Saturday, July 21, 2007

Frenetic Vaudeville

...is what you get when you put together Rossini (the music), Goldoni (the play) and Dario Fo (the producer)! What a team!

The opera buffa 'La gazzetta' was almost lost, and only staged in 1960 for the first time. Apparently it needed surgery and reconstruction to be put together. I'd say! When I heard the overture to 'La Cenerentola' I feared I was in the wrong opera! Later there was an underlay of an aria from the 'Barber of Seville'; and there were semi spoken recitatives, sometimes underpinned by unusual instruments, such as a flute.

But the production put everything into the shade. The DVD recording (opus arte 0953 D) was made in the Gran Teatre de Liceu in Barcelona, where the very delightful conductor Maurizio Barbacini had everything under firm control - and he had a speaking part, too! The orchestra incidentally seemed to be a very young group, and they played with plenty of enthusiasm.

Under Fo's direction the show was totally crazy. The story is, briefly, that a neapolitan businessman visits Paris with his daughter, and decides to advertise for a husband for her. With predictable consequences. Amongst the candidates is a Quaker (an unusual character in an opera - did they exist even in Goldoni's times?) - here the Quakers looked like Pilgrim Fathers. The funniest thing was that Don Pomponio (the neapolitan) introduced himself as 'short and rotund' - the casting had done well here with Bruno Pratico.

This production was set in the 1920, and involved non-stop dancing and other background activities - the stage was nearly always full of action. The singers didn't just have to sing, they had to dance a tango, juggle (bombs!), work a finger puppet chicken (the other chickens did a great chorus line!), do a backwards flip - opera singing ain't what it used to be! If you want to stand still in Western Europe, go and sing oratorios - and even then....

Rossini's operas obviously give great scope for wacky performances. This one is brilliant, and well worth having! I wish they'd also record the Sydney Opera House version of the Barber of Seville!


smcneil@afsc.org said...

Quakers were about as much around there then as now, and costume similar to Puritan/Pilgrim