This was the world premiere of the new critical edition of Rossini's Maometto Secondo to be published next year. In his liner notes Dr. Philip Gossett goes out on a limb and says, "...Maometto II is one of the greatest serious operas written during the 19th century."
In my youth there was no serious Rossini in the repertoire. I feel especially blessed to be living in the era of Rossini revival.
I thought I detected the Gossett touch in this performance--not just in the perfection of the score but also in the ornamentation of the singers. And sure enough, he was here helping with the preparation. And for me what is the Gossett touch? Ornamentation suitable for each voice and powerful self-confidence in its execution.
The odd thing about Maometto is all the ensembles. By 1820 we are living in the dying ends of opera seria, a form that is more pure in Handel, a time when da capo arias are almost the whole thing. In Maometto II everyone gets an aria, Anna gets a lot more, but that still leaves a lot of ensembles.
It is a monumental opera, more like something by Verdi and not at all the kind of opera usually taken on by Santa Fe. This season the excellent chorus is especially prominent.
This opera requires four magnificent singers, and it got them. My fellow bloggers, who have already come and gone, seemed critical of these singers. Bah humbug! They were all wonderful.
At the top is Luca Pisaroni as Maometto. According to Wikipedia he is from Venezuela but moved to Italy when he was 4. That's Italian enough for me. I also understand that he is Thomas Hampson's son in law. Hampson was in our audience.
In the picture above we have our other three artists. Left is Patricia Bardon as Calbo, a contralto almost in the Ewa Podleś tradition. This part is wickedly difficult with lots of notes on either extreme of the range, and she handled it well.
Center is the magnificent Leah Crocetto as Anna, an individual fanatically devoted to duty. In one night I am suddenly a fan. It is a very long and difficult role which Leah executed with increasing assurance. Right is the tenor Bruce Sledge as Erisso. He was also excellent. I stood for Leah.
There is a glaring flaw in this production. At the end Maometto faces stage left and Anna faces stage right. This puts Maometto's sword on his upstage side, so when Anna uses it to stab herself, this is completely invisible to the audience. Obviously if you reverse where they are standing, all this changes. We were warned.