L’italiana in Algeri
Cast: Marilyn Horne: Isabella; Ernesto Palacio: Lindoro; Samuel Ramey: Mustafà; Kathleen Battle: Elvira; Domenico Trimarchi; Taddeo; Claudia Foti; Zulma; Nicola Zaccaria: Haly
I solisti veneti
Prague Philharmonic Choir
Claudio Scimone, conductor
It a commonplace (actually not completely wrong) that the perfect opera has never been recorded or performed, but I think that this recording of Gioacchino Rossini’s wonderful opera L’Italiana in Algeri is very close to that unrealizable ideal.
In this recording, you will hear some of the best singers of the golden age of belcanto under the baton of Claudio Scimone, a conductor who is actually closer to the repertoire of the 18th century and does not distinguish himself for originality, but he takes politely his task to the end and is of good help for the singers. Among them, you only have the embarrassment of the choice to decide who your favourite is, but the greatest names are indisputably those of Marilyn Horne and Samuel Ramey.
Marilyn Horne is an everlasting Isabella. She is insolent, harsh and lively and surpasses everybody with her funny expressions in the recitatives (one for all: her shameless «Son sua… Son sua nipooote!» she sings in the recitative after her aria Cruda sorte), not to speak of the arias: her flamboyant coloratura, her peculiar, dark timbre and the incisiveness with which she is able to characterize her heroine with just few notes (only with the first notes of Oh! Che muso! Che figura!, she expresses surprise, mockery, haughtiness and coquetry) are only the most evident features of a performance that offers an exhaustive picture of Isabella, a picture that only a great Rossini specialist with the personality of Marilyn Horne could have created.
Horne is joined by a wonderful colleague, great bass Samuel Ramey. His Mustafà is a noble villain, polished and refined, and his only and unfortunately short aria, Già insolito ardore nel petto, becomes one of the brightest moments of this Italiana in Algeri. Next to him, Ernesto Palacio as Lindoro is a little pale, but he characterizes his hero with a pathetic nuance (in the best sense of the word) that is more than appropriate. His cavatina Languir per una bella is really excellent. Another remarkable singer is Domenico Trimarchi as a whiny and comic Taddeo, surpassed in fame but not in the result by more prestigious performers. Kathleen Battle makes a cameo as Elvira, giving perhaps the best rendition of this short role. Finally, there are the amiable Haly sung by Nicola Zaccaria and Claudia Foti’s Zulma.