Two of today’s most brilliant tenors, Michael Spyres and Lawrence Brownlee, strike sparks off each other as they celebrate the star tenors of Rossini’s time, such as Andrea Nozzari, Giovanni David, and Manuel García. Amici e Rivali – ‘Friends and Rivals’ – comprises arias, duets and trios from seven of the composer’s operas, including the ever-popular Il barbiere di Siviglia and the rarely heard Ricciardo e Zoraide. The ‘duelling tenors’ are joined by the effervescent Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught, the prize-winning young Spanish tenor Xabier Anduaga, I Virtuosi Italiani and conductor Corrado Rovaris.
Rossini’s classic take on the “Cinderella” story is a comic opera full of thrilling arias, beautiful melodies and lots of laughs. The Metropolitan’s charming production was revived in 2009 for star mezzo, Elīna Garanča. The mezzo triumphs in the role and dispatches vocal fireworks throughout. She is joined by American tenor Lawrence Brownlee and a cast of bel canto singers.
Of Rossini’s thirty-nine operas Il barbiere di Siviglia is the only one to have remained in the repertoire since its composition. When the composer met Beethoven in Vienna the great man told Rossini to only compose buffa operas like Il Barbiere. Verdi was also a great admirer of the work as he was of Rossini’s opera seria and particularly his William Tell. Il Barbiere was one of the works Rossini squeezed in during his contract as Musical Director of the Royal Theatres at Naples and where he was supposed to present two new works every year.
The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi was an American post-war gospel quartet. With lead singer Archie Brownlee, their single "Our Father" reached number ten on the Billboard R&B charts in early 1951. It was one of the first gospel records to do so.
The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi should not be confused with The Blind Boys of Alabama, a group led by Clarence Fountain. There is some dispute as to which of the two groups was named first. Some sources say that the Five Blind Boys took their name when Percell Perkins joined them in the mid-1940s. According to Fountain, however, the two groups were actually christened simultaneously during a Newark, New Jersey quartet contest in 1948.