First, I must say that I disagree with the previous reviewer when he states that TURCO is an unquestionable masterpiece. Compared alongside the great scores of Rossini's maturity -- comic, tragic, and semi-seria -- I feel that TURCO ultimately emerges in a placement more toward the bottom of Rossini's collected works, and certainly cannot stand direct comparison with scores like BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, SEMIRAMIDE, and even the much-maligned OTELLO (which, contrary to what one often reads, contains much inspired and truly beautiful music -- a fact of which Verdi was well aware when Boito and Ricordi approached him with OTELLO on their minds). Still, TURCO has much to offer, and one is always grateful to Naxos for giving us their always competent and often truly competitive recordings at budget prices.
A word, then, concerning the provenance of this recording. The technical notes state only that the recording was made 'during October 2003.' There is a good bit of mostly unobtrusive stage noise but no audience 'participation' that I can discern (though the sources of a few coughs are questionable -- choristers, perhaps?), all of which leads me to suspect that the recording was drawn mostly from rehearsals.
Most of the singing is quite fine. The Greek soprano, one Signora Papatanasiu, has a very pleasing timbre but is no more than competent in coloratura (and occasionally slightly less than competent) and avoids the extreme upper register throughout -- defensible as careful observance of the letter of the score, of course, as the lion's share of the top notes one expects are interpolations, but it is admittedly somewhat disappointing when the two act finales are not capped with ecstatic, ringing interpolations in alt. Furthermore, Papatanasiu brings neither the dramatic ferocity of Callas nor the vocal sheen of Bartoli to her performance. She is also inferior to Sumi Jo, whose performance on the Gardiner recording is nonetheless disappointing.
The principal tenor, Amedeo Moretti, previously known to me solely from a 'live' recording (drawn from a concert performance) of Donizetti's PARISINA D'ESTE (available on the Dynamic label), is capable but shows little real fluency in Rossinian style. His fiorature in Narcisco's aria are labored but accurate, but at least he interpolates a strained but on-pitch top note in the stretta.
I remain unconvinced of the greatness attributed to Natale de Carolis. His is a convincing performance, in some ways charming, but the voice lacks the focus and tonal allure of the finest of his rivals in this repertory. Still, it is a pleasure to hear an Italian voice in Selim's music.
The orchestra and chorus are professional if perceptibly provincial in certain regards. I find Maestro Conti's conducting on the whole very persuasive.
Naxos is to commended for their effort in giving us this new TURCO. At this price, it is perhaps too much to ask that some new insight into the drama be given to the listener, but there are at least 140 minutes of enjoyable music, enthusiastically and engagingly performed.