There are some seriously obscure Rossini operas and Il signor Bruschino is one of them. It’s scarcely an opera at all really. It’s a one act farsa running about an hour and a quarter. By the time he wrote this one at age twenty Rossini has already had several hits in the genre and knew how to pull out a crowd pleaser but oddly Il signor Bruschini was a colossal flop. The plot was too convoluted and the music too advanced for the tastes of the farsistas. If one wanted to think about the plot one went to a proper opera house like La fenice rather than the fairly obscure Venetian theatre where the work premiered. It even offended the critics by, horror of horrors, asking the second violins to tap on their music stands with their bows during certain passages of the sinfonia.
It’s a bit hard to see what people were upset about. The plot isn’t particularly convoluted. There’s a love story and a case of, deliberately, mistaken identity but it’s quite straightforward. The music is very Rossinian in a light sort of way with lots of rapid fire ensembles. It’s not desperately exciting but it’s perfectly harmless.
I watched it in a recording from the 1989 Schwetzingen festival which is one of two videorecordings in the catalogue. The other, recorded more recently at Pesaro, tries to jazz up the piece but Michael Hampe’s production is entirely straightforward with a single drawing room set and period (1813) costumes. The cast have decent comic timing and know when to ham it up so it works fine.
The singing is quite distinguished with Alessandro Corbelli heading things up as the scheming but ultimately schemed against aristo Gaudenzia Strappapuppole. There’s nice work too from Amelia Felle and David Kuebler as the lovers and Alberto Rinaldi as Bruschino père, who turns the tables on Gaudenzia. It’s all fast, idiomatic and fun and Gianluigi Gelmetti gets an equally lively performance from the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart.
It is a 1989 TV recording and it shows its age a bit. That said, the 4:3 ratio picture is really quite good and filmed well by Claus Viller. A single well lit drawing room set helps. No huge, dark, crowded stage pictures needed. There are Dolby and DTS surround tracks as well as stereo. There’s no indication that they are post-processed stereo so I guess they were recorded that way. The DTS track is perfectly decent. The booklet contains a track listing, a synopsis and a historical essay. Subtitle choices are English, Italian, German and French.
So, light and silly but enjoyable enough.
ETA October 13th 2018: This disk is currently available as part of a five disk set of early Rossini operas, all directed by Michael Hampe and all recorded at Schwetzingen in roughly the same period.