OP3409. MAOMETTO SECONDO (Rossini), recorded 1983, w.Scimone Cond. Philharmonia Orchestra; June Anderson, Margarita Zimmermann, Ernesto Palacio, Samuel Ramey, etc. 3-Philips 412 148, w.Elaborate 167pp Libretto-booklet in Italian & English; Handsome Slipcase Edition. Very long out-of-print, Final Copy! - 028941214829
"I believe that this was the first complete recording of this opera, and it came out quite a while after Beverly Sills made her recording of L'ASSEDIO DI CORINTO. I mention this because MAOMETTO SECONDO was rewritten for Paris and became LE SIEGE DE CORINTHE, and only later when brought back to Italy in Italian translation did it become L'ASSEDIO DI CORINTO. As with some of Rossini's other early operas where the first writing of the material was wonderful, this opera improved with the rewrite making it hard to listen to this one objectively. What makes it even more difficult is in the Sills recording much of the music you will hear (like the Anna's final aria, ‘Si ferite’) that was NOT transferred to the Paris rewrite is added to the score but in quite dramatically different places than in the original. The afore mentioned aria no longer is the aria just before Anna's death, but becomes the introduction aria of Act 2 leading to her romance with Maometto. Even the famous prayer falls into a very different dramatic setting between the two operas. The best way to approach this opera, and this recording is to forget you have listened to and enjoyed the recording of L'ASSEDIO. Once you can get your mind around the differences (and the dramatic improvements in the Paris rewrite are unbelievable) then you can begin. The plot is different but similar to the other work. The lead love interest is sung by a contralto (in the Paris rewrite Calbo became Niocle and was written for a tenor; when the opera returned to Italy in Italian Donizetti transferred the role of Niocle back to a contralto as we are used to hearing it today), and some of the most wonderful music is written for that voice. However, we must not forget that the part of Anna was written for Rossini's wife, Isabella Colbran, who had a very dark nearly contralto sounding soprano and an amazing ability to sing rapid ascending scales. MAOMETTO is a far more decorative rendition with tons more fioratura than L'ASSEDIO. (probably the reason so much of the florid arias and trios were added back to the score of L'ASSEDIO. when Sills sang it) and thus it is harder to capture the true drama of the opera. This is where we get to the recording itself. June Anderson is a very well known colorature soprano noted for some very good high notes very much like Sills was. One would wonder how well she does in a role that is not actually written all that high with most of its most difficult passages well within the staff and below. Well, she does remarkably well. It is very interesting how Anderson's voice does not disappear or weaken in the lower passages, but she loses nothing in her brilliance in the higher ones. She does a very excellent job, vocally. For me, though, the real drama of the piece is lost. Anderson tries valiantly to make sure she doesn't slip into empty vocal display, but she is not always successful. Samuel Ramey is simply wonderful, and at the time of this recording probably the only really excellent bass with a super accurate ability to sing fioratura. Ramey is a fabulous actor on stage, and he certainly tries with this opera to make his character come alive, but again, sometimes the fioratura gets in the way. The other singers, though less familiar to me, do a wonderful job, and sing their hearts out in a very exciting way. The contralto who sings Calbo does a super job and one is not left wishing Marilyn Horne were singing the role…and we have the live recording of her singing the role with Sills at La Scala, and the opera is heavily cut in places). Unlike the L'ASSEDIO recording, you will not find super huge flights of fancy and added vocal difficulties, for this recording stays fairly close to the written score. Sometimes, and only because we are used to the shower endings in arias, that takes some of the life from an aria, or a stretta that ends the acts.
The recording is very good, and the opera is very exciting. It is true, Rossini made vast improvements when he rewrote it for Paris, and the drama of the work becomes far more involving, but this version is worthy of its fame. I recommend buying this recording, especially if you already own the L'ASSEDIO recording with Sills, for it gives you a more complete picture of what Rossini was trying to do. Also, you get the wonderful experience of comparing those parts of this score that Sills brought over to the other recording and seeing just who you think sings this music the best."
- Ned Ludd
“MAOMETTO II is an opera seria composed in 1820 for Naples, where it flopped. It was revised for subsequent more successful productions in the next couple of years, and most of it was used for LE SIEGE DE CORINTHE in 1826. It contains a great deal of ebulient, marvellous music, and as usual in Rossini's peculiar esthetic the nature of music is not all that closely tied to the content of the libretto. It serves as a great show-case for really accomplished bel canto singers, and here it receives a wonderful production.
Principal among the strengths of this recording are the enthusiastic and beautiful singing of Samuel Ramey in the title role and the show-stealing performance of June Anderson, but the rest of the cast are well up to their standards. Claudio Scimone makes an exciting and coherent overall production, leading the Philharmonia orchestra - possibly the best of the London Orchestras at the time - and the solid Ambrosian Chorus in a well balanced performance that matches the quality of the singing.”
- John Cragg