Most helpful positive review
A grand tradition Barber...
on August 11, 2002
I love lower voices. This one has heroic voices in the roles of Figaro (Ausensi), Bartolo (Corena), and Basilio (Ghiaurov). Ausensi lacks the humor I love to hear in Barbiere, though he has a beautiful, full voice. I'd have liked it far better used with imagination and a greater variety of dynamics. The problem seems to be with imagination- Stracciari, Milnes, and Merrill all had more heroic voices than Ausensi, but the sheer fun they had with Figaro bubbles out of their recordings. Still, Ausensi sings fine and certainly does not spoil the recording for me.
Fernando Corena is Bartolo and I doubt if a finer voice ever tried this curmudgeonly role out- and I am thinking of Kipnis as well when I say this. Corena gets across how funny this character is, but never lets us lose sight of one fact- Bartolo takes himself VERY seriously, and he never lets us forget Bartolo's pride. Bartolo is a man, very human, with many foibles and frailties. I do not see him as a villain, just grouchy and irrascible- with a fine seasoning of greed laced in with all the rest.
Nicolai Ghiaurov romps through the role of Don Basilio with elan and an incredible voice. He is one of the reasons I never even mentioned Varviso as a possible cause for Ausensi's over serious approach to Figaro. The big Bulgarian bass was in fine voice during these recording sessions and the sheer fun he had with Basilio (His pomposity, his `clever' villainies, and his friendship for Doctor Bartolo.) is infectious. As much of a fool as Basilio is, one can't help but feel affection for him. I don't think even he feels he is anything but an unscrupulous man, in love with his own cleverness. He's willing to lie, cheat, steal, and so on, but he's kind of honest about it...
...unlike Almaviva, who sees himself as a gift to the world. He's just as willing to use lying to get his way as Basilio, and physical threats (He points a gun at Basilio...), but he sees himself as a morally pristine hero. Almaviva's music is fun to listen to, and his duets with Figaro are priceless Rossini gems, but Almaviva is a man I'm glad never to have met. Benelli does a fine job with a funny part and I doubt if he'll disappoint very many opera buffs. The voice is small and agile, with a sweet tone often missing in leggiero tenors.
Teresa Berganza- a beautiful lady with a fine, mellow mezzo voice. What can I say? She sings Rosina in the original range Rossini wrote it for. Berganza handles the coloratura with confidence, bringing depths to the character many other fine ladies miss. This set is worth it for her alone, if you like mezzo Rosinas. She pulls out a shining, bell-clear pianissimo high note worth dying to hear, in her duet with Ausensi.
The conducting sparkles, making this a must-have Barbiere for those who love a grand approach to this music. The sound is excellent.