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Hidden treasures - Vicente Martín y Soler - La scuola dei maritati (1795) - Selected highlights

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Published on Jul 14, 2011

History: Born and raised in Valencia, Vicente Martín y Soler (1754-1806) is primarily remembered today for being quoted by Mozart in "Don Giovanni", though in the composer's lifetime his popularity seems to have been equal to the Austrian maestro's renown. Soler's pursuits as a writer of dramatic music took him around to many of Europe's capitals - Naples (1777), Venice (1782), Vienna (1785), Saint-Petersburg (1788) and London (1795) - and found him composing piece for such luminaries, as Ferdinand I of the Two Sicilies and Maria Carolina, sister of Emperor Joseph II. It was in Vienna, after 1785, where Martin was to write the three comedies that represent the peak of his career: "Il burbero di buon cuore" (1786), "Una cosa rara" (1786) and "L'arbore di Diana" (1787). In particular, "L'arbore" was the most performed Italian opera of the 70 given at the Burgtheater between 1783 and 1792. On a side note, the famous poet Lorenzo Da Ponte who wrote the librettos for all three works credited the launching of his career as a librettist to Martín. In this case, however, we will approach a work written after the three noted hits. After leaving Saint-Petersburg in 1794, Martin settled in London and once again collaborated with Da Ponte on two operas, the first of them being the work in question - "La scuola dei maritati" or "La capricciosa correta" (1795) - a good-natured comedy that was one of the most frequently performed operas that season.

Narrative: The plot of "La capricciosa" is a light, Goldoniesque comedy, recalling in its gentle humor on the turbulent relationships of a close circle of family and friends Da Ponte's earlier "Cosi fan tutti". Bonario (baritone), a wealthy merchant, has rashly entered into a second marriage with the young and vain Ciprigna (soprano) who singlehandedly throws his household into mayhem. From this premise we are treated to a long summer day filled with growing confusion, as the whole family tries to correct Ciprigna's behavior, culminating in a foiled plot of the capricious woman to elope with a mysterious Oriental who turns out to be the trusty servant Fiuta (baritone) in disguise, leading to an ultimate change of heart for Ciprigna. It is a simple, strikingly realistic plot, incorporating various charming details, such as the desire of Bonario's children, Valerio and Isabella (tenor and soprano), to vacate their father's villa due to Ciprigna's presence and the forced wooing of the later by Lelio (tenor), Isabella's lover, who is brought into the plot of the household.

Music: If we were to approach Mozart with the prejudice of "too many notes", i.e. complexity in vocal interplay, inspired accompaniments and variety in the structuring of musical material, then Soler's writing represents the opposite idiom of "too few notes" as it were. "La capricciosa" centers almost exclusively on canzones, melody-dominated, dance-like songs with periodicity in rhythm, phrasing and form and, above all, a non-dramatic or lyrical nature. These are mostly of pastoral nature, seemingly replicating the music one might hear in a village that has been locked away from the world for a number of years. Consequently there is quite little in Soler's writing of true musicological, critical interest, unlike the similarly conceived "Le nozze di Figaro". However, one would be extremely hard-pressed to state that the work is not enjoyable. Quite on the contrary, the rustic charm of the plot and the characters is fully on display in an admirable sequence of straightforward but instantly memorable and, at times, strikingly enchanting numbers, such as the tremulous Act One finale, Ciprigna's ornament-laden arias or the baritones' insistant grumbling. However, the most remarkable and truly inspiring pieces of the work are a most handsome notturno-quintet which reminds one, in its elegant lines and evocative woodwind writing, the luminous "Soave sia il vento" (7:07) and Lelio's fine lyric outpouring to Isabella which is just as sincere and lovely as any of Mozart's similarly scored arias (4:27).

Recording: The 2003 Naïve recording features fine leadership from Christophe Rousset leading the thoroughly professional Les Talens Lyriques and an enthusiastic cast of unfamiliar but thoroughly charming singers.
Marguerite Krull - Cirpigna,
Emiliano Gonzales-Toro - Valerio (tenor), Bonario's son,
Katia Velletaz - Isabella (soprano), Bonario's daughter,
Yves Saelens - Lelio (tenor), Isabella's lover.
Josep Miquel Ramon - Fiuta,
Carlos Marin - Don Giglio (baritone), Cirpigna's suitor,
Enrique Baquerizo - Bonario,
Raffaella Milanesi - Cilia (soprano), servant in Bonario's household.

Hope you'll enjoy =).

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