Ensemble

Promised in Marriage

GIUSEPPE PENNISI reports from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro

 

The Rossini Opera Festival (ROF) has had to modify its 2020 program drastically, as already announced in this magazine, for reasons related to the rules of social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This summer season, only one new opera production is presented: La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Promissory Note), combined with the short cantata Giovanna D'Arco. The audience is hosted in the 99 boxes (no more than two spectators per box) of the Teatro Rossini, the orchestra is on a platform where the stall seats normally are (with the instrumentalists appropriately spaced) and the stage is occupied by an important and ingenious structure.

The orchestra for Rossini Opera Festival's production of 'La cambiale di matrimonio'
The orchestra for Rossini Opera Festival's production of La cambiale di matrimonio

In addition to this work, the Festival is repeating (as has been done for about thirty years) Il Viaggio a Reims in the edition by Emilio Sagi with the young people of the Rossinian Academy and a series of concerts. Both Il Viaggio and the concerts are outdoors in the beautiful People's Square. As the theatre could host only a very limited number of people, the press and critics were the audience for the 6 August 2020 preview. In addition, only La cambiale di matrimonio was staged that day because Marianna Pizzolato, who was supposed to sing the short cantata, was ill.

La cambiale di matrimonio was discussed in this magazine quite recently on 30 October 2019 when the opera was proposed in a semi-staged edition at the Teatro di Villa Torlonia; then, it was co-produced by the Roman Philharmonic Academy and the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia with the students of their masterclasses. The edition presented in Pesaro is co-produced with the Royal Opera House in Muscat (where it will be staged in a few months). It features stage direction by Laurence Dale, sets by Gary McCann (who also signs the costumes), the Rossini Symphony Orchestra conducted by Dmitry Korchak and the best performers of the Rossinian repertoire.

A scene from Rossini Opera Festival's production of 'La cambiale di matrimonio'
A scene from Rossini Opera Festival's production of La cambiale di matrimonio

Few operagoers remember that the first success of the then eighteen-year-old Gioacchino Rossini was La cambiale di matrimonio, a farce in music that was first performed at the Teatro San Moisè in Venice on 3 November 1810. It is not the first work that the composer of Pesaro wrote - that was Demetrio e Polibio, composed in 1806, then completed and performed in Rome in 1812 - but it was the first Rossini opera to be staged. Rossini composed La cambiale di matrimonio on a libretto by Gaetano Rossi from the play of the same name by Camillo Federici. It was a great success: Rossini sat at the harpsichord and conducted all the Venetian performances.

The plot is very simple, but able to provide the cue for tasty arias and concertati (which fully reveal Rossini's early talent). According to the libretto, it takes place in the 'elegant' living room of the home of the rich merchant Tobia Mill (Carlo Lepore). In this production, due to the skilful stage sets, we see not only the 'elegant' living room, but the entire mansion, including the kitchen and the garden. Tobia Mill's daughter, the young Fanny (Giuliana Gianfaldoni), was promised in marriage in spite of her wishes, and behind the signature of a 'marriage promissory note', to the mature American correspondent Mr Slook (Iurii Samoilov). Fanny is instead in love with Edward Milfort (Davide Giusti), a young family friend, and, when Slook comes enthusiastically from America to 'withdraw the bride' the knots can only come to the comb.

From left to right: Iurii Samoilov as Mr Slook, Giuliana Gianfaldoni as Fanny and Davide Giusti as Edward Milfort in Rossini Opera Festival's production of 'La cambiale di matrimonio'
From left to right: Iurii Samoilov as Mr Slook, Giuliana Gianfaldoni as Fanny and Davide Giusti as Edward Milfort in Rossini Opera Festival's production of La cambiale di matrimonio

The young woman tries to dissuade Slook from 'buying' her, while Edward – in a more awkward manner – comes to threaten the merchant from overseas. When Slook is frightened, he tells Tobia Mill that he intends to give up the 'deal' and is challenged in a duel. Also thanks to the intervention of Mill's housekeepers, Norton (Pablo Galvez) and Clarina (Martiniana Antonie) – there is a happy ending. Slook turns the promissory note for the benefit of the young Edward and, with good peace of everyone, the usual final rondo will favour the happy outcome of the operation.

Curtain calls for Rossini Opera Festival's production of 'La cambiale di matrimonio'
Curtain calls for Rossini Opera Festival's production of La cambiale di matrimonio

Rossini had a lot of affection for this youthful work - so much that he took a central piece of it: the aria 'Vorrei spiegarvi il giubilo', and carried it evenly in Il Barbiere di Siviglia. The little opera is a small gem and the ROF has fully enhanced it. Firstly, the conducting of Dmitry Korchak, until now known above all as a lyrical tenor of agility; he has the arm wide and infuses rhythm to the orchestra. Carlo Lepore excels in the cast, but all six are of excellent standard. In the opera, the ensembles and the concertati prevail. The company is well accustomed to work together.

Copyright © 8 August 2020 Giuseppe Pennisi,
Rome, Italy

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