Rossinis opera Maometto II is probably better known in its French adaptation as Le siège de Corinthe. It is a tragic story of love and betrayal, in which the Venetian Anna Erisso falls in love with a man she supposes to be an ally of her father, but who is in fact the Turkish Sultan Mehmed II in disguise. In this version, revised for Venice in 1822, Rossini adapted the opera to the more conventional tastes of the Venetian public, who demanded a happy ending. The tragic suicide of Anna is replaced by the victory of the Venetians over the forces of the Sultan, and she survives to marry her fathers lieutenant, who is loyal to her father and country.
This is the first recording of Rossini's 1822 revision for Venice of his 1820 Maometto II. Because the Venetians demanded happy endings and loved crescendi, Rossini re-worked many numbers--instead of a suicide, the opera ends with a happy aria, and it's "Tanti affetti," from his own La donna del lago! The performance here is quite good, with orchestra and chorus well-drilled and energetic under Brad Cohen, and the soloists range from excellent--the bass Dennis Sedov in the title role, mezzo Luisa Islam-Ali-Zade in the colorful, wide-ranging role of Anna--to good (Anna-Rita Gemmabella in the trouser role of Calbo, Antonio de Gobbi as the Venetian General Condulmiero) to strained (tenor Massimiliano Barbolini). The action moves naturally (the recording is from a series of live performances), and the cast is thoroughly involved. There are three other recordings of this work (two with Samuel Ramey, sopranos Cecilia Gasdia or June Anderson, tenors Ramon Vargas or Bruce Ford) which are better sung, but this one is not only unique as to the edition used--it's also a bargain. Not to sell it short, but the competition is stiff. --Robert Levine