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on February 28, 2000
The biggest reason I can give for puchasing this set of Barber of Seville is the Almaviva of Ugo Benelli. Benelli handles this, one of the most challenging roles in the Tenor di grazia repertoire, with great ease and elan. His "Ecco ridente" is one of the best I've ever heard, rivaling Schipa and Valletti. Plus Benelli also sings the oft cut "Cessa Di Piu Resistere" masterfully, handling the vocal pyro-techniques flawlessly. If one wants to hear the original concept Rossini had for the role of Rossina (to be sung by a Mezzo-soprano), then one need go no further than Teresa Berganza. Berganza handles her role with a lyricism and ease, and yet a richness to the voice, one rarely hears from Mezzos these days. Her "Una Voce poco Fa" is simply flawless. This set also brags the Don Basilio of the great Bulgarian Basso Nicolai Ghiaurov in his glorious prime (his "La Calunnia E Un Venticello" is a real show stopper)and the Dottore Bartolo of Ferrando Corena is a real joy to listen to. Manuel Ausensi performs the lead role of Figaro with the appropriate amount of abandon. The tempos Silvio Varviso uses here are excellent! All the ensemble pieces are done very well. The recorded sound is excellent. Even if one already owns a good recording of "Barbiere", they should also have this one. This recording has all the elements going for it. This performance is everything a recording of Barber of Seville should be! It really seems as though all the performers are enjoying themselves here and if there is one thing a performance of Barber of Seville should be, it should be FUN! And this performance really has that going for it. Treat yourself and buy this recording of Barbiere di Sviglia! You won't regret it and at this bargain price, how can you lose? . A pure delight from the Overture to the finale!
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on January 8, 2002
I have something like seven complete Barber recordings. My favorite is probably the 1927 recording with Stracciari. Its not very authentic but it is fun.
This recording has many wonderful performances particularly Ghiarov as Basilio. He is the best on records period. The second best might be Giorgio Tozzi on Victor. Burhaladze has as much voice as Ghiarov but he sings very unidiomatically.
In 1927 Baccalone didn't sing Un Dottore (Bartolo's aria). At that time it was considered too difficult. On this recording we have the great Fernando Corena. Corena was the best basso buffo of the last century. He is of course wonderful but he was a little fresher on Victor. If the tenor's final aria is cut as it almost always is (and is here) then Bartolo is the largest part. It is the part that holds the piece together. In the theater without a superb Bartolo the show just dies. I've often said that if we had known when Birgit Nillson retired that there would be no adequate replacement for something like thirty years we would have all wept. The same is true of Corena - still no sucessor in sight.
When Berganza burst on the scene everyone in the opera was bowled over. Alas today there are a plethora of even better sucessors. She sings well but Bartolli is much better in this fach. Of course she is some to be preferred to sopranos like Roberta Peters or even Callas.
Ausensi is rather pedestrian. This is a guy who should be singing Alfio nor Figaro. The original booklet made the case that for once Figaro was to be sung by a real Italian drammatic
baritone. Nonsense! The best Verdi baritone of the time was Ettore Bastianni who is wonderful. Robert Merill another big rich voice is also preferable. Ausensi is just not very good. Still he's better that the second recording of Leo Nucci or any recording by Gino Bechi. The best Figaro is of course Stracciari also a heavy drammatic Verdi baritone.
Ugo Benelli is quite wonderful in his way. He has a very small sweet voice but one that carries well in the theater. He is preferable to any of the Luigi Alva recordings and certainly vastly preferable to that of William Mateuezzi on Bartolli's first barber. Later on Benelli lost most of his voice before he quit recording - he's not very good in Rossini's Elisabetta with Carreras and Caballe - but her he is caught at his youthful best.
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on May 19, 2001
Sure, this recording hasn't either a libretto or particularly commendable liner notes (buy a libretto for $5.00 from "OperaNews Magazine!), however it is one of my favourite opera recordings. The cast is admirably balanced -- Berganza is particularly good, as is the Don Basilio -- and the orchestra, by the way, is a pick-up group! Amazing how good it is, isn't it? The orchestra is even better than many professional groups and opera house orchestras. The score is performed more or less complete, in the mezzo-soprano tessitura (nice and authentic), and the orchestra plays with admirable polish and know-how.
My only complaint is that the recording could be a bit more dramatically realistic, like, say, the old Callas live recording with Tullio Serafin (good recording on the Opera d'Or label). I like to have slapstick in my opere buffe, and this doesn't have as much as I would like. But that's no reason to not buy this opera. And it's cheap!
What moral do we learn? Don't judge a CD by its cover -- check reviews first!
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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.
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on June 20, 2002
I couldn't lose the chance of buying this double cd set, because this Barber have the best cast in a single recording. Varviso and the Rossini Naples Orchestra have a good sense of what is the Barber, the overture sounds espectacular, using the crescendos with accuracy and brightness. Benelli, because this recording only cuts the recitatives, had the hardest work: He sings "Ecco ridente" entirely and without problems, the final Rondò does it with energy and brio. Berganza is the best Rosina, no innecessary ornaments in her arias. Ausensi is not the best Fígaro -this award goes to Gobbi- but he has the colour and the power to sing it (Hagegaard and Prey sound too light). Corena is the equilibrated Don Bartolo, because he exagerates some parts, but he has the musical sense to sing the aria and duets like a bass he is, not like a clown. Ghiaurov has a silver medal in the Basilio's championship (Ramey has the golden one, who sings it in the original D key), with a touch of humorism in his recitatives and a powerful Calunnia's aria, as good as the Ramey's one. There are several cuts in the recitative, but the musical parts, the arias and ensembles are entirely played: Ecco ridente, All'idea di quel metallo, the stretta and its appendice before its end, the lesson aria of Rosina, the quintetto, the whole rondò of the Count, the terzetto, all number are complete. If the recitatives had been restored and Gobbi sang Fígaro here, i could say this recording was the definitive.
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on June 8, 2002
Berganza is simply amazing, with no hint of "yuggayugga" coloratura (thank you, Dr. Repertoire). Ausensi, though not a huge name in recorded opera, outdoes some of the "star" performances of Figaro's famous aria. The sound quality is quite good. The liner notes are cheesy for serious opera fans (and the libretto non existant), but it will do for the casual listener. The "double decker" price makes this a worthy addition to any collection, even if you already have a favorite Barber. I'm certainly going to check out other recordings in this series in hopes of finding another gem like this.
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on December 4, 2000
This record of "The barber of Seville" is a very good one in general speaking. Corena, the comic bass is very funny. Benelli is decent. Ausensi sings with a very beatiful voice. Berganza plays an incredible Rosina, a musical one. However, the most important part of this is the egregios bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov who sings incredibly perfect. His aria " la calunnia" in a "c" key sounds so beatiful, you cannot believe it. It is beyond the human's understanding. I am very thankful for have been born after Rossini composed this. When you hear this album, you 'll agree with me.
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on April 16, 2000
The are many good reason for buying this delicious Barbiere, but the best of all is the glorious singing of the then very young Teresa Berganza. Her rich magnificent voice has no equal, not Bartoli, not von Stade, not Horne, not no one. Berganza was born to sing Rosina and Angelina she is funny, sexy and just plain adorable. Her compatriot Manuel Ausensi is a good rather than a great Figaro (I will never understand why Rolando Panerai was not preferred), but Ghiaurov has to be heard to be believed. Varviso was a marvelous Rossini conductor and this is certainly an essential Barbiere.
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on March 18, 2001
This is a very good recording, and phenomenal considering how it costs half as much as some others. My only complaint is that the famous "Largo Al Factotum" sung by Figaro wasn't done as well as it often is. But it certainly is sung decently. Ausensi(Figaro) does sing everything else very well(the duet between Figaro and Rosina is excellently sung).
As a reviewer has already said, the virtuoso aria "Cessa di piu resistare" is not cut as it often is. It is included about 2 minutes into track 15 of CD 2.
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on September 18, 2003
Anyone who would sell you a recording of an opera without a libretto would sell you a car without wheels. Shame, shame, shame.
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