Rebellious servants, capricious lovers, cross-dressing farce, and a happy ending: the fast-paced action of this comic Baroque opera had all the ingredients to please the self-confessed "low-brow taste" of an Austro-German prince, who commissioned Giuseppe Scarlatti for a piece to celebrate his son’s wedding. This is the opera’s first revival in modern times, and it takes place in the very same Baroque theatre, impeccably restored to its original glory, which hosted the first performance. With a cast of young singers drawn from Prague’s National Theatre and a stylish period-instrument ensemble, this vivid reconstruction will delight audiences asRead more much today as it did the aristocratic guests at Ceský Krumlov in 1768.
SCARLATTI, G.: Dove e amore e gelosia (National Theatre Prague, 2011)
Recorded live at The National Theatre, Prague, Summer 2011
Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: LPCM 2.0 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Japanese, Korean
Running time: 138 mins
No. of DVDs: 1
R E V I E W:
G. SCARLATTI Dove è amore è gelosia & • Vojtech Spurný, cond; Lenka Máciková (Marquise Clarice); Ales Briscein (Count Orazio); Katerina Knežíková (Vespetta); Jaroslav Brezina (Patrizio); Schwarzenberg Court O • OPUS ARTE 1104 (DVD: 88:00 + 55:00) Live: Ceský Krunlov Baroque Theater, Czech Republic 2011
Although he’s credited as being the nephew of the far better known Domenico, it’s possible Giuseppe Scarlatti was his cousin instead. (The Scarlattis, like the Bachs, Couperins, Rameaus, and Hotteterres, were an extensive musical clan spanning several generations.) Regardless, he was a successful and well-considered operatic composer in the mid-18th century, best known for a host of opere serie setting texts by Metastasio. Here we’re given a two-act opera buffa that was originally commissioned for performance by Prince Joseph Adam zu Schwarzenberg, at his castle’s private theater in what is now Ceský Krumlov in the Czech Republic. Better still: it’s performed for us at the same castle theater, fully restored since 1989.
The title tells all. The work is about love and jealousy, constituted on two entirely separate social plains of nobility and servants. The book is nothing to write home about, but its situations are amusing, and its characters relatively consistent in behavior. The music is another matter. There’s no reference made anywhere in this package to the opera’s edition; and that raises a couple of flags, because it appears that Dove è amore has been heavily edited. For one thing, it almost entirely lacks recitative and is without spoken passages. Second, several of the arias and scenes display a musical complexity and fluidity of structure that would have been astonishing at its 1768 debut. I don’t object to the form this opera has been given, since it was clearly edited not out of wanton disregard for historical practices, but the desire to secure modern performance. I would just like to know who did it, how they proceeded, and what was left out or changed.
The performances themselves are an almost unalloyed pleasure. Both Lenka Máciková and Katerína Knežíková are gifted actresses, and each is a fine lyric soprano. (Interestingly, they’ve also both made a considerable impression as Zerlina in Don Giovanni.) Scarlatti utilizes two tenors, rather than a tenor and bass. Jaroslav Brezina’s face lacks sufficient mobility to make the most of his sly-but-stupid servant, but he acts with great energy and self-control. He possesses as well a refined vocal technique that is hardly tested in this role. Ales Briscein is slightly overparted, however. At least on the two nights used to record this, he displays a tendency to short phrase endings at times with his otherwise attractive voice, sings without much variety, and acts well but without the specificity of the others. Vojtech Spurný leads a sprightly, disciplined performance. His orchestra displays enough technique and silky phrasing to make it clear they don’t just hang around Schwarzenberg when the opera’s not in season.
Ondrej Havelka does an excellent job of blocking his actors, both in the opera, and in its modern Prolog that features the cast supposedly getting ready to perform. We also get in the latter an actor performing the mute role of stage director. As he makes certain that the extensive, many-tiered scenery and set changes are accomplished on time throughout the performance, we get a chance to witness behind-the-scenes the elaborate wooden apparatus created in the original theater to quickly achieve these results: very cleverly done.
There’s also a documentary about the castle theater included with the opera. It’s sumptuously photographed and insightful in its further display of the architecture and stage machinery. But apart from its visuals of the theater, the information provided is at times problematic. We are told the 18th-century castle theater with its stage mechanisms is the only one left standing of its kind, yet publicity information on the city’s own website indicates it’s one of several. We are informed that the castle’s castellan has hired a bee farm to make candles according to a very old recipe that meant they wouldn’t flicker and could last three to four hours for performances, but the website states that simulated candlelight is used.
We’re also informed that 18th-century movement and acting were studied for this production, while we’re shown images from a page from a book of unknown provenance on hand gestures, written in Latin. Yet the acting we see in this production is strictly 20th-century fourth-wall-removed (and the makeup style is modern, too), unlike that utilized in Lully’s Cadmus et Hermione (Alpha 701) and his Le bourgeois gentlhomme (Alpha 700). And again, there’s a brief downward-moving musical motto that forms the basis of one of Patrizio’s arias, and turns up as well in a very different fashion as part of the main theme to Cherubino’s “Non so più cosa son” in Le nozze di Figaro. We’re told Mozart copied it from Scarlatti 18 years later, yet the motto itself is a galant commonplace that turns up in the work of many composers in the latter half of the 18th century. It was simply Mozart alone who made something truly distinctive of it. There’s much more that’s said or implied which is equally questionable.
Documentary aside, the production itself shines. It’s solidly performed and directed in a way that emphasizes the behind-the-scenes mechanical contrivances of its risen-from-its-ashes 18th-century theater. This is an excellent halfway house to period productions, and just plain fun.
Dove č amore č gelosia by Giuseppe Scarlatti Performer:
Jaroslav Brezina (Tenor),
Katerina Knezikova (Soprano),
Ales Briscein (Tenor),
Lenka Macikova (Soprano),
Bohumil Klepl (Voice),
Taťána Kupcová (Voice)
Schwarzenberg Court Orchestra
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Sumptuous and ravishingSeptember 2, 2013By Anthony G. (SANTA FE, NM)See All My Reviews"I took a chance and purchased this music on a lark. Its music, its performance, and its uniqueness surpassed my expectations. I would love to hear more by this Scarlatti and consider it the most important purchase I have made this year."Report Abuse