Il signor Bruschino

There are some seriously obscure Rossini operas and Il signor Bruschino is one of them.  It’s scarcely an opera at all really.  It’s a one act farsa running about an hour and a quarter.  By the time he wrote this one at age twenty Rossini has already had several hits in the genre and knew how to pull out a crowd pleaser but oddly Il signor Bruschini was a colossal flop.  The plot was too convoluted and the music too advanced for the tastes of the farsistas.  If one wanted to think about the plot one went to a proper opera house like La fenice rather than the fairly obscure Venetian theatre where the work premiered.  It even offended the critics by, horror of horrors, asking the second violins to tap on their music stands with their bows during certain passages of the sinfonia.

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A rather straightforward Cenerentola

Rossini’s La Cenerentola takes almost three hours to tell a very straightforward version of the Cinderella story.  Generally directors, despairing of the this, either camp it up (for example the Els Comediants production seen, inter alia, in Houston and Toronto in recent years) or they try to find a few more layers of meaning as in Ponnelle’s film version.  Michael Hampe does neither in his 1988 Salzburg production, preferring to tell the story as a straightforward morality tale.  I guess if one really loves the music and it’s really well sung this could work but, ultimately, I found it rather dull.  Continue reading

Tancredi in Schwetzingen

Rossini’s Tancredi isn’t performed particularly often but it was Stendhal’s favourite opera and it’s not hard to see why both these things are true.  It’s got some really lovely music but the plot is pretty thin and it’s hard to cast.  It needs a very versatile low mezzo/contralto for the title role and a crackerjack soprano and tenor too.  I watched it in a well cast 1992 production from the Schwetzingen festival and enjoyed it despite some frustrations with the staging and the implausibly drawn out plot of the second act.  Continue reading