Notes and Editorial Reviews
La diavolessa dates some way into the Galuppi/Goldoni canon, being the 13th of their joint ventures. It was first given during November 1755 at Teatro San Samuele in Venice, and like many of Galuppi’s operas soon traveled beyond the confines of Italy, being taken up in Leipzig and Prague in the year following its Venetian premiere. The motivational force of the plot is greed, but Goldoni also has some pertinent observations on social status to make. The action centers round the Naples home of Don Poppone, a wealthy fool obsessed by the belief that there is hidden treasure in his cellar. Two couples arrive at his house: by invitation, a socially conscious Roman count and countess; and Dorina and Giannino, a pair of young lovers whose
relationship is foundering for lack of money, sent by Falco, a wily Neapolitan innkeeper, who has told Poppone that the young couple will help him “recover” his treasure. Needless to say, Poppone confuses the identity of the two couples when they arrive, and only after the plan to relieve him of his money is revealed are the ensuing twists and turns of the plot ultimately resolved to the satisfaction of all.
The music with which Galuppi clothes this imbroglio combines his familiar merits of direct, tuneful simplicity with no mean ability to give his characters a credible personality. Arias given to the Count and Countess are distinguished from those of characters lower in the social order by their marginally greater complexity, the Count’s act-I “Tenta invan” being the most elaborate number in the opera and a fine example of the aria di grazioso, a genre in which Galuppi excelled. For the Countess, Galuppi provided an effective mock aria di furia in act II. The feigned assumption of nobility by Dorina and Giannino provided Galuppi with the chance to parody their airs and graces, most amusingly in Giannino’s “Colle dame,” where the graceful minuet tempo is interrupted by more pithy asides. There is, indeed, scarcely an aria without its own charm, wit, or gentle sentimentality, but the ultimate highlight is the act-II finale, a splendid send-up of the magic scenes so beloved of opera seria. Here, introduced by portentous minor chords laden with snarling horns, a terrified Poppone is led by Falco to his cellar, where by magical invocation (and some of his cash) the treasure will be revealed by demons, alias Dorina (who thus becomes “The She-devil” of the title) and Giannino. The whole scene is thrust forward with a dynamic momentum punctuated only by the horrified reactions of the gullible Poppone.
The brightly alert performance is associated with a live production given in Potsdam in 2004, although—unusually—the recording appears to predate the staging by some considerable time. Wolfgang Katschner captures the spirit of the piece excellently, employing tempos that seem invariably apposite, and drawing well-sprung rhythms and crisply articulated playing from his strings. While Italians would inevitably have brought rather more point to the long stretches of secco recitative, there are no disappointments in the virtually unknown cast, although, like me, you may find the oddly masculine sound of Kremena Dilcheva’s lower register off-putting (Dorina is a beautiful girl, the object of attention of all the male members of the cast at one time or another). Particularly impressive are the Countess of Bettina Pahn, and the Don Poppone of Egbert Junghanns, who on this evidence is an outstanding buffo bass. It is worth noting that the Tom Allen who sings the role of Falco so effectively is an American tenor, not the distinguished British baritone, a trap into which Amazon’s Web site has fallen. My only other reservation is a familiar problem: the lack of a clear policy toward ornamentation of repeats, here lavishly employed by some members of the cast (in particular Doerthe Maria Sandmann’s charming Ghiandina), but virtually ignored by others. Notwithstanding, this makes for an excellent addition to the relative small number of recommendable recordings of Galuppi’s unpretentiously enjoyable comic operas, particularly given that sound and presentation are also both first-rate.
Brian Robins, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
La Diavolessa by Baldassare Galuppi
Thomas Michael Allen (Tenor),
Egbert Junghanns (Bass),
Bettina Pahn (Soprano),
Matthias Viewig (Baritone),
Doerthe Maria Sandmann (Soprano),
Kremena Dilcheva (Alto),
Johnny Maldonado (Countertenor)
Written: by 1755; Italy
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