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Judith Malafronte
Opera News, March 2009

L’Inganno Felice, one of the most popular and frequently performed of Rossini’s works during his lifetime, features one soprano, one tenor and three basses. The absence of a chorus places even more focus on the characters (three good, two evil) and the plot—the restoration of the wronged wife, Isabella, to her husband, Duke Bertrando, and the exposure of the jealous, spurned Ormondo and his henchman Batone, all under the watchful eye of the benevolent Tarabotto.

The music, as is so often the case in early Rossini, is ebullient and inventive, with surprising modulations and quirky instrumental melodies; here the flute solos in the tenor aria are especially amusing, while Batone’s "Una voce m’ha colpito" bears some similarities to that other, more famous "Una voce." A delightful duet, "Va taluno mormorando," features two basses trying with polite and ingratiating hints to worm information out of each other, while revealing nothing. As they take different tacks, the music slides around deftly, finally erupting into a wild and crazy patter confrontation.

In this performance, recorded live at the Wildbad Festival in 2005, the expertise and relaxed command of conductor Alberto Zedda, who has done more than anyone to resurrect Rossini’s operas, make this performance particularly engaging. The Czech Chamber Soloists sound especially clean and vibrant under his direction, and the soloists work well alone and in ensemble. The three basses are nicely differentiated, with Lorenzo Regazzo bringing authority and warmth to the role of Tarabotto and Marco Vinco’s fine vocal acting and technical command fleshing out the repentant villain Batone. Simon Bailey, while not so polished a singer, plays the evil Ormondo with relish.

Kenneth Tarver’s warm, flexible voice is a welcome change from the often brittle and nasal sounds that pass for Rossini singing, and he brings an unforced lyricism to the role of Bertrando. As Isabella (and singing an alternate aria from the 1816 production), Corinna Mologni shows a strong voice, with a bit of a quiver, but she shapes phrases with generous and supple lyricism.



Lucano
American Record Guide, December 2008

L’Inganno Felice was one of the five one-act farces Rossini wrote for the San Moise theater in Venice. (The others were Adina, La Cambiale di Matrimonio, and the two whose names will be forever known because of their overtures, Il Signor Bruschino and La Scala di Seta). The Italian farsa was a semi-serious opera with buffo elements (not necessarily a farce) intended to be played between the acts of a longer, heavier work.
The plot of Inganno Felice is, of necessity, fairly simple. Isabella, beloved of the Duke Bertrando, has been kidnapped and left for dead by the villainous Ormondo. She’s saved by the intervention of the buffo characters, Tarabotto and Barone. The music is not top-drawer Rossini—you won’t come away humming the tunes—but it’s always buoyant and lively.

The Naxos performance is quite good. Tarver is a sweet, graceful Duke; and Regazzo (who was the villain in Minkowski’s Inganno on Erato) brings plump tone and a sympathetic manner to Tarabotto, Isabella’s protector. Vinco (the nephew of Fiorenza Cossotto and Ivo Vinco) doesn’t quite match Rodney Gilfry’s bravura turn in Barone’s aria (Minkowski recording), but he’s good enough, and he knows how to use the words. Bailey is a believable Ormondo, though dry of voice. Mologni’s Isabella, unfortunately, is rather wild and strident—she makes her music sound difficult and her character unlikable. Zedda, a Rossini expert, keeps the music bubbling along.

We have reviewed many recordings of this opera but none more enthusiastically than Minkowski’s, which has a more elegant pair of lovers in Annick Massis and Raul Gimenez and Gilfry’s spectacular Barone. By taking a few cuts and setting faster tempos, Minkowski managed to fit the opera onto one CD, and the Erato package included a libretto. Naxos supplies none, but you can find the Italian text at their website.

--Review by Lucano, American Record Guide, November/December 2008



Robert J Farr
MusicWeb International, July 2008

Rossini’s first staged opera, La Cambiale di Matrimonio, (see of Naxos DVD) was premiered at Venice’s Teatro San Moisè in November 1810. It was a full year later before his next opera L'equivoco stravagante, was staged, in his home town of Bologna. It was musically sound, innovative and well received, but its plot offended the local censors and it was quickly withdrawn. Meanwhile the impresario of the Teatro San Moisè had been impressed by Rossini’s first effort for his theatre and was eager for another Rossini farsa. L’Inganno Felice (The Happy Stratagem) waspremiered there to acclaim on 8 January 1812 during the important carnival season. Within a year it had been staged in Bologna, Florence, Verona and Trieste as well as at the Teatro San Benedetto, second only to La Fenice in Venice. The innate quality of the music also enabled Rossini to use the opera as a calling card when he settled in Naples in 1815 and then in Paris in 1824, although it had already been heard there in 1819. It was the third most performed of Rossini’s operas in his lifetime. As the opera travelled, modifications and additions were made to meet the skills and requirements of particular singers and theatres. The Edition performed here is the revision by Florian Bauer and includes the alternative aria for Isabella written for La Scala, Milan in 1816 (CD 2 tr.4). 

In many ways L’Inganno Felice is not a true farsa or comic opera, but can be seen as an early Rossini effort at semi seria. This genre Rossini brought to full flower much later in his career with Torvaldo e Dorliska (1815, see review ), most notably in La gazza ladra (1817) and also with Matilde du Shabran (1822). All three are also, as here, variants of the rescue opera, usually, but not always as in Beethoven’s Fidelio, involving a woman faced with an unspeakable fate. In L’Inganno Felice, the story concern Isabella who was banished and abandoned at sea by her husband Duke Bertrando at the instigation of his villainous confidant Ormondo whose advances she had spurned and aided by a reluctant Batone. She was found half dead on the seashore by Tarabotto, a mineworker’s leader, and has since lived with him as his niece.  Ten years later Bertrando arrives with his two henchmen seeking his wife who he really loves but also believes dead. Although Batone has regretted his actions Ormondo does not. Batone having seen her, suspects that Nisa is the Duke’s wife. While Ormondo plots to abduct and kill Nisa, Tarabotto reveals a stratagem to the Duke to foil him. In the finale (CD 2 tr.6) the plot is foiled and husband and wife are reconciled. The guilty are punished and the innocent triumphant. It is rescue opera, semi seria and romantic opera with a touch of comedy wrapped into one. No wonder Rossini used it as a calling card.

This edition of L’Inganno Felice was prepared for concert performances in July 2005 to celebrate the re-opening of the Königliches Kurtheater at Bas Wildbad, Germany, the base for the annual Rossini In Wildbad Festival. The acoustic of the new theatre is far better than that of the old, being leaner and more analytical. This enables the listener fully to appreciate the work itself in its many felicitous moments and also the detail brought out by Alberto Zedda. Scholar as well as conductor Zedda has been instrumental as no other in the Rossini renaissance of the past thirty years. He brings zest and brio to his conducting of Rossini as can be heard here as early as the overture (CD 1 tr.1). His skill does much to explain why this work was held in such high esteem by the composer as well as the impresario of the Teatro San Moisè who, after the first performance wrote to the composer’s mother in eulogistic terms about it and about her son’s future.

Alongside the conducting of Zedda in the enjoyment of this performance is the quality of the singing of all the soloists. It must have been difficult to choose three bass voices each of distinct timbre and vocal character. Lorenzo Regazzo as Tarabotto, the rescuer of Isabella, is strong, sonorous and sings with good characterisation (CD 1 trs.2-3). He affects a darker timbre than I would have expected from a singer who appeared as Guglielmo at Covent Garden in 2007 and as Leporello in René Jacobs recent recording of Don Giovanni (Harmonia Mundi 901964.66). I was impressed by his singing and acting as Maometto in the DVD recording of Maometto II from La Fenice in 2005. His contribution here confirms my favourable view.Regazzo’svoice is well contrasted with the softer grained Marco Vinco’s as Batone. Vinco is something of a Rossini specialist these days, appearing regularly at the Pesaro Festival. His imposing stage presence and acting can be seen as well as heard in performances of La Cenerentola, La pietra del paragone and L’Italiana in Algeri and elsewhere. His vocal acting and characterisation are used to good effect in this performance (CD 1 tr.6). In the smallest of the bass roles, that of the unrepentant Ormondo, British-born and trained Simon Bailey, now based in Germany, is again vocally well contrasted. His singing is a little less even than that of his colleagues but it’s expressive and well characterised (CD 1 tr.10).

Corinna Mologni, as Isabella-cum-Nisa, is light-toned and flexible with a touch of cream to her voice. Her coloratura runs are not perfect, but as befits a singer who has essayed Elvira in I Puritani they are accomplished with expression and vocal freedom. She is well up to the varied challenges of the Milan aria (CD 2 tr.4) and elsewhere sings with good expression. The booklet gives a special note to Kenneth Tarver who undertook the role of Duke Bertrando at short notice and learned it in five days, thus saving the Festival. He is an accomplished light lyric tenor with a touch of metal in his tone. He sings Don Ottavio in the recording of Don Giovanni under René Jacobs referred to above. I admired his free, elegant and mellifluous singing in Opera Rara’s recording of La Donna del Lago from the 2006 Edinburgh Festival and am equally impressed here. He can and does caress a phrase as well as also clearly expressing what he is singing about. Overall, and without making allowances whatsoever for the circumstances, his singing is all I could have hoped for and a strength to this fine performance.

Naxos provides a libretto but no translation. There is a full track-listing including characters involved, an excellent track-related synopsis and artist profiles, all in English. There is also an excellent informative background essay in English and German. The Claves recording of February 1992 made in Rosslyn Hill Chapel, London is included in a bargain price Brilliant set as well as a separate disc (Claves 50-9211). Neither the singing nor the recording is a match for this Naxos issue.



David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2008

Continuing that rich seam of productions from the ‘Rossini in Wildbad Festival’ we have L’inganno felice (The Happy Deception) completed when Rossini was just 20-year-old. It was one of five farces written for Venice beginning in 1810 and enjoyed tremendous success for over half a century before falling into today’s obscurity. It is here presented in a new performing edition made for the festival by Florian Bauer. The story is far from accepted comedy, and relates the misfortunes that beset Isabella, wife of Duke Bertrando, who. having resisted the advances of Ormondo, a close friend of the Duke, is accused by him of adultery. She is cast out into the sea, but manages to reach an outpost of the Duke’s kingdom where she is befriended by Tarabotto. Years later news that the Duke is coming to the area sets in motion a plot to win back his love. Everything works in her favour as he is accompanied by Ormondo, who recognising her and plans to have her kidnapped. The plot is easily foiled, and dressed in the finery in which she was originally cast adrift, she confronts the Duke, who is still in love with her. Ormondo’s treachery is revealed and the couple happily reunited. There are just five characters in the opera and no chorus, arias linked by recitative. The booklet reveals that the production nearly foundered, Kenneth Tarver, having to learn the part of Bertrando in just five days, and I bet there were few takers. Indeed the opera’s fall from grace may be explained by the dearth of high tenors needed for the role of Bertrando. Tarver has already appeared in many major European opera houses, and is obviously a likeable character who makes a very brave effort on a vocally fiendishly difficult role. The Italian soprano, Corinna Mologni, gets around the mercurial passages with consummate ease in her portrayal of Isabella. Though young in years, the British bass, Simon Bailey, makes a rather old-sounding Ormondo and is rather overshadowed by Lorenzo Regazzo’s Tarabotto. The 80-year-old conductor, Alberto Zedda, instinctively knows his way around Rossini’s scores and has the admirable Czech Chamber Soloists, Brno, as the enthusiastic orchestra. It is a quite short work, just falling the wrong side of 80 minutes that can be accommodated on one disc. There is little stage noise, and balance between singers and orchestra is ideal.






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