Notes and Editorial Reviews
I tre amanti
Edwin Loehrer, cond; Basi Retchitzka (
); Carlo Gaifa (
); Rodolfo Malacarne (
); Laerte Malaguti (
Nebia); Maria Grazia Ferracini (
); Swiss-Italian RTO
NUOVA ERA 232888 (2
Text and Translation)
This two-disc intermezzo that Domenico Cimarosa penned in 1777 must be regarded first and foremost as a historical recording, given that the original tapes were done in the studios of Swiss-Italian Radio-Television in Lugano back in 1968. The brainchild of conductor Edwin Loehrer (1906–91), they have lain dormant in the archives for more than three decades, and while their appearance now, in a remastered digitalization by Werner Walter, is just the sort of thing that Nuova Era specializes in, this particular piece and the circumstances surrounding its recording are well worth examining. Regarding the latter, Loehrer conceived of a project during the 1960s whereby previously unknown (or rarely performed) pieces by composers whose names were mere fodder for the lexicons were revived as a sort of experiment to expand the then limited content of most commercial recordings. Following two successful large-scale cycles devoted to Italian Renaissance vocal polyphony and works for the voice from the huge historical repertoire of Italy, he conceived of a plan whereby he would use specially created studio recordings to explore performance practice, particularly of opera of the 18th century. He chose pieces that were less known, hired singers who were competent but not well known, and used the studio as a testing lab for the newfangled ideas of true performance practice that were just in their nascence. The result was a series of works that, while they were broadcast during that time, have largely been relegated to the archives as a noble experiment that went nowhere. If one thinks this a museum piece, consider what would be the disadvantages and costs of trying to do something similar today.
I tre amanti
is just the sort of piece that audiences of the period loved. It was cheerful, witty, and filled with characters that appealed to their sense of fair play and humor. A girl with a quirky personality but quite willing to be married (and, of course, with a sizeable dowry) by the name of Violante is wooed by three very different suitors: the Barone della Nebbia, an impoverished scion of a noble family with exhaustive pedigree (reminiscent of Count Robinson of
Il matrimonio segreto
); a vainglorious bully named Don Riccardo, and Don Arsenio, a bit of a bubblebrain and extremely naive but with his heart in the right place. Don Riccardo’s bad-boy manners have attracted Violante’s maid, Brunetta, who acts as the servant foil for all of the insanity that infuses this bagatelle. In a fast-paced two acts, Violante teases her suitors, forces them to serenade Brunetta in disguise (which they do poorly), and finally has to endure the Baron and Don Riccardo arresting her favorite, Arsenio, as a Captain Bombarda, a nasty pirate. When Violante disguises herself as Riccardo’s sister in order to free Arsenio, she is wooed by both to her disgust, and thereafter chooses the right partner. It’s all superficial, all great fun, and one should not have any expectation of depth or message here.
Cimarosa’s overture is probably the earliest of his potpourri type. The themes come fast and furiously one upon the other in breathless succession. His orchestration is tailored to evoke the maximum entertainment value with its lively content. The arias are all short and sweet, replete with word-painting of a satirical sort, and the finales are typically
in their fast and faster pacing. When the Baron illuminates his ancestry in “Madama sa chi sono,” with its G-Major split triads and parlando, we are close to the world of Rossini’s Figaro, a factotum with illustrious ancestors (dukes, barons, and kings) as well as lands, vaguely described as the Antipodes. Violante herself is quite the coquette, baiting her suitors on, but in her final duet with Don Arsenio, there is a certain sweetness in her lyrical lines (and his, too, although Cimarosa requires a high B?). If one is looking for the intricacies of Mozart, Cimarosa probably will disappoint, but if one really wants to know what people liked during the 18th century, this is about as close an example as you can find. Indeed, this sort of work would be perfect for those singers wishing to learn period style rather than diving right into Mozart.
Since it is an older recording, some of the singing techniques are antiquated, but given that almost all of the singers would be in their 70s or 80s today, to quibble about quality seems disingenuous. Basi Retchitzka’s Violante can sound a bit thin, but the male voices are full of vigor and expression (and they hit the notes, no mean feat in Cimarosa). Maria Grazia Ferracini’s soubrette Brunetta is clear and light, as it is supposed to be. For an old recording, this one not only stands the test of time, even remastered, it still sounds fresh. While it is a pity that economics probably preclude more works being recorded by the same method, it will be a nice series if all of the remainder are of the same high quality. The only fault is an Italian-only libretto, but this is minor. For lovers of popular 18th-century opera, this is one to have in the collection, despite its age.
FANFARE: Bertil van Boer
Works on This Recording
I tre amanti by Domenico Cimarosa
Basia Retchitzka (Soprano),
Carlo Gaifa (Tenor),
Rodolfo Malacarne (Tenor),
Maria Grazia Ferracini (Voice),
Laerte Malaguti (Baritone)
Italian Switzerland Radio/TV Orchestra
Written: 1777; Italy
Date of Recording: 03/1968/04/1963
Venue: Studio Auditorio RSI, Lugano, Svizzera
Length: 5 Minutes 4 Secs.
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