Notes and Editorial Reviews
During the course of an extraordinarily active life and compositional career Niccolò Piccinni embraced not only both comic and serious Italian opera but also, during the course of a 15-year period spent in Paris (1776–1791), adapted his style to
tragédie lyrique, thereby becoming an unwitting participant in the rows between his adherents and those of Gluck. Like most 18th-century Neapolitan composers (he was actually born in Bari), Piccinni was a product of the conservatoire system, following which he gained his first operatic successes during the 1750s. In 1758 he broke into wider prominence with
Alessandro nelle Indie, an
opera seria given in Rome with such success that the composer moved there,
embarking on a period of intense operatic activity that reached an early peak with the production in 1761 of his most famous opera,
La buona figliuola.
The two-part intermezzo
Le donne vendicate (“Women revenged”) is a product of Piccinni’s Roman years, being first given in 1763 at the Teatro alla Valle during the Carnival period. Well received in Rome, the opera was subsequently taken up in other places. Burney saw it in Florence in 1770, though he passed no comment on the music by a composer he elsewhere described as “full of fire and genius.” The libretto is based on a book by the great Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni, one of a dozen of Piccinni’s opera’s to do so, and a fact that accounts for this recording, which stems from a project to perform a series of Goldonian operas (see the interview with Diego Fasolis in
Fanfare 25:3 that accompanied the review of the first of the series, Galuppi’s
Il mondo alla roversa).
By the time
Le donne vendicate came to be composed, the genre had developed beyond its original function of providing comic scenes for insertion between the acts of serious opera. The scale had expanded to the point where the piece could stand alone, and with it the number of singing characters has grown from two (at most three) to four. So, despite a slender plot,
Le donne vendicate is best considered as a two-act opera in which two rivals, Lindora, an empty-headed simperer, and Aurelia, a pretentious reader of novels, clamor for the attentions of a vain misogynist, Count Bellezza. In an attempt to humble the count, the girls call upon the services of Lindora’s blustering windbag of an uncle Ferramonte, who himself has designs on Aurelia. In the end, Bellezza learns to love women (or at least Lindora), with uncle getting the other girl.
Much of the music has considerable comic brio and charm, and even hints of the tender sentimentality that made
La buona figliuola such a smash hit throughout Europe, but in general terms it conforms to the tuneful simplicity found in earlier intermezzos. Of greater interest are Piccinni’s use of varied aria forms, often employing a basic AB pattern with a modulating and developed repeat of both sections, and—above all—his extremely skillful handling of extended, multisectional ensembles and finales. The finale that ends the opera is especially effective, moving seamlessly through variations of tempo and mode, of tension and release through no fewer than four clearly defined situations to the ultimate tidy denouement. If Piccinni’s place in the development of the chain
buffa finale has on occasions been exaggerated, there is no doubting his mastery of it...at its best in the big scena (part II, scene 4) that moves from an impressive
accompagnato to an amusing aria in which the count courts an imaginary idealized woman. Best of all is the Ferramonte of Mauro Buda, who is not only the possessor of an attractive light baritone, but also makes much of the possibilities of what is an entirely
buffo role. Fasolis conducts with spirit and style, drawing nicely pointed playing from his strings. The sound is good, if a little close, while Avril Bardoni deserves special credit for a wittily racy translation...
Brian Robins, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Le donne vendicate by Niccolò Piccinni
Giuliana Castellani (Soprano),
Sylva Pozzer (Soprano),
Mauro Buda (Baritone),
Vincenzo Di Donato (Tenor)
Written: by 1763; Rome, Italy
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