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Never mind the plot, it's Flórez and Peretyatko doing Rossini!
on 16 August 2013
No-one however could possibly lay any kind of claim for there being anything like a credible plot or even credible characters in Matilde di Shabran, and musically, it's a bit Rossini on autopilot, but if writing for entertainment alone is justification enough for an opera, then that's certainly what Rossini delivers here. The work's true potential moreover is fully realised at the Rossini Opera Festival by some of the best Rossinian performers in the world today.
The plot however is just ridiculous. Corradino, the Ironheart, is a fearsome warrior ("a lion, an ogre, a devil"), who resides in a dark castle on a hill, with dire pronouncements placed around to strike fear into the hearts of the local villagers. The woman who is intent on storming Corradino's castle (metaphorically speaking) is of course Matilde di Shabran. Matilde has been left as a ward to Corradino by her father on his deathbed, the old man for some inexplicable reason thinking it was a great idea to entrust his daughter to a notorious hater of women, a man devoted entirely to war, havoc, slaughter and inflicting as much misery and fear into the world as is humanly possible. When Matilde does turn up on the scene then, Corradino obviously wants to slaughter this hateful but curiously attractive example of the fairer sex. But what is this? Something stays his hand. Could it be love? Could the Ironheart be melting? So why then does Corradino still feel such pangs of betrayal when it appears that she has released one of his prisoners and even a tinge of regret that he has had her executed...?
If you find that you're fully entertained for over three and a half hours by the thin ludicrous plot that passes for drama (or indeed comedy) here, then it's almost entirely down to Rossini's galloping, spinning and spiralling score. With Juan Diego Flórez and Olga Peretyatko in the principal roles moreover, you know it's also going to be sung as well as it can be. Even then though, both singers more than surpass expectations. Dramatically they don't have a lot to work with, and there's a lot of mugging going on, but Flórez's singing is still without peer in this tenor register, making an extremely difficult role look easy. The same goes for the gorgeous songbird flutterings of Olga Peretyatko's flawless coloratura, but her unparalleled brilliance of this type of Rossini role is evident in her entire performance. It would be apparent to anyone that you are witnessing two of the best Rossini performers in the world here at their best.
You would be hard pressed however to find flaws in the other performances either with Paolo Bordogna providing a good comic turn as Isidoro, Anna Goryachova a fine Edoardo and Chiara Chialli a suitably mean Countess. Simon Orfilia also makes a good impression as Ginardo, but is rather wasted in such a small role. Michele Mariotti races the orchestra through the work with no great subtlety, which is exactly the manner in which it should be played. There's not a lot to say about Mario Martone's direction or the stage design other than it's functional and perfectly suitable. The setting is generically period, the depiction of Corradino's castle, towers and dungeon is created through an all-purpose large double spiral staircase that remains static in place throughout, although it spins for effect at one or two key moments.
There are no extra features on the Blu-ray, but the recording is excellent and this is great value for a highly entertaining three and a half hour opera with extraordinary performances in a solid presentation. The Blu-ray is region free, full-HD, with subtitles in Italian, English, French and German.