A Near Miss on a Couple of Counts
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 03/03/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"When it was premièred in 1813 the one-acter 'Il Signor Bruschino' was a failure. The main objection, it seems, was to the overture -- you will recall that this delightful overture is the one that has the second violins tapping their bows on their music stands -- which offended the critics. But, to tell the truth, this is not one of Rossini's better efforts. Written when he was only twenty-two, he already had some successes to his credit -- La Scala di Seta and La Pietra del Paragone, for instance -- but except for the overture, which quickly won its own fans, the opera itself pretty much disappeared along with numbers of other Rossini operas. All of them have now been revived in the past forty years of interest in Rossini's oeuvre. It has been available on VHS (which I've never seen) but this DVD is the only version in that form. It comes from a 1989 performance at the marvelous Schwetzingen Festival and is beautifully staged in Schwetzingen's jewel-box Rococo Theater. The pit orchestra, the reduced Stuttgart Radio Symphony is excellent and led by an eminent Rossinian, Gianluigi Gelmetti. What nearly sinks the performance, though, are two of the leading characters, Signor Bruschino himself and the female lead, Sofia. Bruschino is the patter-song character and Alberto Rinaldo either gets hopeless behind the beat or mumbles his words almost tunelessly in too many places. Sofia, sung by Amelia Felle, has a soft-cored soprano that is not always under very good control and her coloratura is imperfect.
On the plus side are the excellent (and handsome) tenor David Kuebler as the young lover, Florville, the great basso buffo, Carlos Feller, as the Innkeeper, and Alessandro Corbelli, suitably upper-class but palpably human as Sofia's father, Gaudenzio Stappapuppole (don't you love that name?). All are excellent farceurs as well. Add to that the small but important part of the Commissar of Police done broadly and hilariously by Oslavio di Credico, and Marianna the knowing maid sung by Janice Hall.
So, if you feel must have a DVD of the opera, this will probably be your only chance to own it. But I have to reiterate that this is not one of Rossini's better scores -- although the overture and some of the concerted numbers are good, and nicely done -- and the two major performances with their flaws are real detractions from the overall effect.
Sound is fine. Available in LPCM Stereo, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Subtitles in English, German, French, Spanish. TT:98 minutes.
Even Minor Rossini is Fun Once...
Giordano Bruno | Wherever I am, I am. | 07/06/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"... but I doubt anyone will watch/hear this one-act "farsa" more than once. The music is compositionally adroit, and the ensemble rat-a-tat-tat numbers are witty, but there are no dazzling arias or melodies that you'll sing while driving across Nebraska. The plot thickens, and thickens, and thickens... and then ends with a thud.
This production, in the glorious Schwetzingen Rokokotheater, is as elegant as the 'farsa' deserves, though the predominance of baritone/bass voices, several of whom labor obviously to keep up with the current of syllables, limits the sparkle of Rossini's musical exuberance.
The good news is that this minor piece is included in a four-opera bargain box, along with the far more engaging Scala de Seta, Cambiale di Matrimonio, and L'occasione far il ladro, all of which I've reviewed separately."