Rossini

BBC Music Magazine - - Opera Reviews -

Aure­liano in Palmira

Juan Francisco Gatell, Ma­rina Viotti, Sil­via Dalla Benetta; Cam­er­ata Bach Choir/ania Micha­lak; Vir­tu­osi Brunen­sis/josé Miguel Pérez-sierra Naxos 8.660448-50 167:09 mins (3 discs) The last of his four op­eras pre­miered in 1813 – the year he turned 21 – Rossini’s dramma se­rio, Aure­liano in Palmira did badly at its La Scala launch but then sur­vived in the reper­toire for an­other 15 years or so. What prob­a­bly put paid to it was the fact that Rossini bor­rowed mu­sic from it for both Elis­a­betta, regina d’in­ghilterra (1815), and Il bar­bi­ere di Siviglia (1816) – and as the lat­ter be­came in­creas­ingly well-known its re-use of items such as the over­ture and the orig­i­nal open­ing cho­rus would have both­ered au­di­ences. In any case the score is un­even, Rossini putting some of its finest num­bers on the trans­fer list.

Nor is Ro­mani’s li­bretto one of his best. Set in the year 273 AD, the plot shows the Ro­man Em­peror Aure­lian de­feat­ing the city of Palmyra in bat­tle, but un­able to quell ei­ther its queen Zeno­bia or her (fic­tional) lover Ar­sace, whose loy­alty to one an­other even­tu­ally causes the Em­peror to show mercy to­wards them both; de­spite the high-flown rhetoric, the re­sult feels a lit­tle cold. There is un­doubt­edly good mu­sic on the way, though this live record­ing from the 2017 Rossini in Wild­bad Fes­ti­val is in lim­ited sound, and nei­ther the choral singing nor the or­ches­tral playing are spe­cial: at times con­duc­tor José Miguel Pérezsierra strug­gles to keep his forces pre­cisely to­gether. Un­even singing, too, from the cast. At the top end is vi­tal tenor Juan Francisco Gatell as Aure­lian, with the flu­ent Sil­via Dalla Benetta (Zeno­bia) and Ma­rina Viotti (Ar­sace), both ac­com­plished. Ge­orge Hall

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