About this Recording
8.573459 - CIMAROSA, D.: Overtures, Vol. 4 (Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice, Halász)
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Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801)
Overtures • 4

 

Domenico Cimarosa was born in Aversa on 17 December 1749. He and his older colleague Giovanni Paisiello were the best-known composers of the last years of the so-called Neapolitan School. Cimarosa’s works (autograph manuscripts of 65 operas and a number of sacred works have survived) were remarkably successful—his operas were staged and re-staged throughout Europe. Having first made his name in the Kingdom of Naples, Cimarosa soon saw his fame spread to central and northern Italy (particularly Venice, the city in which he died on 11 January 1801 and with which he maintained a fruitful relationship throughout his life). Success at home led to his appointment as maestro di cappella at the court of Catherine II in St Petersburg from 1787 to 1791, and then to commissions from Leopold II to write at least three operas (including perhaps his best-known work, Il matrimonio segreto) for the Vienna Burgtheater. Contrary to what some of his biographies say, Cimarosa was not officially appointed Kapellmeister in Vienna, but worked for the Emperor on what we today would call a freelance basis.

Over the course of his career, Cimarosa adopted two different forms for his operatic overtures: in his early period (until around 1786) he predominantly employed a three-movement structure (fast-slow and cantabile-fast in double or, more often, triple time); the vast majority of his later-period overtures, meanwhile, are cast in a single movement (an allegro in abbreviated sonata form, sometimes preceded by a rhapsodic slow movement). It is worth noting that the choice of one musical form over another was not so much a case of the composer’s own preference as of his adapting to suit audience tastes, which altered over time and from place to place.

I sdegni per amore

I sdegni per amore (Love’s indignations), defined as a “one-act comic opera” in the libretto printed for the premiere, a copy of which is now held by the Biblioteca Marucelliana in Florence, was composed by Cimarosa for the 1776 Carnival season at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples. It was presented as half of a double bill with a farsetta, also by Cimarosa, I matrimoni in ballo. The latter was then reworked by the composer in 1786 and retitled La baronessa Stramba and was performed, again at the Teatro Nuovo, as the “third act” of Il credulo. There are no known copies of any librettos printed for subsequent performances of I sdegni per amore, suggesting that in all likelihood it was not revived.

La finta Frascatana

La finta Frascatana (The Fake Lady of Frascata), a commedia per musica, or comic opera, was written to a libretto by Pasquale Mililotti and first staged at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples during the winter season of 1776. Although it was a hit with audiences at the time—thanks in part to Mililotti’s amusing text—it was not taken up by other opera houses, possibly because some of its characters, as was common practice in productions designed for Naples, spoke in the local dialect, not easily comprehensible elsewhere. Given his huge workload during this period, Cimarosa reworked much of the overture’s thematic material for its counterpart in I tre amanti, first produced within days of La finta Frascatana at Rome’s Teatro Valle.

I tre amanti

An intermezzo in two acts, setting a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, I tre amanti (The Three Lovers) was given its premiere at the Teatro Valle in Rome during the 1777 Carnival season. This was the work that made Cimarosa’s name outside the Kingdom of Naples—it was a huge hit in central Italy, and soon travelled to Florence and then on to Dresden, in a German translation entitled Die drei Liebhaber. The overture is cast in three movements, the first two of which are almost identical to those originally composed for La finta Frascatana. The only identifiable differences are to be found in some brief cadential episodes in the first movement and minor modifications to the melodic line of the second.

Le donne rivali

Written in 1780 for the Teatro Valle, Le donne rivali (Female Rivalry) was such a hit with audiences from the start that it was immediately snapped up by opera houses in Venice and Florence, and within a few years had been staged in St Petersburg and Moscow as well. The librettist is anonymous—the text printed for the premiere fails to list any author’s name. When, in 1783, Mozart began work on the score of his Lo sposo deluso ossia La rivalità di tre donne per un solo amante, which remained unfinished and was never performed, its libretto was attributed to Lorenzo da Ponte (who probably simply revised the text); it was in fact the same text that Cimarosa had set for Le donne rivali (with a few modifications and new character names).

I finti nobili

I finti nobili (The Fake Noblemen) is a two-act comic opera with a libretto by Giuseppe Palomba. Cimarosa composed it for the 1780 Carnival season at the Teatro Nuovo. The evening was rounded off by a “third act”—a one-act farsetta by the same pair, Li sposi per accidente. This kind of double bill was common in Neapolitan theatres in the second half of the eighteenth century—the Teatro Nuovo, for example, rarely produced three-act comic operas, preferring to offer its audience pairings of two new works, the first on a larger scale (two acts), the second a one-act comic piece. Cimarosa was to reuse the overture of I finti nobili for the second opera he wrote for Vienna, Amor rende sagace (1793), composed in the immediate aftermath of the astonishing success of Il matrimonio segreto.

Il pittor parigino

Written for the Teatro Valle, with libretto again by Petrosellini, Il pittor parigino (The Parisian Painter) was first staged in the 1781 Carnival season. It was one of the composer’s greatest successes—within a few years it had been performed, to great acclaim on each occasion, in Prague, Barcelona, Venice and Corfu. In 1789 Haydn directed his own specially adapted version of it at Esterhazy. Il pittor parigino is one of the few works by Cimarosa to have remained in the repertoire of various European opera houses into the early years of the nineteenth century. As was common at the time, it underwent various reworkings and modifications as it travelled around Europe, affecting not only the plot and distribution of musical numbers but also the title of the work—it was also presented as Il barone burlato, Der Onkel aus Amsterdam and Der Pariser Maler. The version entitled Il barone burlato, lengthened to three acts, was produced in 1784 at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples with additional music especially composed for it by Francesco Cipolla.

L’amante combattuto dalle donne di punto

Cimarosa wrote the three-act comic opera L’amante combattuto dalle donne di punto (The Lover defeated by the Scheming Women) in 1781 for the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples. The libretto printed for the first performance, of which a copy is housed in Florence’s Biblioteca Marucelliana, uses this title, while the score has another, in the composer’s handwriting: La Biondolina (the name of the main character). In 1805 the opera was revived at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples, now in a two-act version with yet another title, La giardiniera fortunata.

Giunio Bruto

This dramma tragico per musica about Lucius Junius Brutus, one of the first consuls of Rome, was given its premiere at Verona’s Teatro Filarmonico in the autumn of 1781 (8 September, to be precise, as can be seen on the original playbill recently discovered by this writer). It was a huge success and soon went on to be staged in Genoa, Siena and Pisa. The tragedy was also admired by Haydn, who conducted a performance of it at the Esterhazy court in 1788, adapting the original score to suit the forces available to him there (as he did with other works by Cimarosa that he conducted at the court).

L’amor costante

L’amor costante (Steadfast love) was probably composed for the 1782 Carnival season at the Teatro Valle. There is, however, no firm evidence as to when and where it was first performed: no copy of the libretto has survived, and the partial autograph score gives no clues on the subject. The loss of the principal literary source also means that the librettist’s name is unknown. The partial autograph score does not include an overture, although as the folio numbers show, Cimarosa must have planned for it to do so—the first volume begins at number 12, so the overture would have taken up the first 11 folios and must have been removed by the composer at a later date, perhaps for reuse somewhere else. This recording is based on an unpublished manuscript which is housed in the library of the Luigi Cherubini Conservatory in Florence and contains an overture probably composed by another musician—one whose name remains a mystery to this day.

Simone Perugini
English translation by Susannah Howe


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