As close to heaven on earth as possible
Many years ago I had a jealously, carefully preserved disc of this back in the days of record players. It got copied to cassette (loss of sound quality) pretty quickly for frequent playing to avoid the inevitable scratches. A CD version was a very expensive import, almost unobtainable, and I regretted there was no digital remastered version. Fortunately at some point I reviewed it on Amazon, bewailing the digilack and a kind commentator on my review alerted me that there WAS! (2009 release)
Duly downloaded I discovered an annoying problem, that somehow it had been filed on the PC as Track 1, Track 1, Track 2, Track 2 etc (originally this had been a 2 disc set, but the digi download did not separate the discs. Much work was called for moving files around to be able to play this (a later, more expensive release pf the same production has it as a continuous track for the act, though the Act I overture is listed apart, so I guess this would make for instant playing) though if you wanted to replay specific tracks, harder.
So why would anyone want a version released originally back in the 50s, given the sound engineering was so unsophisticated, compared to today?
Well a more ecstatic, vibrant, incomparable trio of leads is impossible to imagine. First, there is the extraordinary surprise of Maria Callas‘s fabulous Rosina. Known for the depth and almost unbearable suffering of the tragic bel canto repertory – Norma, I Puritani and verismo roles like Tosca, she could never have been the most obvious casting for Rossini‘s quicksilver, fizzy, playful Rosina. Well, think (or rather, listen) again. I defy anyone to produce such a delicious, effortless, flirtatious irrepressibly joyous Una Voce Poco Fa
And then we have Tito Gobbi, whose Figaro is sex on vocal legs, so to speak – dangerous, seductive, heavily male (swoons away!) Such vocal virility must surely result in a Rosina who will declare ‘sod the story, I’m off with the barber!’ But that is before the wooing, idealistic, romantic Lindoro of Luigi Alva bursts into song, and Rosina, as she must, melts and our lusty Figaro will do all he can to help the couple achieve love’s young.
(Alas, the opera savvy amongst us know that Lindoro will, in Mozart and da Ponte’s Figaro turn out to be a betrayer, that Rosina’s heart will be broken. She should have stayed for the barber, after all)
But let us stay for a moment with this divine , sparkling trio not to mention other principals, ensemble and orchestra. Lucky us, to be able to unpick this little bit of musical heaven from its era. Brava! Bravo! Bravo! not to mention Bravissimo and Bravissima