Florian Sempey, baritone Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine

Marc Minkowsky, conductor

Arias, duets, choruses, and overtures from Il barbiere di Siviglia, La scala di seta, La Cenerentola, L’italiana in Algeri, L’occasione fa il ladro, and Le Comte Ory by Gioachino Rossini

One of the quirks of the world of Opera, especially now in the age of Covid, is how little we know about what’s happening on stages on the other side of the pond. This was made more than obvious to me when I came across the Alpha recording Figaro? Si!

Welcome the extraordinary French baritone Florian Sempey, who comfortably sings the Rossini repertoire featured on this Alpha disc with a mix of Italian vocal bravura, style by spades, impeccable technique, and a charming personality!

For years most of us have come to associate French singers, for the most part, with a lighter, though no less beautiful sound, and a kind of vocal production that often appears to be diametrically opposite to the Italian Bel Canto to which we have become accustomed. In the case of Florian Sempey, the sound is as Italianate as any: full and generous up and down the range, virile, and never shortchanging the music for the sake of an effect.

In eight selections from Rossini operas, that range from the ubiquitous Largo al factotum to rarities from La Scala di Seta, L’occasione fa il ladro and Le Comte Ory, the French baritone shines in the buffo moments, taking the patter passages at warp speed only to then pivot and spin a seamless cantilena in Germano’s aria from La Scala di Seta. I found it interesting that Rossini wrote very tricky music for most of all of his singers, regardless of the size of the role, so that in La Scala di Seta, the buffo bass Germano gets as showy a solo turn as do his other stage partners.

Sempey is a perfect partner to the lovely mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes in duets from Il barbiere di Siviglia and L’Italiana in Algeri. Marc Minkowsky leads the Orchestre National Bordeaux Aquitaine with perfect Rossinian style.

Given the travel hassles that plague international artists who come to our shores, I do not wish Monsieur Sempey anything he would not want for himself. But should he like to come and appear in one of our major operatic stages, and should an American impresario have the foresight and presence of mind to entice this invaluable artist to cross the ocean, I will be the first one to be there to cheer him on.

Rafael de Acha (c) 2022

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