Il matrimonio inaspettato
As I've mentioned this was a delightful evening of music making. Again Giovanni Paisiello's opera buffa - written for the court of Catherine the Great when he was employed in St. Petersburg - isn't a great piece of music but it is a charming one. Paisiello wrote to certain restrictions set out by the Empress - an opera could be no longer than 90 minutes, recitative had to be brief as her court didn't understand Italian and the libretto had to meet certain rules of decorum. Given that opera buffa was a form of Neapolitan popular entertainment the later was perhaps the hardest restriction, that and a lack of singers schooled in the buffa tradition. Perhaps it was the last restriction that forced him to compose a four character piece for two baritones and two mezzo-sopranos.
It's stock opera buffa plot: Farmer Tulipano (Nicola Alaimo) has become rich and bought himself a title; he wants his son Giorgino (Markus Werba) to marry the Countess di Sarzana (Marie-Claude Chappuis) but Giorgino is in love with and loved by a local peasant girl Vespina (Alessia Nadin.)
The edition Riccardo Muti and his forces gave us was a revised version played throughout Italy in the 1700s but hardly ever since. It was still only a brief two hours, but what a two hours! Neapolitan conductor Muti and Neapolitan director Andrea Da Rosa joined forces to make sure that the ear was bewitched and the eye was enchanted.
Da Rosa knows what make opera buffa buffo – not always a given in Italy as witness the laughless Barbiere di Sivilgia we saw last month in Venice – and didn't resort to the stock ideas of operatic haha! He had Farmer Tulipano’s estate - a marvelous complex with pivoting facades and crumbling interiors - peopled with wonderful types - as well as the Salzburger Bachchor as farmhands, villagers and the Countess's retinue there was a doddering Overseer (Paolo Sirotti), a youngster with a ready and accurate pea-shooter (Norbert Steidel)and a friend for Vespina (Anna Redi) whose sole purpose seemed to be to shriek Sarzana at given moments. Even the Countess had a silent housemaster (Ivan Merlo) with an S and M streak. All wordless or rather songless but adding to the amusement of the story.
But no number of extras could have stolen the spotlight from the Laurel and Hardy team of Werba and Alaimo. I would guess that Werba is black and blue from the number of pratfalls he took during rehearsals and performances. And all the while singing like an angel - a slightly dazed angel as the frequent cuffs across the back of the head could be the reason poor Giorgino was a trifle slow. One of the highlights was the mock heroic (a very funny spoof on opera seria)duet as the father and son struggled into antique armour to battle the Countess's men. Though, like OC, I loved Werba I have to give top honours to Alaimo. Though a trifle young for the part his Tulipano was entirely believable as an operatic M. Jourdain - and he didn't have to do the vocal equivalent of mugging to get his laughs.
The women were only marginally less successful. I find Nadin's voice on the sharp side but that is really the only problem I had with her Vespina - who you just know will take up cuffing poor Giorgino where his father left off. Unfortunately the Countess doesn't show up until the second act so Chappuis had to make much of little and if her vengeance aria didn't have quite the fire the programme notes promised it had more to do with Paisiello than her.
As for Muti and his young orchestra - what more can I say about the Maestro that I haven't already. I think OC said it best in her review and I hope she doesn't mind me quoting:
Next year he'll turn his attention to opera seria with Jommelli's Demofoonte. Since OC and I are such big fans I really think the maestro should invite us over to his compound in Salzburg for a drink. Then maybe she can convince to do one of her favorite opera seria Paisiello's Fedra and I can talk him into Cimarosa's Il Matrimonio Segreto.
Muti's read of the score left nothing to be desired, the most controlled, driven, seamless push and pull, which his Orchestra Giovanile Luigi Cherubini lovingly embraced, following Maestro Muti's every minor twitch -- and let us praise those kids from the Orchestra dreamed by Muti out of nothing....
Read the entire review here.
All photos are by Sylvia Lelli.
20 maggio - San Bernardino da Sienna