Michael Richter, 26 July 2003

Paisiello: Nina (Zurich, 2002)
Recorded at Opernhaus Zürich in 2002
Cast: Cecilia Bartoli (Nina), Jonas Kaufmann (Lindoro, Un pastore), László Polgár (Il Conte), Juliette Galstian (Susanna), Angelo Veccia (Giorgio), Chorus and Orchestra of the Opernhaus Zürich, Adam Fischer (conductor), Cesare Lievi (stage director), Thomas Grimm (television director)
Issued on DVD by Arthaus in 2003
An historic favorite, Nina has been a rarity for more than a century. A gentle pastorale, it requires a fine artist for the title rôle and a small but talented supporting cast; all are given enjoyable music with modest demands. Briefly, the story is of the daughter of a Count who has been mad since her father insisted on giving her hand to a wealthy suitor instead of to her love. Her maid, Susanna, brings her father to see her plight; he relents and allows her beau to return, whereupon she regains her sanity.

Bartoli's singing is admirable, of course, but she portrays a raving maniac where the music calls for one who is less frenetic - Amina, not Lucia. Her big scena is a tour de force worth the price of the disc, but it should be noted that it's the Mozart concert aria KV 272, 'Ah lo previdi'. Veccia's old retainer is similarly exaggerated yet well sung. Kaufmann is a pleasure as both Lindoro and the shepherd, whose song with bagpipe accompaniment lends an exotic air to the opera. Pólgár is ideal as the concerned father and except for some shrillness Galstian is a fine complement. The chorus excels in its modest duties.

The production is simple on a single set, well lighted and well filled with costumes of the era. Makeup is a bit harsh for video, though probably ideal in the house. The only significant prop, a bunch of scarlet flowers, is used effectively. The orchestra is fine, but both Fischer's conducting and the sound are a bit heavy, adding to the sense that the performance is overdone and the romantic comedy is tragedy narrowly averted.

We are unlikely to find a better performance of this lovely work and the disc is recommended.

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