Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) Eduardo e Cristina (1819)
Carlo, King of Sweden – Kenneth Tarver (tenor)
Cristina, his daughter, secret wife of Eduardo – Silva Dalla Benetta (soprano)
Eduardo, general of the Swedish army – Laura Polverelli (mezzo-soprano)
Giacomo, royal prince of Scotland – Baurzhan Anderzhanov (bass)
Atlei, captain of the royal guard, friend of Eduardo – Xiang Xu (tenor)
Camerata Bach Choir, Poznań, Virtuosi Brunensis/Gianluigi Gelmetti
rec. 14, 16 and 21 July 2017, Trinkhalle, Bad Wildbad, Germany for the XXIX Rossini in Wildbad
The Italian libretto may be accessed online NAXOS 8.660466-67 [74:02 + 67:22]
In Enciclopedia Italiana Treccani one can read under the headword Centone: “In music the centone is a collection of pieces gathered here and there. In 1700 centoni (also called pasticcio) were made by assembling one theatrical work from fragments by different authors, or by inserting new pieces in already existing works, and composers often used pieces from their own works. As late as 1819 G. Rossini did this with Eduardo e Cristina. The practice did not necessarily mean that the work was weak…” In Eduardo e Cristina, which was composed in great hurry, Rossini recycled 19 of the 26 numbers from other works, including Adelaide di Borgogna, Ricciardo e Zoraide and Ermione. The latter had premiered only a month before Eduardo e Cristina. Self-borrowing was a common behaviour for Rossini, who frequently had short deadlines. There is some irony in the fact that while the ambitious Ermione had a rather cool reception, Eduardo e Cristina was a great success and it was performed elsewhere in Europe for the next twenty years. But after 1840 interest waned and latter-day revivals have been scarce.
The story is set in Sweden “in the distant past”, and I’m uncertain about the historical authenticity. Anyway, Eduardo is a commander of the Swedish army and he reports to King Carlo that peace is on its way. Carlo rejoices and on the same day he announces that his daughter Cristina is to be married to Prince Giacomo of Scotland. The hang-up is that Cristina is already secretly married to Eduardo and they have a son, Gustavo. Cristina plans to escape but Gustavo is discovered. Cristina admits to being his mother but she refuses to tell the name of the father. But when Eduardo appears he tells the truth: he is the father. What a horrible discovery. Cristina and Eduardo are put in prison and Cristina refuses to marry Prince Giacomo. Eduardo is being freed by his friend Atlei and together they defeat Russian troops. After the battle Eduardo kneels before the King and begs that the lives of his wife and son be spared and that Eduardo himself is killed. The King is so moved by this that he forgives Eduardo and when Cristina enters he arranges that they at once are united.
After the powerful overture – one of Rossini’s longest – there is a jubilant chorus. The chorus has a lot to do in this opera and the Camerata Bach Choir is excellent throughout. That the score is a hotchpotch of music from various sources doesn’t mean that it sounds jumbled, it sounds Rossini – and good Rossini at that. There are several fine scenes, the drama is intense, the battle scene is boisterous but efficient and there is room for a good deal of vocal virtuosity. Eduardo and Cristina has a long duet in the first act (CD 1 tr. 11-12), Carlo sings a long aria (CD 1 tr. 17) where he displays both his coloratura technique and his dramatic ability. Kenneth Tarver is truly impressive here, and time and again he is in excellent shape. Baurzhan Anderszhanov as Giacomo has a good bass voice with a lot of power, while Captain Atlei, sung beautifully by Xiang Xu’s lyrical tenor, doesn’t quite sound like a soldier. Silva Dalla Benetta as Cristina has impressive high notes and excellent coloratura though sometimes a bit shrill. In the second act’s grand scena ed aria followed by a duet with Eduardo she is magnificent (CD 2 tr. 15-18). Laura Polverelli’s Eduardo is sometimes a bit fluttery but she is intense and expressive and there is genuine theatrical feeling throughout. I can easily understand that with good singers this was a success back in 1819 and it is nice to feel that 200 years after the premiere the work is utterly digestible. The enthusiasm of the audience after the second finale was enormous.
Rossinians should be satisfied with this recording. The recording is excellent, the experienced Gianluigi Gelmetti is a well versed Rossinian – his recording of La gazza ladra for Sony back in the 1990s is a good example – and the singing, though not flawless, is on the whole attractive and worthy of the occasion.
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