24 July 2005 | Rosabel
It's Rossini and it's fun - what more do you want?
This is a very light-hearted production of a lesser-known Rossini comic opera. It is a live performance, with all the drawbacks that that entails - some singers are less audible from certain positions on-stage, but there is a lot of movement, so such a problem tends to be short-lived. The moving about can occasionally get noisy, too - characters stepping on and off the raised stage almost always make a loud thump, perhaps because microphones were located near the front - I seldom noticed it if people were walking around in the background. The sets are a bit goofy, but bright-colored and amusing; the chairs look particularly uncomfortable.
For the most part the singing is quite good - Raimondi, who is by far the best actor, has a nice strong voice as Selim, and can sing as fast as anyone. The duet between Selim and Don Geronio in Act II, which culminates in a blistering patter song as the two threaten to murder each other, is the highlight of the opera. Paolo Rumetz is good as Don Geronio, though I think that maybe the role was originally intended for an older man - I get the impression that Geronio and Fiorilla are supposed to be a ridiculous May/December mismatch, with a feeble old man unable to control his young, lively wife. Still, this Geronio may not be old, but he does come across as a perpetually fogged simpleton, yet kind-hearted enough not to lose the audience's sympathy. Cecilia Bartoli is a fine singer, but her Fiorilla seems so much tougher than Geronio that it's hard not to feel sorry for him. I think she might be trying too hard to be brilliant and fascinating - her singing part is a difficult one, so she's got a lot to handle, but her facial contortions can be a bit off-putting. She might have done better just to relax and sing instead of trying to act so much. Reinaldo Macias is not the strongest tenor I've heard, but he's not a bad actor, and he bears an astonishing resemblance to a young Jean-François Balmer. It's quite delightful to see him simply lapse into bliss every time he catches sight of his own reflection in the polished knob of his fancy walking stick. This is one of those productions one may not want to watch from beginning to end all that often, but it is a lot of fun nevertheless.