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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.
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VINE VOICEon 5 December 2014
Matilde di Shabran is unusual for the period in which it was composed in that it contains just the three solo arias: two for the trouser role character Edoardo and one for the poet Isidoro with ensemble pieces otherwise dominating. It is also not one of the works that springs immediately to mind when listing the operas composed by Rossini. For instance, although 'The New Grove Book of Operas' reviews ten of Rossini's operas, this is not one of them However, be all that as it may, this production, staged in the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, more than does justice to the genius of the composer and I have to say that I found it, not only a joy to watch, but also the kind of production that opera lovers will never tire of watching over and over again.

The theme of this work might well be seen as the triumph of the reforming influence of Mother-power over the wayward tantrums of a small boy, with the character of Mother Power, in the shape of Matilde di Shabran (Olga Peretyatko), and Lord of the Castle, Corradino Ironheart (Juan Diego Florez) as the tantrum-prone 'boy'. More than that, Corradino has all the appearances of being a caricature of many real life dictators and tyrants. What a shame more of them were never, or have never, been 'brought to heel' and taught to behave properly by the right kind of women. Whilst, in the opera, the viewer is inspired to believe that Matilde is just the right kind of woman to bring any tantrum prone male to heel, we can never be sure that, what is depicted here, would ever work in real life. However, what we can be sure of is that this delightfully watchable presentation of the work imbues the viewer with the feeling that, yes, it can be done.

This production is cleverly staged with not a hint of the 'over-staging' that spoils some filmed productions of operas such as when they are staged outside on some historic site and the singing is wafted away on the wind. The art of good staging must surely be to inspire the imagination rather than to anticipate it, and inspiration is certainly what we get with this production, much of which centres around a spiralling stairway suggestive of the ability of the ruling class to achieve high grade seclusion from the hoi polloi world of peasants and labourers. The appearance of both the portrayal of soldiery and crowd scenes is well handled in suggestive fashion so as to inspire the viewers imagination rather than dictate to it. It's all very attractive.

What I found so very pleasing is that everyone gives of their best with not a below par performance anywhere. It was a clever ploy to have Olga Peretyatko as Matilde always wearing the same red dress, which has the effect of always singling her out from all the other players, none of whom is so brightly clad. She can take delight in a truly all time great performance. along with Jean Diego Florez as Corradino who was equally good. Anna Goryachova is brilliant in the trouser role of Eduardo. I love her arias. Then there's the poignant moment when, all alone an fleeing further persecution, she sits shaving off her beard and moustache. Yes, it's going! Is she going to shave it all off with that knife? Wow! Look at that! There it goes! She's done it!. If you can sing like this, singing while you shave beats singing in the bath any time.

Comical, clownish roles are often the most difficult to act well, but you wouldn't think so here with the bra vura performance given us by Paolo Bordogna as the poet Isidoro. It could not have been done better. In fact, this can be said of all the actor/singers and the whole performance is so endearingly directed. I do wish someone would try and achieve this same high standard with some of the better know operas. It sometimes seems to me that the four or five best known of all the operas are the very ones that get messed up the most and it's much more difficult to find an outstanding production of any of those than it is of many lesser know, not to say, almost unknown, works. Other viewers may very well disagree with me, but I must say I'm 'over the moon' with this production and recording of one of Rossini's lesser known works. I can only hope that it will give many other viewers as much pleasure and enjoyment as it gives me. It expresses the idiosyncrasies of everyday folk in a handful of carefully crafted characters in stimulating fashion, and this is such a brilliant production that I'm sure that Rossini himself would have been 'over the moon' with it. I could find nothing wrong with either the sound or picture quality of this Blu-Ray recording.
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on 7 January 2017
A useful addition to performances on DVD of Rossini operas. I recommend it.
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on 7 October 2013
Florez, Bordogna, Peretyatko, Goryachova and Alaimo are amazing in voice and stage interpretation. May be the best recent production of ROF.
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on 13 September 2013
They look great,sing fantastic and act really well.This was terrific on the eyes and ears.Olga Peretyatko is an absolute delight.
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on 5 February 2016
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on 12 October 2013
didnt realise it was blue ray-must stop buying stuff at 3am-but the price enticed me and rarity of opera-will go to an avid opera buff for xmas who very fortunately up graded to blue ray this week........
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