Notes and Editorial Reviews
If you search the catalog of Donizetti's operas you probably won't find this one; in fact, it's a two-years-later, Neapolitan reworking of his 1824 opera for Rome, L'Ajo nell'Imbarazzo (The Embarrassed Tutor). Its plot may be flimsy but it's very funny and much of the music sparkles. This Neapolitan version has too much spoken dialog; I recommend that you skip most of it--the synopsis and musically set text will tell you just about everything you must know.
Don Giulio does not want his sons to go anywhere near women until they are 40. Pippetto is young and geeky and seems to have the hots for the maid, Leonarda; the other son, Enrico, already is secretly married to Gilda and they have a baby. The latter two confide in the
boys' tutor, Don Gregorio, who hides the charming and seductive Gilda in his room. Leonarda hates Gregorio (he mocks her and reminds her of how old she is) and tells Pippetto to tell Don Giulio that the tutor is harboring a woman. Confusion ensues.
In Act 2 Leonarda breaks into Gregorio's room and discovers Gilda. She presumes she is Gregorio's lover and Gilda does not contradict her so as to save Enrico. Eventually Giulio discovers Gilda in Gregorio's room and is enraged enough to try to throttle the baby, but Gilda explains that the baby is his, Giulio's, grandchild. Leonarda rejects Pippetto and he says he will go and live in the cellar for three months. Though Giulio is still enraged, Gilda sings her way into his heart and there is some sort of happy ending.
This production, updated to the 1920s, comes from Bergamo in a version first seen in Wexford, Ireland, directed by Roberto Recchia, with sets and costumes by Ferdia Murphy. The unit set has many doors that are useful for such a farce and the costumes are '20s chic. The director has given the tutor a passion for women's clothing--particularly long coats and feather boas--and near the opera's close the small men's chorus (the servants of the house) also dress in drag. I guess it's funny and it does make it even more absurd that he, Gregorio, might be involved with Gilda.
Action flows smoothly, and this opera is loaded with duets, trios, and ensembles (there are only a couple of arias) that are well-handled. Highlights are Gregorio's opening patter aria, a fine duet for both basses, another duet for Gregorio and Gilda, a quartet that becomes a quintet, and Gilda's final aria with men's chorus. The tunes are not memorable, but the opera has style and wit and Donizetti's orchestration at times is very original, with clarinets highlighted.
The performance is perky and well-played under conductor Stefano Montanari. As the tutor Gregorio, Paolo Bordogna has a great time and relates well to the audience, with his fluent patter and prancing. Giorgio Valero's Don Giulio is as buffo-serious as death, and fine as a result; he sings with big, resonant tone. Elizaveta Martirosyan sings Gilda with verve, pinpoint-accurate high notes, and coloratura, but with an edgy, Slavic tone. She acts up a storm. Neither son (both tenors) is very good, but their roles are more character-oriented than bel canto, and they're good at that. Alessandra Fratelli's Leonarda is clownishly funny and well-sung. This isn't a great work by any means, but it's good young-Donizetti, and this performance is a crowd pleaser.
--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Works on This Recording
Don Gregorio by Gaetano Donizetti
Giorgio Valerio (Bass),
Livio Scarpellini (Tenor),
Elizaveta Martirosyan (Soprano),
Paolo Bordogna (Baritone),
Giorgio Trucco (Tenor)
Bergamo Musica Festival Orchestra,
Bergamo Musica Festival Chorus
Written: 1826; Italy
Date of Recording: 11/2007
Venue: Bergamo, Italy
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