Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Demetrio e Polibio
Dramma serio in two acts (1812)
Demetrio, King of Syria, masquerading as Eumene – Yijie Shi (tenor);
Siveno, his estranged son - Victoria Zaytseva (mezzo); Polibio, King
of Parthia - Mirco Palazzi (bass); Lisinga, his daughter - María José
Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossini/Corrado Rovaris
rec. live, Teatro Rossini, Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, August
Director: Davide Livermore
Video Director: Tiziano Mancini
Sound Format: PCM Stereo, DD 5.1.
Picture Format: 16:9, 1080i Full HD
Subtitle Languages: Italian (original language), English, German,
French, Spanish, Japanese, Korean
Booklet languages: English, French, German
ARTHAUS MUSIK 108 061
[115:00 + 15:00 (bonus)]
Although Demetrio e Polibio appears as number
one in the sequential list of Rossini’s operas it comes further down
in terms of staging. It was premiered on 18 May 1812 by which time
three other of his operas had reached the stage, including two of
the one act farse he composed for Venice’s small San Moisè theatre
There were times when Rossini claimed to have composed the work as
early as 1807 when he would have been only fifteen years old. The
booklet suggests it was more likely composed around 1810.
Demetrio e Polibio appears to have been commissioned by Domenico
Mombelli who, with his daughters and the bass Lodovico Olivieri, comprised
a small touring group. His second wife was responsible for the libretto,
possibly derived from Metastasio’s Demetrio (C. Osborne.
The Belcanto Operas. Methuen 1994 pp.5-8). The libretto arrived piecemeal
and it is probable Mombelli himself composed some of the numbers.
The story involves Lisinga, daughter of Polibio who loves Silveno.
Although brought up by Polibio he is in reality the son of Demetrio
who, under the name of Eumene, is searching for his son. Each of the
two kings claims the boy. The love interest proves decisive in the
outcome, typical of any opera seria.
In its thirty-first season, the Rossini Opera Festival at Pesaro is
rapidly closing in on having presented all thirty-nine of the great
man’s operatic compositions in Critical Editions prepared for the
purpose by Daniele Carnini for the Pesaro Foundation. Rossini’s operatic
compositions concluded, somewhat prematurely since he was to live
for nearly another forty years, with William Tell in 1829.
It is a matter of personal regret that this Pesaro enterprise is often
marred by the predilection, particularly in recent years, of idiosyncratic
productions. As I noted in the recording of another of the 2010 productions,
Sigismondo (see review),
those in power at the Rossini festival take the view that as a Festival
they should offer challengingly different views of the operas presented.
Fine, except that for many of these works, including this one, one
has few, if any, opportunities to see what the composer might have
had in mind when penning the music. The argument and justifications
of the Superintendent and Musical Director are to be seen in the bonus
as is the explanation, or justification, of the director’s approach
by the man himself.
As to the idiosyncrasies, the whole is played out as if by ghosts
in the theatre after the curtain has fallen. This leads to the doubling
of the singing cast with look-alikes. The same vogue of doppelgangering
was also evident in Sigismondo. I suppose it helps the unemployment
figures in Italy. It also means that one sees the fire-fighting crew
that protect the theatre along with the costumes on rails. The only
other props seem to be a rotatable set of steps for the singers, and
their doppelganger ghosts to cavort on. Add to this the magic effects
of a lighted moving candle and the spontaneous ignition of flames
on the hands, as if a prelude for immolation. All in all, the visuals
concern more gimmicks than elucidation of the plot presented to the
composer way back in 1810. It would have been nice to know, as with
Sigismondo, and the various other recent offerings at Pesaro,
how the libretto challenged the composer rather than the contemporary
As with Sigismondo, the good news is the music and the quartet
of soloists. All the singers seem fairly young; I can best sum up
my pleasure and admiration by thinking that Rossini singing with all
its manifest bel canto demands is safe for at least a generation.
The tenor, hailing from Shanghai, Yijie Shi, the mezzo from Russia,
Victoria Zaytseva, the soprano from Spain, María José Moreno and Italian-born
sonorous bass, Mirco Palazzi, are simply outstanding as Rossini singers
as well as committed actors. All manage to create believable characters,
despite the distractions of their doubles and the flame effects and
without an easily comprehensible setting. Add young Rossini’s music,
and even some of Mombelli’s efforts, and the whole goes with the kind
of musical fizz that marks out the early farse that the composer presented
at Venice’s small San Moisè between 1810 and 1813. In this matter
the conductor and his chamber-sized orchestra, along with the chorus,
share the musical glories.
The recording is emblazoned with World Premiere. Not so,
I suggest. I remember a performance from Martina Franca in 1992 on
Dynamic CD and featuring Dalmacio Gonzales, Sara Mingardo, Christine
Weidinger and Giorgio Surjan. First time on DVD? Probably, but even
then Hardy Classics might have got there first, as I have recently
been corrected when following issuers’ self-promoting fluff, or discovered
by dint of research in respect of reviewing, on this site, all the
C Major label Tutto Verdi series of video presentations as
Although I do not readily see mention of the fact in either the booklet
or on the box, the production was staged, and filmed, in the delightful
theatre in Pesaro named after its greatest inhabitant.
Robert J Farr