Two of today’s most brilliant tenors, Michael Spyres and Lawrence Brownlee, celebrate the art of the trailblazing star singers of Rossini’s time. Amici e Rivali – ‘Friends and Rivals’ – comprises arias, duets, and trios from seven of the composer’s operas, written between 1815 and 1826: the most famous comic opera of them all, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and six serious dramatic works Otello, Armida, La donna del Lago, Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra, Le Siège de Corinthe, and, the rarest title here, Ricciardo e Zoraide.
If the spotlight is on the two American stars – not least as they assume the roles of ‘dueling tenors’ – they are in excellent company: there are guest appearances from the effervescent Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught and the prize-winning young Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga, and the recording was made at the artistic home of conductor Corrado Rovaris and I Virtuosi Italiani, the Teatro Ristori in Verona.
All the works represented on Amici e Rivali – except for Barbiere, which was first seen in Rome – have their roots in the San Carlo opera house in Naples. (While Le Siège de Corinthe was in fact written for Paris, it derived from Maometto II, premiered six years earlier at the San Carlo.) Rossini conceived them for specific singers, several of whom became defining forces in musical history: the tenors Andrea Nozzari, Giovanni David, Manuel García, Louis Nourrit and Adolphe Nourrit (a father/son pairing), Giuseppe Ciccimarra and Claudio Bonoldi, and the baritone Luigi Zamboni, who created the role of Figaro.