"Gramophone" panned this and yesterday's "CD Review" on BBC Radio 3 dismissed it airily in a sentence as lacking a Dandini who could cope with the coloratura, a Cenerentola who was too interventionist in her delivery of the text and a conductor who is all pace with no expression. None of these accusations is true; goodness knows what these people are on, especially as their alternative recommendations are so mundane but I'd like to do my bit to rehabilitate this excellent recording and insist that is the best available, even in the face of fierce competition from good sets on Naxos with DiDonato and a rival recording from Bartoli.
Frederica Von Stade was the most poignant and appealing Cenerentola ever but her recording is on DVD only and I am not a DVD man when it comes to enjoying opera at home. Otherwise, this recording offers an unrivalled cast. Southern Belle Canto Jennifer Larmore uses her flexible, caramel mezzo-soprano most elegantly and touchingly. Argentinean tenor Raúl Giménez proves once his credentials as one of the best and most elegant Rossinian tenors of recent years. Alessandro Corbelli does what he does best in a basso buffo role which is a gift to someone with a rich flexible voice and a command of Italian patter. Alastair Miles's agile, noble bass brings a touch of gravitas to what is otherwise fleet farce, managing the more florid parts of his role without sweat. I find Gino Quilico's Dandini amusing and very pleasant on the year; I have enjoyed his smooth baritone in many a recording and find no fault with him here, even if I concede that his voice is not perhaps quite a natural fit with the demands of the part, but he by no means embarrasses himself. The sisters are suitably odious and aptly characterised.
Rizzi's conducting is by no means all rush and tumble; the delightful duet between the Prince and Cenerentola is lovingly paced with proper use of rubato to express their hesitant wonder, whereas the famous "Zitto, zitto; piano, piano" duet positively bowls along wittily as it should. Rizzi has first rate forces in the Royal Opera House orchestra and chorus and while he might not be a first-rank conductor he is damned efficient in bringing out the fun in this mercurial score with its strangely disturbing moments of cruelty and pathos.
The sound engineering is superb and this is now available in bargain edition, albeit without a libretto; it's preferable to have one if you don't have Italian but older editions with libretto included are also available cheaply on Marketplace. This is the one to have and the critics can go... please themselves.
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