Gramophone 10/2003
John Steane
ArtHaus Musik DVD 100 366 (120 minutes)
Paisiello: Nina, o sia La pazza per amore
Cecilia Bartoli Nina ; Jonas Kaufmann Lindoro ; László Polgár Count ; Juliette Galstian Susanna ; Angelo Veccia Giorgio ; Jonas Kaufmann Shepherd ; Federica Bartoli Peasant Girl Zurich Opera House Chorus; Zurich Opera House Orchestra/Adám Fischer
Expressive singing from Bartoli but for a ‘genius’ this is a feeble score
I truly never have seen a work brought back to life which I’d sooner put to sleep again without delay. A supplementary film details Paisiello’s success in the courts and opera houses of Europe, but the score of this opera tells of a tonic-dominant composer, a time-filler with meagre melodic invention, an elementary skill in orchestration and a first-term student’s knowledge of harmony. The interpolation of Mozart’s Ah, lo previdi is fatal: written 12 years before Paisiello’s opera, it shows so clearly musical accomplishments that are hardly glimpsed in anything else heard during the entire performance. The claim (if true) that it was in this opera that ‘madness became a serious motif with tragic potential’ does not confer artistic merit; nor does the notion (if true) that it makes a good vehicle for Cecilia Bartoli.

She sings with expression and fine tone, both in the Mozart concert aria and while making the best of limited vocal opportunities elsewhere. She doesn’t seem (I’ve thought this before) to take well to filming. Her facial acting, which may be well proportioned for the theatre, is too repetitive and exaggerated for the camera, which is also unsympathetic to the moods and poses delineating madness. Nor are the others in the cast able to endow their characters with anything but the most one-dimensional form of life. Jonas Kaufmann’s fascinating voice brings moments of interest and pleasure, and László Polgár’s easy resonance and distinctive appearance are similarly welcome.

The production is filmed from the stage, and if not imaginative is at least unpretentious. Adám Fischer looks as though he enjoys conducting the feeble score. His players aren’t giving anything away, but a penny for their thoughts might be well spent.

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