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Gioacchino Rossini: Il signor Bruschino
04 Apr 2006

ROSSINI: Il signor Bruschino

“A jewel box of a theater”: that great cliché of the opera world comes to mind when viewing a production from the Schwetzinger Festspiele held at the Rokokotheater Schwetzingen.

Gioacchino Rossini: Il signor Bruschino

Alessandro Corbelli, Amelia Felle, Alberto Rinaldi, Vito Gobbi, David Kuebler, Oslavio di Credico, Carlos Feller, Radio-Sinforieorchester Stuttgart, Gianluigi Gelmetti (cond.)

EuroArts 2054988 [DVD]

$32.98  Click to buy

Recently Opera Today reviewed a Cimarosa opera from this source; now we have an early Rossini one-act comedy, performed and recorded in May 1989. The Rokokotheater has a cramped floor holding maybe 100 seats, circled by three tiers of boxes. It might not be the height of ornate ostentation, but the theater earns its “rococo” designation honestly enough.

And it makes a fine setting for Rossini’s early farce, in which young Florville decides the only way to get the hand of the woman he loves is to impersonate the man her father has arranged for her to marry. Eventually this involves convincing the father of the true fiancé, the eponymous character, that he is wrong, even delusional, to claim that Florville is not his son. The comic developments here will delight some and irritate others, but the opera’s brevity means that after an hour or so of energetic Rossini music, everything gets wrapped up quickly, with the lovers married and everyone else willing to let bygones be bygones.

Director Michael Hampe gives us a chance to imagine what the opera looked like at its premiere, although with modern lighting and stagecraft. Still, we have handsome, traditional costumes and a simple living area set with garden doors opening onto a painted backdrop of golden hills.

Hampe’s cast mugs appropriately, considering the material. As the father of the house, Alessandro Corbelli gives us the quintessential petit bourgeois, and delivers some fine, effortless bel canto singing. Alberto Rinaldi portrays the obstreperous but befuddled father to the intended groom, who complains about the heat as the situation gets more complicated and confusing, in a running joke that never earns much of a laugh.

David Kuebler, who also took the tenor role in that production of Il Matrimonio Segreto referenced above, has the technique for the role of Florville, though some more charm to the voice would be appreciated. An energetic actor, his right eyebrow (or left to us viewers!) has more energy than many an opera singer.

Until about halfway through the opera, Amelia Felle has little to do as the daughter/bride-to-be, but then she is rewarded with one of Rossini’s finer set pieces, including a really rousing cabaletta (“Ah, donate il caro sposo”).

With a top cast, Il Signor Bruschino could make for an excellent companion to a production of Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi. Both pieces have impersonations at the heart of the plots, and presenting them together would give an excellent picture of how comic opera developed in the approximately 100 years between the two, Otherwise Rossini’s work will live on in its sparkling, delightful overture, a staple of many classical radio station’s play lists. Gianluigi Gelmetti leads the Stuttgart ensemble in a satisfying rendition of both that music stand-rattling number and the rest of the score.

At less than 100 minutes, including lengthy curtain calls, this EuroArts DVD will best be appreciated by die-hard Rossini lovers and those who enjoy the most traditional opera productions.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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