Poor Rossini! By the time he had Barbiere and Cenerentola under his ample belt one would think he would have been free of the financial constraints of his early career. But no, the year was 1819 and here he was 29 and saddled with a contract that obliged him to deliver yet another opera to Venice, a city notorious for a demanding audience that would not brook mediocrity.

And yet, the Venetians had no problem giving a warm welcome to Edoardo e Cristina, so warm a red carpet in fact that the opening night performance ran for six hours due to all the encores the San Bendetto loggionisti demanded from soprano Rosa Morandi as Cristina and contralto Carolina Cortesi in the pants role of Edoardo.

So, how good an opera is it? It is… based on the sum of its ingredients, like a tavola calda at an Italian eatery where you can pick favorites. And I did, full knowing that the bits and pieces I’d pick from this pastiche would surely resurface in any number of Rossini’s 38 other operas. One fabulously good moment is the finale of Act I – Rossini at his best!

Oh, and in case I have failed to impress it on the reader I will clarify: pastiche or pasticcio in Italian is… well… a mish-mash. And that is precisely what Edoardo e Cristina is. The libretto by the unlikely team of Andrea Leone Tottola and Gherardo Bevilacqua-Aldobrandini is a mine field of idiocies, a fact that seemed to have mattered little to Rossini or to a contemporary audience of his.

No matter what its dramatic and musical glitches might be, this is a charming work that provides its principals and a resourceful maestro with a healthy Bel Canto workout. The young, up and coming singers of this recording inhabit their roles comfortably both musically and vocally, and the orchestra and chorus, members of the 2017 Rossini Festival of Bad Wildbad play and sing enthusiastically. Silvia Dalla Benetta sings Cristina in a lovely lyric soprano, and mezzo-soprano Laura Polverelli delivers a sensitively sung Eduardo.

This double CD recording appears to have been made on site in font of a live audience over a three-day period with no engineer credited by ROSSINI IN WILDBRAD.  In this NAXOS release, the sound is distant and muffled, the singers good, and the uniqueness worth s listen.

Rafael de Acha