There is something about Puccini's little comic masterpiece that makes it almost failure-proof. I've seen a number of productions that didn't seem to have much going for them in terms of cast, production and orchestra, and yet the opera always comes off. Even so, I didn't have very high expectations for this recording when it came my way; after all, I'd never heard of any of the singers, had only a nodding aquaintance with the conductor, and it came from an obscure corner of Europe. I needn't have been apprehensive. This recording is really quite good, and indeed has some quite wonderful performances, especially in the Schicchi of Alberto Rinaldi and the Lauretta of Tatiana Lipsic (who does, after all, have the one 'hit' number of the piece, 'O mio babbino caro'). But, in fact, this ensemble piece is well served by the cast here assembled. It is conducted with verve by Alexander Rahbari and the orchestra is the Málaga Philharmonic which is much more than adequate, somewhat surprising considering that I'd never thought of Málaga as being anything more than a nice little city on the Costa del Sol and the source of that sweet wine bearing its name. Even on the recording - without the help of visuals - the sly comedy comes off, the romantic moments between Rinuccio (who has the only other aria even half-well-known, 'Firenze è come un albero fiorito') and Lauretta are ardently and sweetly done. Rinuccio is well-sung by tenor Stefano Secco, who has a lyric tenor with more than a little heft in the voice. He could well be a comer. Soprano Lipsic definitely is.
All in all, then, this 'Schicchi' has real artistic value and you get more than your money's worth at Naxos's ridiculously low price.