The 2007 festival featured two concept productions of unmitigated awfulness. What a surprise, therefore, to encounter Michael Hampe’s old-fashioned staging of Maometto II (1820), with its crystalline narrative unfolding - no distracting goings-on to deconstruct.
Maometto is about the agonising dilemmas created by the tyrannical imperatives of love and duty to country. Rossini projects the resultant emotional conflicts via a series of heart-stopping, soul-searching trios, via striking accompanied recitative which often dramatically disrupts the conventional musical forms such as the aria with cabaletta.
The personal crises are also woven into the fabric of the big narrative ensembles. The score is a miracle of musical architecture, whose inexorable momentum powers the tragedy.
Chiara Donato’s costumes are colourful period. Alberto Andreis provides monumental settings in naturalistic mode. However, they sometimes necessitate the closure of the front curtain, which impedes momentum to the detriment of the score’s structural dynamic.
Gustav Kuhn too conducts a reading which tends to sectionalise the score so that, for example, the remarkable Act I Terzettone, Ohime! Qual fulmine, was served up in bits. Rossini builds in integrated blocks.
Despite such reservations, the production confirms Maometto as a masterpiece. And the fine cast do it proud. Francesco Meli’s weighty tenor, safe in passage work, catches the Venetian Commander Erisso’s stern morality. Marina Rebeka is a feisty Anna, whose tonal radiance and expressive ‘fioriture’ movingly reveal her inner torments.
Daniella Barcellona’s warm and agile mezzo fits the compassionate Calbo like a glove. Only Michele Pertusi’s imposing Maometto is vocally over-parted.