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The Count, the Widow and the Clandestine Couple

Teatro Regio
01/15/2020 -  & January, 17, 18, 22*, 24, 2020
Domenico Cimarosa: Il matrimonio segreto
Carolina Lippo (Carolina), Marco Filippo Romano (Il Signor Geronimo), Alasdair Kent (Paolino), Markus Werba (Il conte Robinson), Monica Bacelli (Fidalma), Eleonora Bellocci (Elisetta)
Carlo Caputo (fortepiano), Orchestra del Teatro Regio Torino, Nikolas Nägele (conductor)
Pier Luigi Pizzi (stage director, sets & costumes), Andrea Anfossi (lights)

(© Edoardo Piva)

Based on an English play, The Clandestine Marriage, Cimarosa’s most famous opera was quite popular at the time of its creation and during much of the following century. The music is reminiscent of contemporaries such as Salieri, Mozart and Haydn, and on occasion there are moments announcing Rossini. Nowadays, Il matrimonio segreto is the only Cimarosa opera that is still occasionally performed. Teatro Regio di Torino offered the opportunity to watch this relatively rare opera under ideal conditions: original contemporary sets, smart and intelligent staging by Pier Luigi Pizzi and an excellent cast.

Like Così fan tutte, the opera has 6 characters, an ideal number for an intimate comedy. The entire opera takes place in the house of the rich merchant Geronimo. The protagonists are the merchant, his two daughters, the haughty Elisetta and the spirited Carolina, his widowed sister Fidalma, his young enterprising secretary Paolino and finally the latter’s friend, an English nobleman, Count Robinson. In the opening scene, we learn that Carolina and Paolino have secretly wed a few months earlier. Paolino is arranging to convince his nobleman friend Count Robinson to marry the older daughter Elisetta for her enticing dowery. He is convinced that the nouveau riche merchant would accept his marrying the younger daughter once the family is ennobled through Elisetta’s marriage. Since this is a comedy, things get complicated. The Count is not impressed by Elisetta and wants to marry Carolina instead. Geronimo agrees as the Count offers to lower the dowery by half. Finally, the widow Fidalma has set her eyes on young Paolino. Things get hectic until the young couple are caught in Carolina’s bedroom and confess their marriage. To soothe the situation, the gallant Count Robinson accepts marrying Elisetta bringing the opera to a happy end.

Pier Luigi Pizzi is a multitalented artist. This gifted stage director also designs the sets and costumes. Though the intrigue does not really work in a contemporary setting, the action is moved to the present time. Geronimo’s home is a smart apartment worthy of a chic interior design magazine. He is also that all-too-rare stage director that understands great comedy is not buffoonery.

Basso Marco Filippo Romano was an excellent choice for Geronimo. He has a natural comic verve and he clowns around without excess. His amusing Act I aria “Udite, tutti udite” is very much in Rossini’s style and Romano makes the most out of it. The other comic is the widow Fidalma, sung by Monica Bacelli, whose rich mezzo contrasts well with the soprano of the two sisters. Bacelli manages to amuse through her vocal interpretation as well as by her acting as a lovesick middle-aged woman who vehemently courts the young Paolino. Her Act I aria, “E vero che in casa io son la padrona” is an excellent depiction of the character.

Austrian baritone Markus Werba is an ideal Count Robinson portraying the English nobleman as nonchalant more than supercilious or pompous. The latter choice would have led to more buffoonery and less bite. In his opening aria “Senza tante ceremonie,” he paints the character well and without excess. Australian tenor Alasdair Kent sings Paolino and is able to convince one of the character’s naiveté, which makes him much more sympathetic. Vocally, this is an accomplished Rossini singer who is already making a name for himself. He is also a convincing actor who moves well on stage. He impressed in his Act II aria “Pria che in ciel spunti l’aurora” with the refinement of his style. Equally impressive was Carolina Lippa as Carolina. Her soprano is fruity and agile, her technique is secure and her stage presence overwhelming. Though Eleanora Bellocci, the older singer Elisetta, is a competent singer, her voice is too similar to Lippa’s. This somewhat weakens the duets between the two and the delightful Act I trio “Signora Sorellina, le faccio un inchino” (Carolina-Elisetta-Fidalma). Much of the music is in the form of trios and ensembles rather than arias. The Act I quartet “Sento in petto un freddo gelo” (Count Robinson-Carolina-Elisetta-Fidalma) was masterfully and elegantly sung. Nikolas Nägele was an attentive conductor who sometimes opted for fast tempi, but he certainly has a feel for this music. In all, a delightful evening.

Ossama el Naggar



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