Duelling tenors

Rossini’s Ricciardo e Zoraide isn’t performed all that often but it has appeared a number of times at the Pesaro Rossini Festival.  In 2018 it got a new production there from the creative team of Opera Atelier with a rather starrier cast than is usual in their Toronto productions followed by a DVD/Blu-ray release.  It’s actually not too hard to see why the piece isn’t done more often despite its many good qualities.  It requires four tenors; at least two of which need to be absolutely top notch Rossinians and a soprano of equal quality.  None of the roles are easy.  It’s also a bit mixed dramatically.  The libretto is a rather convoluted crusader story set in Africa.  Agorante has captured Zoraide and wants to make her no.2 wife.  No.1 wife Zomira is unimpressed.  Ricciardo disguises himself to try and rescue Zoraide.  Zoraide’s father shows up.  Agorante is about to have essentially everyone executed when the crusaders, led by Ernesto, rush in and everybody makes up.  There are some really effective scenes and others that just seem to drag on.  Musically it’s pretty good though.  It’s never less than well crafted and at times; the first half of act 2 especially, there’s some great music including a crackerjack tenor duet, a fantastic display aria for soprano and some really good ensembles.

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