Notes and Editorial Reviews
Vittorio Parisi, cond; Adelina Scarabelli (
); William Matteuzzi (
); Enzo Dara (
); Maurizio Comencini (
); Bruno de Simone (
); La Fenice O & Ch
class="ARIAL12">NUOVO ERA 224174 (2 CDs: 85:28) Live: Venice 6/14–22/1989
This very strange album, recorded live in 1989, is either a reissue of a performance not available for many years or a new issue...The work itself, subtitled “Il pasticcio,” was originally conceived by librettist-author-raconteur Lorenzo da Ponte as a response to Emperor Joseph II of Austria’s 1788 decision to cut costs by dismissing the Italian operatic wing from the Burgtheater. Originally, then, it combined the music of composers for whom da Ponte had worked, Salieri, Mozart, and Cimarosa. This fourth and final revision, written after the successful American tour of Manuel Garcia’s opera company, also includes a great deal of music by the new king of opera buffo, Rossini, and plenty of him.
This pastiche was a direct appeal to the retention of the Italian wing by emphasizing the many wonderful melodies that these Italian composers (and Mozart, one of the most Italianate of German composers) had brought to Vienna. To quote Marina Maymone Siniscalchi’s excellent notes, “The world of opera itself is one of the favorite topics of this theatrical micro-genre, and rehearsal scenes are frequently inserted. At times we find a theatrical ‘piece,’ which opens up in the middle of the play like a Chinese box; then on other occasions the plot revolves around the performance itself, its contradictions, problems, its theoretical and practical questions, acted out on the stage itself, without backdrops and wings so that the audience is privy to its secrets.
“The satire directed at theatre strikes prose and verse, literary composition and the stage itself, and it is no coincidence that its fortune coincides with the boom of opera buffa. Clearly its bourgeois, popular side and its important element of comedy allow opera buffa to produce situations where type-cast characters can exist, where space can be made for winning lines, for jokes and gags—the very stuff of satire on the world of opera.”
Of course, in a sense this pastiche is very much craft and not art, even though some highly artistic snatches and even whole arias (Tamino’s “Dies bildnis” and Almaviva’s “Ecco ridente,” Macrobio’s comic hit, the “Missipippi” aria from
La pietra del paragone,
and the chorus from
Il turco in Italia
) are stolen outright. In a way, it’s the 19th-century version of those “Opera’s Greatest Hits” albums that so many young people start out with, written at a time when the live stage experience, and not radio or recordings, was the sole means of hearing them.
Whether or not you enjoy this album will depend entirely on your tolerance for excerpting others’ work for the sake of sheer entertainment. I personally found it a subtle scream, like listening to the late Beverly Sills’s famed “Sillsiana” aria in which she excerpted every catchy roulade and trilled phrase from a dozen
gems, though it is not as artistically done as Benjamin Britten’s sophisticated rehash of similar devices in the “Pyramus and Thisbe” play-within-a-play of his operatic treatment of Shakespeare’s
Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The performance(s), culled from six different live traversals of the score, is given by an obviously very young cast with enthusiasm and a good-time sense of fun. All the singers are fine, though three of them—Scarabelli, Matteuzzi, and Dara—were here on the cusp of major careers. All are generally in fine voice, though Dara sounds like he still had a little “settling” to do and Matteuzzi, who bats out his high notes with consummate mastery in act II, sounds oddly strangulated in his act I version of “Dies bildnis” (I would think, from one of the alternate performances). Scarabelli is phenomenal throughout, though she sings with the least “sparkle” (not a major complaint, but an observation). The La Fenice chorus, here reduced in size, sounds competent but not especially good. The orchestra, on the other hand, plays flawlessly.
This would make a wonderful “fun” gift for any of your Italian opera-loving friends, if they didn’t already own it. The sound quality is typical of a decent but not professionally miked in-house digital tape recording of the 1980s.
FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley
Works on This Recording
L'ape Musicale by Various
Enzo Dara (Bass),
Adelina Scarabelli (Soprano),
Maurizio Comencini (Tenor),
William Matteuzzi (Tenor),
Bruno De Simone (Baritone)
Venice Teatro la Fenice Orchestra,
Venice Teatro la Fenice Chorus
Notes: This work is a pastiche originally conceived by Lorenzo da Ponte. It includes excerpts from operas by Rossini, Mozart, Salieri, and Cimarosa.
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