Mercandati anticipates Verdi with “I Briganti”

Saverio Mercandante has been characterized as the bridge between Rossini and Verdi — and I Briganti demonstrates why. Completed in 1836, “I Briganti” was written partially in response to Bellini’s “I Puritani.”

This bel canto opera eschews self-contained arias for music that is more fully integrated into the drama. At the same time, it provides plenty of opportunities for singers to show what they’re made of — as is the case in this performance.

This world premier recordings captures the 2012 Rossini in Wildsad Festival production, with all pros and cons of live recording. The pros include the singing of the three principals, tenor Maxim Mironov (Ermano), baritone Vittorio Prato (Corrado), and soprano Petya Ivanova (Amelia). All three sing with confidence and energy, producing warm, rounded tones.

The cons include some occasional pitch problems in the chorus, and the overall recorded sound. The sound stage seems a little cramped, and the music sounded to my ears somewhat soft around the edges.

Nevertheless, Mercandante’s music works its magic and I soon forgot my quibbles with the recording. Highly recommended for lovers of Italian opera. And if you can, listen to I Briganti and then Verdi’s “I Masnadieri,” a setting of the same story. Mercandante’s opera compares quite favorably, particularly in dramatic structure and pacing.

Saverio Mercandante: I Briganti
Maxim Mironov; Petya Ivanova; Vittorio Prato; Bruno Pratico; Camerata Bach Choir, Poznan; Virtuosi Brunensis; Antonio Fogliani, conductor
Naxos

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