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Penguin Guide, January 2009

Tancredi, which was based on Tasso’s epic poem Gerusalemme Liberata and was first heard in 1813, is most widely remembered for its overture, but this excellent Naxos set makes a strong case for the piece. It completely displaces the previous versions from Sony and RCA, and the eminent Rossini scholar and conductor, Alberto Zedda, proves a far more resilient, generally brisker and lighter Rossini interpreter than his predecessors. Sumi Jo is superb as the heroine, Amenaide, in dazzlingly clear coloratura, as well as imaginative pointing of phrase, rhythm and words. The mezzo, Ewa Podles, is less characterful, yet the voice is firm and rich as well as flexible; but it is the tenor, Standord Olsen, previously heard as Belmonte on John Eliot Gardiner’s recording of Entführung, who offers some of the freshest, most stylish and sweetly tuned singing from a Rossini tenor in recent years. The recording is a little lacking in body, but that partly reflects the use of a small orchestra, and the voices come over well. An Italian libretto is provided but no translation. Instead, a helpful synopsis is geared to the different tracks on the discs; had there been a libretto, this could well have received a Rosette.



Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, July 2005

"As I noted in my review of a Rossini recital disc by Ewa Podles her steady sonorous low-timbred mezzo is ideally suited to the ‘breeches’ roles in the Rossini operas. Her voice is even and true over a considerable range to which she adds the ability to shade her tone and expression to convey the moods of the role being sung. She brings appropriate gravitas to Tancredi’s recitatives and appropriate variety of expression in the duet with Amenaide, particularly in Lascia: non t’ascolto (‘leave me I will not hear you’ CD 2 tr. 13). Similarly her characterisation in the solo scena Dove son io (‘where am I’), the following Ah! Che scordar non so (‘I cannot forget’) and the rondo Perche turbar (CD 2 tr. 16) is superb. This scene, and the final reconciliation of the lovers (CD 2 tr. 20), can be seen in retrospect as not merely the epitome of bel canto but the stirring of Romanticism. No wonder the work set Rossini at the forefront of rivals and the opera travelled so widely to acclaim!

The rest of the singing cast, the vibrant chorus and the conducting of Rossini scholar Alberto Zedda are of an equally high standard. Sumi Jo exhibits wonderful colours in her flexible voice to give a formidable realisation of Amenaide’s agonies and uncertainties. Her act 2 Gran Dio! (CD 2 tr. 8) as she asks God to protect her warrior and cabaletta Giusto Dio (‘God who I worship and can read my heart’, CD 2 tr.9) are as perfect in emotion and expression as is possible whilst maintaining line. Jo’s singing and characterisation are perfect complements to Podles’s Tancredi. Excellent too is the portrayal of Argirio by Stanford Olsen. He is far preferable to the dry-toned Ernesto Palacio on the CBS version with Marilyn Horne. He handles the florid demands of his Ah! Segnar invano io tenta and cabaletta, after Argirio has unwittingly condemned his daughter to death, in a particularly fine manner (CD 1 trs. 18-19). Pietro Spagnoli as Orbazzano and Lucretia Lendi as Roggiero also contribute well with good, characterful and well-tuned expressive singing.

The booklet has a decent track-related synopsis, artist profiles, and an essay on Rossini. There is also another rather diffuse essay deriving from an interview with Alberto Zedda attempting an analysis of the nature of Rossini’s music and the interpretation of an opera such as Tancredi. All these are in English, French and German. There is a full synopsis without any translation. What is significantly missing is a track-listing and timings. Naxos normally provides this and it makes moving between the synopsis and the libretto much easier. That reservation apart this Naxos issue of a work that was not only defining for the composer, but also opera in general is outstanding. The fact that this excellent performance and recording of the original version of the opera, and which seems to stand alone in the current catalogue, is without weakness is particularly gratifying. All lovers of bel canto and the evolution of romantic opera should have it on their shelves."






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11:23:00 AM, 11 July 2014
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