Enter the sparkling world of eighteenth-century commedia musicale! Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's "Lo Frate 'nnamorato" is a jewel of an opera, rediscovered and mounted by Riccardo Muti and the forces of La Scala to univers... more »al acclaim. A charming tale of mismatched lovers and rival suitors, the story provides a wealth of arias and ensemble pieces displaying an astonishing variety of melodies! This sumptuous production reflects the superb alliance of musical and artistic talent brought together to make this little-known baroque masterpiece a triumph of the stage.« less
Italian baroque opera treat....lose a star for dvd transfer
J Scott Morrison | 12/02/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The sound is excellent, the menu is good, the performance is delightful. I turned up the "sharpness" on my Sony 7000 player to compensate for softness. Fortunately, the lighting is great which helps. I think that the softness is the result of a less than premium conversion from the European video system. Nevertheless this kind of thing must be enormously expensive to produce. We should be thankfull to IMAGE for it. I love the disk. I look forward to some "DDD" (all digital) opera dvds of 1998 performances."
Perhaps the 1st Ever Opera Buffa, Revived after 200 Years
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 10/31/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736) suffered both in life and in death. He died at the tender age of 26, and after his death the popularity of his second opera buffa (a form many believe he invented) led to wholesale publication of spurious works under his name which he, of course, could do nothing about. Then for almost two centuries these false works kept coming to light and it was said at one point that only one of his 'true' operatic works survived him, the one that made him famous, 'La Serva Padrona.' However, recent scholarship has assigned a number of other works to him, including this one, his first comic opera 'Lo Frate 'Nnamorato.' That title is in Neapolitan dialect and means 'The Brother in Love.' It has been incorrectly translated through the years as 'The Friar in Love.' There is no friar anywhere to be seen in the opera, but there is a 'brother' named Ascanio (sung, as it happens, originally by a castrato and here sung marvelously by soprano Nuccia Focile). It develops (in the last act, of course) that he is the long-lost brother of two sisters, Nina and Nena, whom he loves (as well as loving another woman named Luggrezia [Neapolitan for 'Lucrezia']; talk about a confused young man!) and thus to the relief of all concerned, him not least, his 'love' for Nina and Nena turns out to be only 'brotherly' not, ahem, romantic. Whew! And thereon turns the whole comedy of this delightful opera. Well, there's also the aged roué in love with a young girl, and a silly and pretentious fellow who is also in love with a young girl, servants who are smarter than their masters and ... you get the idea. This is not 'Hamlet,' folks, nor even 'Cosí fan tutte.' But it is all good fun and the music is terrific.
The opera was premièred in 1732 and enjoyed a brief popularity. Then it was 'lost' until found again thirty years or so ago. Riccardo Muti, the conductor of this performance, was instrumental in bringing it to the stage and this 1989 La Scala production was its first in more than 200 years. Muti brings brio and tenderness to the score and it is hard to imagine a more effective musical presentation. The singers, most of them unknown to me, are simply wonderful. The opera has a large cast and every single one of them has at least one aria. And with the exception of a bit of disappointment in Amelia Felle's performance of Nena's bravura aria with flute obbligato that opens Act III, 'Va solcando il mar d'amore,' there are no disappointments. This is an early work by Pergolesi--well, considering he died so young, I guess they're all early works, but his style did develop considerably over the eight years or so that he was writing--and most of the arias have a folk-song quality to them. This also means that the hummable quality we know from Italian folk music is present here in quantity. Some of you, even if you've never heard the opera before, will be surprised and pleased to recognize the first aria, 'Pupillette, fiammette d'amore,' sung by one of the suitors, Don Pietro, because it was used prominently in Stravinsky's ballet based on (mostly) Pergolesi tunes, 'Pulcinella.'
This is, of course, a late baroque opera and as such features ritornello arias, and I will admit that sometimes I groaned when a long aria seemingly started all over again with the first section repeat. There is no chorus and the recitatives are brief, so the opera comes across as a string of arias. There are a few duets, one trio and the finales of the second and third acts are quintets.
The mise en scène is a single set, a stylized pair of palazzos, side by side, on a turntable. Sets and costumes tend to be pastel--tans, soft yellows, greens, pinks all lit softly but clearly. Quite attractive, I thought.
I was very happy to make the acquaintance of this opera, not only because it documents an important phase in development of opera as an art form (and clearly a forerunner of Mozart and Rossini) but because it was so darned enjoyable.
TT=2hrs, 52 mins; English subtitles; booklet includes the untranslated Italian libretto.
Buy this opera for the singing alone
mackiemesser | Morehead, KY United States | 08/22/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 3 hour opera purports to be 100% Pergolesi. I wouldn't want to have to swear to that, but certainly the music is quite nice and is baroque with a few classical touches. R. Muti conducts a portion of the La Scala orchestra along with arch lutes, theorbos, and harpsichord. The playing is very good, though the string sound is more what I expect of a more modern period. I won't list all the singers, none of whom I recognize except for the Marcaniello (Alessandro Corbelli). There are 6 almost equally important soprano roles and each is sung extremely well. Several of the sopranos are so good that you can only wish the opera were longer so that you could here more. The male roles are well sung and the Marcaniello is excellent for the comic old codger role. While the plot is inconsequential, the comedy is very well done."
No, no, Signor Pergolesi... repetition is NOT the mother of
Ingrid Heyn | Melbourne, Australia | 05/24/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this production broadcast on television a few years ago, and thought that I was in for a treat. After all, a baroque opera of supposedly delicious comic frotheries... conducted by Riccardo Muti... I was sure that watching this opera would be a delight. Admittedly, I'd not heard the opera previously, so had no idea about whether the work itself was great, but as I'm a baroque opera lover, I expected to be enthralled and pleased.
The sets were fine. The costumes were fine. I supposed the look of everyone was fine. But... oh dear, it's the work itself that is the big let-down.
This is truly one of the few operas I can call "tedious". (I have three thousand operatic CD recordings, and countless opera DVDs, so I'm not speaking out of a dislike for the genre.) The camera work is a little odd - we see the camera swing away to Riccardo Muti far too often for the viewer to become immersed in the production - but this camera work does have the advantage that one can see the expression on Sr Muti's face.
How can I describe it? He looks as though he is being forced to eat rubbery fish, badly overcooked and without any disguising garnish. In a word... bored.
And it's evident in his conducting, too. The man is bored, and he conducts as though he's bored, as though the music bores him, the production bores him, and the entire evening bores him. I'm afraid I have to concur - the music was simply not up to the high standard of which Pergelosi was capable. It was filled with not-very-interesting melodies as the staple of each aria, each of which followed similar patterns. Not only was there this internal sense of repetition in the patterns, but the arias themselves were performed da capo without any saving grace by way of embellishments to make the repeat of the already over-familiar sound interesting, different, or exciting.
The cast did their best with this uninspiring material. None of the singers stood out as magnificent, but they were certainly better than the constraints under which they performed. I suspect it was Riccardo Muti who determined the limits of the da capo repeats, as he's notorious for not wishing the singers to add anything to the score as notated, but in baroque music, such embellishment is REQUIRED, not optional. Yet even had he permitted the singers to decorate their da capos, would it have enlivened this production?
I am forced to conclude: no. The work is simply not interesting...
For truly exciting baroque opera performances, there are many excellent Handel productions on DVD worth having (the Agrippina with Gens; the Lully operas now available (in spite of some peculiar staging at times); several of the Monteverdi operas; the really charming Vivaldi opera Orlando Furioso; and so on).
Not recommended except for diehard Pergolesi fans. I just couldn't bear to watch it again, I'm afraid."
Inimitable -- but keep expectations in line
Andrew Powell | Santa Monica, CA | 05/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Charming music, and a work of theater that spawned a new genre: commedia musicale (not actually opera buffa). We are winding the clock back to 1732 here -- and we are in Italy, not the contrapuntal North of Händel and Bach -- so expect thinner, softer textures and carefree melodic invention.
Bargain note: this Opus Arte issue is available in some areas as part of an 11-opera DVD collection, mostly from La Scala, Milan, at a price so low it may be a packaging error. Investigate."