What a wonderful age we music-lovers live in! First, there was the flood of recordings of Baroque vocal works that opened our ears to the wonders of that era; think of all the Handel operas and oratorios alone that we'd never have heard until recently! And now there seems to be a growing spate of mid-to-late-18th century operas coming to us from all over the place. I'm reminded, for instance, of the recent DVD of Paisiello's 'Nina,' starring Cecilia Bartoli. Now comes a comic gem by Baldassarre Galuppi (1706-1785). I must admit that the only music of his with which I was familiar was a delightfully unpretentious and entirely engaging piano sonata that was recorded (and widely championed) by Arturo Benedetto Michelangeli. I knew from the sonata that Galuppi had a way with melody and charm. This opera, one of almost twenty Galuppi wrote with the legendary librettist, Carlo Goldoni, extends my favorable impression of 'il Buranello' (as Galuppi was called, after his native city of Burano, an exurb of Venice). It contains consistently good-natured music that, if not particularly complicated, is unfailingly pleasant and, perhaps more to the point, melodically memorable. For days I've been hearing in my mind's ear Dorina's catchy 'Si distingue dal nobil il vile,' in which she comments on the inevitable war between the sexes.
This performance derives from a production of the Lautten Compagney Berlin, an ensemble founded by two lutenists, Wolfgang Katschner and Hans-Werner Apel. Katschner conducts this performance with spirit and flexibility. The singers, from the look of them, are all young and attractive. The voices are fresh, possibly none of them destined for world-class houses but perfect for this ensemble opera, itself suitable for an intimate theater. Kremena Dilcheva, mezzo, as the plucky heroine Dorina, is outstanding, as is her lover Giannino, sung by Matthias Vieweg, baritone. The rest of the cast is fine, including Johnny Maldonado, countertenor, as the ineffectual Count Nastri, and Egbert Junghans as the pompous and gullible Don Poppone. American tenor Tom Allen is especially fine as the hotel owner, Falco. The silly Goldonian plot revolves around most of the males in the cast being attracted to Dorina with attendant jealousies, mistaken identities, hopes for marital or inherited fortunes. All, of course, ends well, and that's all one needs to know.
The title, 'La Diavolessa' ('The She-Devil') arises when Dorina disguises herself as a devil (along with her lover, Giannino) in order to scare Don Poppone who is gullible enough to believe she's the real thing. Silly, yes, but it leads to a wonderful second act finale in which Galuppi and Goldoni conceive one climax after another, each funnier than the last.
'La Diavolessa' is not by the always psychologically apt and musically rewarding Mozart, but one can imagine Rossini lurking in the wings and learning how to construct a comic opera. And he couldn't have found a better master.
Enthusiastically recommended for all lovers of opera buffa.
2 CDs TT=125:15