Gioacchino Rossini – Ricciardo e Zoraide
CAST: Agorante: Randall Bills, Zoraide: Alessandra Marianelli, Ricciardo: Maxim Mironov, Ircano: Nahuel Di Pierro, Zomira: Silvia Beltrami, Ernesto: Artavaszd Sargsyan, Fatima: Diana Mian, Elmira: Anna Brull, Zamorre: Bartosz Żołubak
Camerata Bach Choir, Poznań
Chorus master: Ania Michalak
José Miguel Pérez-Sierra, conductor
Ricciardo e Zoraide is one of the less performed operas composed by Gioacchino Rossini. It is the fifth (out of nine) he wrote for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, where it premiered in 1818 with some of the best singers of the time: apart from the predictable “muse”, Isabella Colbran, as Zoraide, Giovanni David (Ricciardo) Andrea Nozzari (Agorante) and Benedetta Rosamunda Pisaroni (Zomira) rounded off the cast.
The opera was successful, as reported in the Giornale delle Due Sicilie, but not enough to make history. Forgotten in the course of the 19th century, the Rossini Opera Festival revived it at the end of the 20th. The singers of the modern premiere where Bruce Ford, June Anderson and William Matteuzzi, while no less a conductor than Riccardo Chailly led the Orchestra del Teatro Comunale di Bologna.
Five years later, in 1995, the same Bruce Ford and William Matteuzzi, together with Nelly Miricioiu and Della Jones under David Parry’s baton made a studio recording of Ricciardo e Zoraide. Even though not exceptional, that recording was good enough to present this opera in a decorous way.
Finally, during the Rossini Festival in Wildbad in 2013, it was the turn of Maxim Mironov, Alessandra Marianelli, Randall Billsand and Silvia Beltrami to revive Rossini’s opera and this recording will be the subject of the present review.
Ricciardo e Zoraide in Wildbad
Even though the Rossini Festival in Wildbad has distinguished itself for some interesting and valuable recordings of little known works composed by the “Swan of Pesaro” (it is enough to remember the 1832 version of the Stabat Mater released in 2016), Ricciardo e Zoraide will not be remembered as one of the best operas performed at the Trinkhalle. The cast is not quite satisfactory and José Miguel Pérez-Sierra’s conduction, although not deprecable, is so short of ideas and energy that it cannot be considered more than routine.
Maxim Mironov (Ricciardo) and Alessandra Marianelli (Zoraide)
The names of Maxim Mironov (Ricciardo) and Alessandra Marianelli (Zoraide) are already familiar to the listeners of Rossini’s operas. Mironov regularly performs belcanto roles and has to his credit recordings of operas as Cenerentola, Maometto II and L’Italiana in Algeri. For her part, Marianelli sang the role of Fiorilla in Il turco in Italia at the Rossini Opera Festival in 2007 (recorded in CD and DVD) and took part in the XXVI Rossini in Wildbad Festival for the performance of Il viaggio a Reims (later released by Naxos). However, neither he nor she gives the best of themselves in Ricciardo e Zoraide.
Despite his assiduous presence in this repertoire, only the quality of Mironov’s voice clarifies why he is here. His agility is imprecise and his intornation often wobbles, so that his singing becomes awkward in the most difficult passages. Moreover, his high notes seems sometimes sung in falsetto.
Marianelli is just a little better. Her voice is not rich, nor her timbre precious, and her Zoraide is too impersonal and generic to be interesting. Her registers do not connect smoothly and her upper register is particularly unpleasant. She opens up the high notes, with the result that sometimes they seem shouted. Her coloratura is quite precise, even though her caution prevents it to be enthralling.
Randall Bills (Agorante) and Silvia Beltrami (Zomira)
Randall Bills as Agorante is equally disappointing. Again we have a singer with inaccurate intonation and that moreover is rush and even aggressive. If these features are useless to characterize the King of Nubia, they make Bills’s singing unhomogenoeus and annoying. His upper register is rather weak and his agility is practically irrelevant.
Relatively speaking, the best singer of this recording of Riccardo e Zoraide is Silvia Beltrami (Zomira), but she is a cold comfort. At least, she phrases with consideration and you guess that there is an actress behind the singer. Her voice, hovewer, reveals an overly wide vibrato, so that it wobbles too much to be really pleasing. This is really a pity, because she proves to be an energetic and incisive singer in her best moments.
Overall, this recording of Ricciardo e Zoraide has nothing new to offer, nothing to add to the previous releases. Apart from praising the intention to revive a neglected opera, this is not an outstanding achievement in Rossini’s discography. The honesty of the performers is not enough to overcome their flaws and the final outcome is no more than sufficient.