Rossini's Sparkling Early One-Acter
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"For most of us the only thing we know from 'La Scala di Seta' is its jaunty overture. After its successful Venetian premiere in 1812 this one-act 'farse' pretty much disappeared. There have been some late twentieth-century revivals, using a fairly newly discovered manuscript in Rossini's hand found in Sweden. The production on this DVD is from the 1990 Schwetzingen Festival (in its marvelous small rococo theater) and features excellent singers and the marvelous Stuttgart Radio Symphony under the direction of Rossini specialist Gianluigi Gelmetti.
The performance gets off to a chuckling start with the wonderful overture conducted with more than a touch of ham by Gelmetti. His tempi are swift and the SRSO's wind principals play with technical skill and breathtaking abandon. The camera focuses much of the time, during the overture, on Gelmetti and he puts on quite a puckish performance that matches anything seen later in the opera itself.
The plot of the opera features Dormont's ward, Giulia, who is secretly married to Dorvil, who comes to visit her each night, climbing into her bedroom by means of the silken ladder of the opera's title. Why they are married secretly is not explained and probably doesn't matter in this chestnut of a plot. Dormont wants her married to his friend Blansac. To foil that plan Giulia and Dorvil arrange for Blansac, a notorious womanizer, to flirt with Giulia's cousin, Lucilla, and have this observed. Complications ensue but all comes right in the end, of course.
This is an ensemble opera and all of the principals take their parts with theatrical and musical aptness. There is a Figaro-like servant and scamp, Germano, who is sung and acted perfectly by Alessandro Corbelli. Giulia is sung by soprano Luciana Serra, whose rather brittle coloratura has never been my cup of tea; she easily manages the part's musical difficulties but in a voice that is not in itself terribly attractive. Her lover/husband, Dorvil, is sung very well by tenor David Kuebler; this is the best I've ever heard/seen him, in fact. Lucilla is sung well by mezzo Jane Bunnell and in her brief aria 'Sento talor nell'anima un dolce movimento' is neatly done. The rake Blansac is broadly acted and beautifully sung by Alberto Rinaldi, who does everything but twirl his mustache in this comic villain role. Dormont is done nicely and handsomely by David Griffith. The highlight ensemble is the extended quartet 'Si che unito a cara sposa' that comes midway in the act.
This is not top-drawer Rossini; or rather, if one compares it with later Rossini efforts, it is clear that he continued to develop musically and dramatically. Still, for what it is, 'La Scala di Seta' is one of the better one-act farces of the period. This production's sets are luxurious as are the costumes. They are of the period and one is glad that costume and set designers did nothing to obtrusively call attention to their efforts. No Euro-trashing here.
Sound: PCM stereo/DD 5.1/DTS 5.1; Subtitles in Italian, English, German, Spanish, French; Region code 0 (worldwide); TT=100mins. No extras except for trailers for other EuroArts opera DVDs.
An additional star...
Nancy Eckert | Bellefontaine, OH USA | 03/06/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Scott Morrison did his usual fine job of reviewing, but I gave it five stars because the production is such a pleasure. The house alone deserves five stars. How satisfying to be presented with this delicious theater and how refreshing to have a darn near perfect combination of creativity, talent and effort. Watching Gelmetti conducting the little orchestra of very worthy musicians started things off on a high note (no pun). Charming.... absolutely charming."