Composer: Rossini
Composition: Ricciardo e Zoraide
Performers: Pretty Yende, Juan Diego Flórez, Sergey Romanovsky, RAI Orchestra, Giacomo Sagripanti
Catalogue Number: C Major 752608 (2DVD)

Falling between the more distinguished Mosè in Egitto and Ermione, Ricciardo e Zoraide, which premiered in Naples in 1818, is a typically forgotten product of its composer and of its time. A Pesaro Rossini Opera Festival revival in 1990 revealed some pretty tunes, even if its banal plot weighs against it holding its own dramatically.

A slight romance, the plot revolves around the wicked Nubian King Agorante and his infatuation with the captured Zoraide. Keen to rectify the situation are Ricciardo, Zoraide’s crusader lover, and Agorante’s understandably put-out wife, Zomira. This staging from the 2018 Rossini Festival is saddled with a convention-bound nothing-burger of a production thanks to Marshall Pynkoski’s lacklustre direction. Musical standards, however, are sky high, and make a decent case for acquiring a copy. Pretty Yende reveals herself as a Rossinian of note with a gleaming top and stunning coloratura. Juan Diego Flórez and Sergey Romanovsky go head to head with tenorial guns blazing as the preening alpha males, with Victoria Yarovaya delicious as the grumpy, frumpy Zomira. The RAI Orchestra plays well and Giacomo Sagripanti’s inspired conducting is fully within the idiom. Sound feels weirdly distanced from the action throughout, and there’s a bad lip-syncing issue in the first scene, but the voices come over with sufficient clarity to win the day.
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