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Bill White
Fanfare, November 2011

This production was recorded live…It employs a young, lively cast that brings much spirit to the recording…

La cambiale di matrimonio is an opera well worth experiencing, not only because it began Rossini’s career in the theater but because it is very enjoyable in its own right…

V. Vasan, October 2011

This is Rossini’s first-ever performed (and second composed) opera, performed by an international cast of musicians, including American Christopher Franklin conducting the German Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra. The overture sounds a bit skimpy, which could be due to a smaller orchestra or a recording quality that is not optimal. The musicians are, however, keen in their sense of phrasing, and the little runs in the winds are brought out nicely. They play with excellent timing and rhythm and with clear dynamic contrasts…there are many good ingredients here, a cast of talented musicians and a musically sensitive orchestra. The performance is enjoyable instead of greatly entertaining.

Richard Osborne
Gramophone, September 2011

The teenage Rossini dips his toe in operatic waters with this lively debut

Rossini’s first professional opera, written for Venice’s Teatro San Moisè when he was 18, is full of dash and pizzazz. There have been four recordings to date, of which the best by some distance was a 1960s echt-Italian version with Renato Fasano conducting I Virtuosi di Roma and an impressive cast led by Renato Scotto (Delysé, 7/67—nla). Since then we’ve had a ruinously reverberant recording on Claves and a hard driven, indifferently sung and closely miked Pesaro Festival performance on Dynamic.

This newest taping dates from the same year (2006) as the Pesaro account but is superior in almost every respect. It is sprucely, at times wittily conducted by Christopher Franklin, and there is a good cast that includes a decent tenor as the romantic lead and a pair of lively buffo basses as the hard-headed north countryman Tobias Mill and his rather warmer-hearted opposite number, the Canadian businessman Slook, to whom Mill attempts to sell his daughter. The Lithuanian soprano Julija Samsonova sings Fanny, the commodity in question, and sings her rather well. It is she who has the score’s highlight, the joyous “Vorrei spiegarvi il giubilo”—Joan Sutherland once recorded the aria—whose cabaletta resurfaces in Act 1 of Il barbiere di Siviglia in the duet “Dunque io son”. Samsonova is a little lacking in fleetness in that cabaletta but she takes her chances earlier on, not least in the aria’s lyric section.

The secco recitatives are played with rather more panache in the Pesaro staging but the Wildbad production is lively enough. The rapturous reception at the final curtain is testament to that.

Robert Hugill
MusicWeb International, August 2011

Rossini’s La cambiale di matrimonio was his first opera to be performed, premiered in 1810 at the Teatro San Moise in Venice. It ran for thirteen performances, which was not bad in the fast-paced Italian opera business. At the time Rossini was still a student at the Bologna Conservatory and in fact La cambiale di matrimonio was his second opera; Demetro e Polibio, written for another opera company was not premiered until 1812.

The libretto to La cambiale was by the experienced hand of Gaetano Rossi, who wrote the librettos for Tancredi and Semiramide. La cambiale isn’t quite in that class; it is based on a five-act comedy from 1790 which owes a lot to the comedies of Goldoni. The plot concerns the English merchant, Tobia Mill (Vita Priante), who desires to wed his daughter to a Canadian business contact Slook (Giulio Mastrototaro) very much as a business transaction. The daughter Fanny (Julija Samsonova) is in love with Eduardo Milfort (Daniele Zanfardino). The plot is helped along by Mill’s clerk Norton (Tomasz Wija) and the maid Clarina (Francesca Russo Ermolli). Needless to say all ends happily with Slook returning home disappointed.

La cambiale di matrimonio has not been that frequently on disc; not that the work is lacking in the necessary qualities but probably more because of the extensive dialogue—there is a great deal of it. In fact, in another composer’s hands it could have become little more than a comic play with songs. Instead Rossini creates a series of brilliant ensembles which certainly make the piece worth hearing.

This performance was recorded live at the Rossini in Wildbad festival with a cast which included four native Italians. This shows: the recording is vivid and entrancing, capturing the lively performance with dialogue rattling along at quite a rate of knots; there is also a bit of stage noise. The drawback is that Naxos provide only a detailed synopsis; you can download an Italian libretto but there doesn’t seem to be an English one which might put people off.

There are only four solo numbers—arias for Fanny and Clarina, entrance Cavatinas for Mill and for Slook. As was to become his wont in his serious operas, Rossini drives the plot through a series of duets, trios and ensembles with the first of his famous multi-part, dramatic finales.

The cast are perhaps not perfect, but their performances are all infectious. Priante and Mastrototaro are both a delight as the pair of buffo basses, making light of the fact that the tessitura of the parts seems to go rather high. They throw off Rossini’s roulades with a degree of abandon. Samsonova does not sing Fanny with quite the right amount of entrancing ripeness, at times her tone becomes a bit slender above the stave. Her account of the duet with Slook—where she has to repeatedly tell him that she will never be his—is inclined to be untidy, but this might also be the effect of the dramatic moment. These are not serious problems, she fits into the ensemble nicely. Zanfardino’s Milfort does not get an aria, though he duets with Samsonova; Zanfardino has a nicely slim lyric voice.

Wija and Russo Ermolli provide strong support in the important roles of Clarina and Norton. Russo Ermolli impresses in her aria. This Clarina is a young woman not a blowsy old maid and Russo Ermolli captures this nicely.

Under the lively direction of Christopher Franklin the Württemberg Philharmonic Orchestra acquits itself well, providing vivid support. They use a harpsichord for continuo.

This is a lively and involving account of Rossini’s first opera. Whilst not perfect, it does bring out the comic drama of the piece and is certainly a fine addition to the expanding list of Rossini operas on Naxos.

David Denton
David's Review Corner, June 2011

Rossini was just eighteen when he composed this delightful one-act opera that was to become his first staged work. The story surrounds an English merchant, Tobia Mill, who receives a letter from the ‘colonies’ asking if he can find, for a fee, a suitable wife for the writer. Thinking of the dowry that would also come with the marriage, he decides to offer the hand of his daughter, Fanny. When the bluff Canadian eventually arrives to collect his purchase, he finds that she is already engaged, and the two young lovers set about getting rid of him with threats on his life. Realising the supposed marriage has been set up by Tobia against his daughter’s wishes, he colludes with the lovers to get revenge. Everything ends happily—apart for the hapless Mill—when Slook gives the purchase price he offered to the young couple to make their marriage possible. Do not confuse this issue with the DVD issued by Naxos some time ago, for while both date from 2006 Rossini Festivals, this one is of German origin. If this performance is the stronger, from a vocal point of view, the visual aspect of the staging from the theatre at Pesaro is a significant contribution to our DVD enjoyment. With a degree of irony, this performance’s major advantage is the perky soprano of Julija Samsonova as Fanny, for she is a product of the Pesaro Conservatory. I would have wished a more ‘meaty’ voice from Giulio Mastrototaro in the role of Snook, so as to differentiate him from Vito Priante as Tobia. Nice lightweight tenor from Daniele Zanfardino as the young lover. The excellent Wurttemberg Philharmonic provides a very well balanced orchestral support, the American conductor, Christopher Franklin, never hurrying his tempos. Intervening applause at the end of arias, but otherwise there is not a great deal to point to its ‘live’ origin.

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