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8.660128 - ROSSINI: Signor Bruschino (Il)
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Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)

Il Signor Bruschino

 

Born in Pesaro in 1792, the son of a horn-player and a singer, Rossini even in childhood had experience of the theatre, both as an orchestral player and as a singer himself. His first professional success as a composer of opera came in 1810 with La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract), the first of five such light-hearted works for the Teatro San Moisè in Venice. Il Signor Bruschino is the last of these one-act operas, in style prefiguring what was to come.

 

In the course of only a few years Rossini built up a reputation in Italy, with a series of operas, both comic and tragic. In 1822 he was in Vienna for a season of his operas there and the following year his Semiramide was staged at La Fenice in Venice. This marked the end of Rossini’s career in Italy as an opera-composer. In recent years there had been attractive offers from abroad, a mark of his widespread popularity. Now married to the soprano Isabella Colbran, whose career was drawing to a close, he moved to Paris, the city for which his later operas were written, at first Il viaggio a Reims at the Théâtre Italien, followed by revisions of two earlier works for the Paris Opéra, and finally Le Comte Ory and, in 1829, the demanding four-act Guillaume Tell. There were negotiations for a new opera based on Goethe’s Faust, but the fall of the restored Bourbon monarchy and the rise to power of a new government under the so-called citizen king Louis-Philippe, with more stringent financial policies, ended Rossini’s contract for further operas and, for the moment, the life annuity that had been granted him. This was only restored six years later, after much aggravation. By now Rossini was, in any case, exhausted. He had written 39 operas in less than twenty years and won an astonishing degree of popular adulation. He now divided his time between Paris and Bologna, finding some relief from the company of his wife, who remained in Bologna, with Olympe Pélissier. In 1837 he eventually separated from Colbran, but it was only after his wife’s death in 1845 that Rossini was able to marry his mistress.

 

The later years of Rossini’s life found him concerned with music in Bologna, notably as consultant to the Liceo Musicale. Growing political disturbance there led him to move first to Florence, and then, in 1855, to France. He built a villa for himself at Passy, and during his final years occupied himself with writing the varied pieces that form his so-called Péchés de vieillesse (Sins of Old Age). His historical reputation was secure, in spite of changes in operatic fashion, and he continued to enjoy fame as a wit and as a gourmet. Performances of his operas at one time concentrated on opera buffa, the style that Beethoven had recommended him to follow during Rossini’s visit to Vienna in 1822, and Il barbiere di Siviglia has always held its place in operatic repertoire. More recent years have also brought performances of Rossini’s more serious works, as the demanding technical skills required of performers have been cultivated once more.

 

The farsa giocosa in one act, Il Signor Bruschino, has a libretto based on the French play Le fils par hasard, ou Ruse et folie by Alissan de Chazet and E.-T.Maurice Ourry by the Italian librettist Giuseppe Maria Foppa, a versatile and prolific writer in Venice who provided composers with some hundred libretti. For Rossini he wrote the libretti of three of the farse giocose then popular in Venice, and the libretto for the dramma Sigismondo for La Fenice.

 

Synopsis

 

[1] The opera opens with an overture that is well enough known in the concert hall, punctuated, as it is, by the tapping of violinists’ bows on their music stands. [2] The scene reveals the ground-floor room of a country house, giving onto a garden. Florville is in love with Sofia. He is joined in the garden by the latter’s maid, Marianna, who tells him that he will soon learn his fate. She re-enters the house, to emerge again with Sofia, and the couple sing of their joy at being together. [3] Sofia’s guardian, Gaudenzio Strappapuppole, has long been an enemy of Florville’s father. The latter is now dead, but Sofia tells her lover not to raise his hopes, as she is now promised to the son of a certain Signor Bruschino, whom she has never seen, any more than Gaudenzio has. Florville at once conceives a plan. As he himself is unknown personally to Gaudenzio, he begins, but breaks off when Marianna, who has been on watch, tells them someone is coming. The women return to the house, and Florville stands aside. The newcomer is the inn-keeper Filiberto, talking to himself of the money that Signor Bruschino owes him. Seeing Florville, he asks if he is from the house, and Florville tells him that he is Signor Gaudenzio’s agent. Filiberto goes on to explain that a young fellow called Bruschino, who has a father suffering from gout, has been at his inn for three days and run up a debt of four hundred francs. He is now detained there until the debt is paid. The young man has given him a letter for Signor Gaudenzio to give to his father. Florville announces himself the young man’s cousin and seems anxious to keep news of the young Bruschino’s imprudence from Gaudenzio.

 

[4] Florville pays part of the young Bruschino’s debt, on condition that the latter remains detained by Filiberto, who gives Florville the letter he has brought.

[5] Florville’s plan is to present himself as the young Bruschino.

 

[6] Gaudenzio, alone, considers his situation with a degree of self-satisfaction.

[7] He has found a good match for Sofia, but would like to be even with Florville. Marianna enters with a letter that Florville has given her, which Gaudenzio reads. It is apparently from old Bruschino, who warns Gaudenzio that his son has been acting the wastrel but should be detained by Gaudenzio. He adds information on two distinguishing marks by which the young man can be recognised, since Gaudenzio has never met him. Gaudenzio gives the note supposedly describing young Bruschino to his servants and tells them to find him. He tells Marianna not to mention what she has heard to Sofia. At this point Gaudenzio’s servants bring Florville in, identified from the false description. He admits that he is Bruschino, and in apparent penitence gives Gaudenzio the letter from young Bruschino to his father, the one, as he explains in an aside to Marianna, that he had had from Filiberto. In seeming gratitude for Gaudenzio’s acceptance of him, he kisses the latter’s hand, and Gaudenzio assures him that his father will forgive him. He goes into the house with Marianna and the servants.

 

At this point the voice of old Bruschino is heard. He bursts in, his temper not improved by the gout from which he is suffering. Gaudenzio tells him that his son is safe and in the house, and calls to one of the servants to fetch him. Bruschino must forgive the boy, after all they were both young once. [8] Florville comes in, and, at first unnoticed, observes the scene, until Gaudenzio leads him forward, encouraging him to seek his supposed father’s forgiveness. Florville addresses Bruschino as his father, but the latter abruptly asks who he is. His rejection of Florville as his son convinces Gaudenzio that the old man is simply behaving unnaturally and vindictively in rejecting his son. Florville kneels, while Bruschino remains adamant, plagued equally by the situation and by gout; the matter had better be sorted out by the police, a conclusion in which all three agree.

 

[9] Sofia is alone, soon to be joined by Bruschino, ready to deal with Gaudenzio, who seems to have tricked him. Coming forward, she reproaches Bruschino for his cruelty to his own son, introducing herself as his proposed wife. [10] With a moving cor anglais obbligato, she prays that she may be allowed the husband to whom she has pledged herself, well aware herself of the situation. [11] As she goes, Bruschino returns, followed by a police officer, ushered in by a servant. The officer has nothing to say on the matter, in spite of Bruschino’s increasing fury at being required to accept a son who has dropped down out of the clouds. The officer, though, has the proof of the letter written by young Bruschino. They are joined by Gaudenzio and then by Florville, the former with the letter he had had from Florville, further proof of the latter’s supposed identity. Bruschino is furious, but a comparison of the two letters is decisive.

 

[12] Bruschino does not know whether he is coming or going, in this world or another one. The officer starts to order Bruschino to accept his supposed son, and the old man is about to leave, only to be detained by Sofia, who begs him to desist from his cruel renunciation.

 

[13] Bruschino is again about to go when Filiberto appears. His arrival seems a godsend to Bruschino, but threatens the plot of Sofia and Florville. Filiberto assures them that young Bruschino is at his inn; he has come to collect his money from Florville, whom he knows as another Bruschino. The old Bruschino is out of his mind, tormented again by his gout and by the situation in which he finds himself. They all leave in confusion, except Filiberto, still wanting his money. He is joined by Bruschino and now demands his two hundred francs. Bruschino tells him to ask the other Bruschino, Florville, but Filiberto assures him that young Bruschino, his son, is detained at the inn, that the young man here is the latter’s cousin, and that he was told by him to keep young Bruschino there. Bruschino tells him to go and bring the young Bruschino back with him. [14] Gaudenzio, alone, thinks he has found the answer to Bruschino’s behaviour; he wants to escape marrying his son to Gaudenzio’s ward. He is joined by Sofia, and sets about questioning her about marriage, seeing in her a remarkable display of complete innocence. [15] Gaudenzio tells Sofia of the joys of a loving marriage, and she seems gradually to show increasing enthusiasm for the project, as her love grows, too much for the prudence he now counsels, as he prepares her for her husband. [16] Bruschino, alone, at last begins to understand the situation, but he wonders who Florville really is. He stands aside, as Florville enters, revealing his true identity as the son of Gaudenzio’s enemy. As he moves away, Bruschino is triumphant, resolved now to see matters through before Filiberto returns.

 

[17] In the final scene Gaudenzio urges reason on Bruschino, who pretends to admit his former error. When Florville comes in he embraces him as his son and tells Gaudenzio not to lose a moment in letting the couple marry, a request to which the latter accedes at once. Marianna appears, announcing Filiberto’s return. He tells Florville that now the debt is discharged he has brought his cousin to thank him. Florville is nonplussed, and Gaudenzio equally put out when Filiberto tells him that the young man wants to pay his respects to his father, Signor Bruschino. With every sound of penitence young Bruschino enters, stuttering his apologies, and Filiberto explains to Gaudenzio that one young man is Signor Bruschino’s son and the other the latter’s cousin. It is left to Bruschino to offer the final explanation of Florville’s pretence. The latter is the son of Senator Florville, Gaudenzio’s enemy. The young people seek pardon and Bruschino is delighted to remind Gaudenzio that they are now betrothed, a conclusion to which he must submit.

 

Keith Anderson


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