Once again, The Rossini Opera Festival has released an excellent dvd of a recent performance, this time the rarely seen Matidle di Shabran. And it is a winner on all fronts.
First, let's start with the opera itself. This is an "opera semisera", which is, in fact, a different animal from a buffo comedy. The tone of such a piece (like "la Gazza Ladra") is largely comic, sometimes with quite uproarious situations and staging. But about half way through, it becomes much darker, with the hero/heroine being threatened by real bad consequences- condemned to death here. The tone then become quite a bit darker (not farcically so, but actually so), before a happy ending where all is righted, and the hero(ine) reprieved.
Here, Corradino (villain) is a woman hater/everything hater and, though not evil, impossible to like. His comic servants (nothing new here) get along as best they can, though the villagers fear him. He is pursued ion marriage by the Countess D'Arco, who, though he refuses to marry her, has nonetheless extracted a promise that he won't marry anyone else. But then arrives Matilde, determined to marry him and change his negative ways. She succeeds in emotionally seducing him. But the Countess causes Corradino to believe that Matilde has set a prisoner of war free, and so she is ordered killed. In the end, of course, her buffo executioner cannot carry out the order, the truth comes out, and Corradino and Matilde end up together.
The music is largely comic- which, of course, means that it is Rossini at his best ("Make more Barbers," Beethoven is reportedly said to have lectured Rossini.) There are much fewer full (double) arias in this piece than is usual- most are duets/ensemble numbers. Matilde, for example, not only does not get an entrance aria, she doesn't get one at all- except for an extended opening piece in the finale to the opera. But the ensembles are the highlight of the score- comic, surging with Rossini momentum and total fun. Matilde's entrance is a terrific duet with Doctor Aliprando (Nicola Alaimo- terrific). The highlight for me is the big quintet (which by all appearances AND STRUCTURE is the first Act finale but is actually only about 2/3 of the way through the act) with Matilde, Countess, Corradino and two comic foils (Isidoro- a wandering poet and Ginardo). Delightful. The opera finale is an extended one with terrific singing by Matilde in particular. The score is a lengthy (over 3 ½ hours) musical feast.
As for the performers, let me get this right out here- I'm in love with the gorgeous Olga Peretyatko as Matilde. I loved her in Pesaro's Sigismondo [Blu-ray] from the previous year (see my review). She is even better here. The part is substantial, and her comic flair is present throughout. Her coloratura, especially in the finale, is exceptional. Count me in as seeing a long successful career for her. (She debuts next April 2014 at the Met Opera in "I Puritani" by Bellini, which would appear to be a perfect role for her.) Did I say she is absolutely beautiful?- the latest gorgeous soprano to hit the international opera scene. Wonderful.
As for the rest of the cast, all are terrific. Juan Diego Florez is just terrific with his coloratura (and high tessitura), and makes this very difficult role just seem so easy (it isn't). This role was his international coming out in Pesaro about 15 years ago, so this is familiar territory for him. The comic roles of isidoro (Paolo Bordogna), Aliprando (Nicola Alaimo), Ginardo (Simon Orfila) and Countess (Chiari Chialli) are all done superbly. Sets and costume are just fine.
I do want to say a word about the technical aspects of this release (I have the blu ray). The filming (by Tiziano Mancini (who is doing most of the Italian telecasts these days including much of the Tutti Verdi series) is excellent. The cameras never miss the correct moment, no shaky cameras, and the hi def filming is excellent. So smooth that it is easy to overlook. The sound (including body mikes) and subtitles are just right. Finally, I do want to highlight the excellent booklet with the release. There is a very informative history of the opera and decent synopsis. Much better than one usually gets.
I will point out that there are NO extras on the dvd at all. Frankly, this, to me, is inexcusable. Rare operas cry out for a documentary which discusses the opera, preferably with comments by the singers, conductor, director, etc. The performers are all-around when this is being filmed. Grabbing a few for a 5 minute interview to include on the dvd, again, especially for such a rare piece, would seem, to me, the minimal that should be done. (But at least we do have a fine booklet.)
All in all, a terrific dvd and highly recommended one. You will love the music and Ms. Olga, I'm sure.