’s penultimate Naples opera Maometto II, a revolutionary work set at the time of the Turkish sack of Negroponte in 1476. With the location changed to Corinth, the French rewrite offered a searing parallel to the horrors currently being visited on the people of Missolonghi by the Ottoman Turks at the height of the Greek War of Independence. The impact was huge, as it would be today should any opera company be bold enough to stage Le siège in the shadow of Israel’s assault on Gaza.

After Greece won its independence in 1832, the opera took on a new lease of life in Italy, whose own wars of independence were just beginning. Rossini had nothing to do with the clumsily translated L’assedio di Corinto, nor with any of the numerous adaptations – mostly designed to boost the status of star singers.

We had an example of this in a spectacular recording of L’assedio di Corinto, made under the musical and editorial direction of Thomas Schippers in 1975 (EMI, 6/76). Beverly Sills starred as the doomed heroine Pamira, the part lavishly rewritten as a coloratura showpiece, while the role of the ardent young Greek officer Neocle was sung en travesti by mezzo-soprano Shirley Verrett. This would have been right for Maometto II, but in another epoch-changing act, Rossini had recast the role of Néoclès for a lyric tenor, the 24-year-old Adolphe Nourrit. The Schippers set was rightly lambasted by scholars, but listening to it in the CD transfer Warner Classics made for its Rossini Edition (12/18), I wondered at the sheer intensity of a performance recorded in an age when opera clearly mattered.

As it happens, the star of this new 2017 Pesaro Festival production is the Russian tenor Sergey Romanovsky, who’s quite outstanding. There are also distinguished performances from Nino Machaidze as Pamyra and tenor John Irvin as Pamyra’s father Cléomène. The text is also good, based on the long-awaited Critical Edition by Damien Colas.

Had the festival chosen to release the performance on CD, it might have challenged the superb 2010 Rossini in Wildbad account, featuring rising star Michael Spyres as Néoclès and Majella Cullagh as Pamyra, which Naxos released in 2013. (Happily, the two-CD set, unnoticed by Gramophone at the time, remains in the Naxos catalogue.)

If the new Pesaro Festival DVD is impossible to recommend, it’s because of an abysmal production – ill-lit and poorly filmed – made amid the wastes of Pesaro’s 10,000-seat multipurpose sports arena into which the festival inserts its own opera stage and pit. Opera’s Hugh Canning described the production as ‘a bog-standard park-and-bark staging’. Actually, it’s not even bog-standard, given the bizarre nature of director Carlus Padrissa’s own designs. Built out of hundreds of transparent plastic water-cooler bottles, they’re a travesty of a mise en scène which, in Paris in 1826, opened up a historically important new world of realistic stage design.

In 2000 the festival entrusted Le siège to actor and cinema director Massimo Castri, who argued that Rossini’s take on the story (which ends with an onstage holocaust) was ironic. It was judged the worst production in the festival’s then 20-year history. This 2017 production – tautly conducted by Roberto Abbado, despite his conducting arm being in a sling – is better cast and has a better text, but the staging is equally inept. An unlucky opera? You can say that again.

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