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MARTÍN Y SOLER:
Il Burbero di Buon Cuore
Gens, de la Merced, Díaz; Pirgu, Gatell, Chausson, Ramón, Pisaroni; Orchestra of the Teatro Real, Symphony Orchestra
of Madrid; Rousset. No libretto. Dynamic 777 121-2 (2)
Valencia-born Vicente Martín y Soler (1754–1806) was a successful contemporary and colleague of Mozart on European stages. The two composers also shared the services of master librettist Lorenzo da Ponte for their prominent Viennese operas. (The Prague-launched Don Giovanni famously quotes from Martín y Soler's Cosa Rara in the banquet scene.) Several lines in 1786's dramma giocoso entitled Il Burbero di Buon Cuore (The Good-Hearted Curmudgeon) jump out as being identical to lines in da Ponte's Mozart operas. There's not much dramma, actually: it's a conventional story of true love triumphing via cunning. The music, unfailingly melodic and pleasantly wrought, might well pass a theatrical evening nicely, but it does not linger long in the memory.
The musical performance is superb. Christophe Rousset leads — from the fortepiano on which he accompanies the recits, sometimes with René Jacobs-like overemphasis — a lively and live (with audible music stands and bow tappings) performance by musicians from the Orchestra of the Teatro Real and the Symphony Orchestra of Madrid. The playing is bright and responsive throughout. Elena de la Merced proves quite delightful as Angelica, whose family-blocked marital plans form the comic plot. Saimir Pirgu (Giocondo, her wastrel brother) sounds very convincing, much more comfortable in music this light than he has seemed in nineteenth-century repertory at the Met or San Francisco. The other tenor, Juan Francisco Gatell (Valerio, Angelica's true love and eventual spouse), confirms the impression he made as Riccardo Muti's CSO Cassio — a fine musician with a ductile but not especially lovely voice. (Gatell and Pirgu sound rather similar at full tilt, but Pirgu can float a seductive mezza voce.)
Giocondo has spent his money, and Angelica's inheritance, on luxuries for his grandiose wife, Madama Lucilla. With delectable tone and fine expression, the great French soprano Véronique Gens takes this showy part, into which Louise Villeneuve — the creatrix of Dorabella — introduced two familiar substitute arias by Mozart ("Chi sa qual sia l'affano" and "Vado, ma dove?") at a revival. Gens offers them both here, and they are very well sung. As the mettlesome Marina, Cecilia Díaz wields a character mezzo with a certain matte-finish heaviness that occasionally makes her slightly flat, but she moves it well enough for the swift ensemble work. Veteran bass-baritone Carlos Chausson still sounds resonant and on his best buffo game as the heroine's tyrannical uncle Ferramondo. (The creators of Ferramondo and Angelica were Mozart's first Figaro and Susanna, Francesco Benucci and Nancy Storace). No less suave and precise a vocalist than Luca Pisaroni plays the rich chess buddy Ferramondo sees as his niece's logical intended. Baritone Josep Miquel Ramón is unremarkable but more than adequate as the servant Castagna.
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