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There is, though, fine music in this very early work. (The recent Naxos issue conducted, incidentally, by Pesaro music supremo, Alberto Zedda, is an economical way of discovering that: 8.660087.88.) In Pesaro this year, Donato Renzetti conducted a lively enough performance of the work with the ad-hoc (but commendable) Festival Orchestra. Woodwind and horns plus alert and responsive cellos were the stars from the pit. Silvia Tro Santafe, as Ernestina, managed the necessary 'desk-gymnastics' as if it were about to become a recognised Olympic event. She saved the best of her voice until, perhaps, slightly too late into the production when patience with the storyline might have worn a little thin. The inexperience of Rossini is revealed in such considerations. Antonino Siragusa in the besotted tenor-role of Ermanno had some less than convincing top notes but plenty of lyric skill and a fine ability to balance his part in the 'patter' ensembles. Bruno Pratico was in particularly good voice as the farmer elevated from salt-of-the-soil to ludicrously (but, alas, almost credible) 'Godfather' Gamberotto -- potential purveyor of marrows to the mob.

Antonino Stragusa as Ermanno (left) and Bruno Pratico' as Gamberotto in the 2002 Rossini Opera Festival production of 'L'equivoco Stravagante'. Photo © Amati Bacciardi
Antonino Stragusa as Ermanno (left) and Bruno Pratico' as Gamberotto in the 2002 Rossini Opera Festival production of 'L'equivoco Stravagante'. Photo © Amati Bacciardi

After a rather disturbingly spooky episode when Ernestina appeared in a cage, surrounded by a cod-drunk (and totally under-directed) chorus of drunken prison guards, the very hippy-happy finale message of a society free of bigotry -- replete with the cliché of ostentatious gays and 'Che' T-shirted free-thinkers -- seemed to encapsulate the naïveté of the entire exercise. The few boos -- a traditional Pesaro bagatelle, methinks -- that met the curtain-call were, however, unmerited. Serious and provisional Rossini fans, alike, could have found enough to applaud in this (dare one say it?) rare and welcome 'outing'. The music deserved a better production but that is little more than a mantra of regular operagoers the world over.

L'equivoco stravagante didn't do a great deal for Rossini's immediate reputation. Any doubts about the implied sexual ambiguity were unlikely to be the cause of its early closure. More probable, in an unquestioning militaristic age, was that the fun poked at what a later generation came to call 'draft-dodging' met with a less than enthusiastic response. The next opera on display at Pesaro 2002 was greeted with no such difficulties at its 1812 première at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. This was an early, and vital, success for Rossini.

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Copyright © 8 September 2002 David Wilkins, Eastbourne, Sussex, UK

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