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8.574103 - CIMAROSA, D.: Overtures, Vol. 7 (Czech Chamber Philharmonic, Pardubice, Halász)
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Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801)
Overtures • 7


Domenico Cimarosa (Aversa, 17 December 1749–Venice, 11 January 1801) was one of the last great exponents of the so-called Neapolitan School, and one of the best-known and most-performed composers before the arrival of Rossini on Europe’s operatic scene. Cimarosa’s works were remarkably successful and were staged and re-staged in opera houses across Europe. Having first made his name in all the leading theatres of the Kingdom of Naples, he soon saw his fame spread to central and northern Italy (Venice, in particular). Success at home led to his appointment by Catherine II as maestro di cappella and music master at the Russian court in St Petersburg, posts which he held between 1787 and 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.

Judith (1782)

In 1782, in the wake of the enormous success he had achieved in Venetian theatres with the operas Giannina e Bernardone and Il convito, Cimarosa was appointed music master at the Ospedaletto girls’ conservatory in Venice, replacing Pasquale Anfossi in the post. Soon after this he composed two oratorios for the institution: Absalom and Judith (the latter was produced again in the years that followed, without Cimarosa’s direct involvement, in Rome, Berlin, Naples and Florence, under different titles and with the addition of numbers by other composers). Although a copy of the libretto printed for the first performance of Absalom has survived, the same is not true for Judith and the names of the original singers are therefore unknown.

Il convito (‘The Banquet’) (1782)

Il convito, a dramma giocoso in two acts setting a libretto by Filippo Livigni, was premiered in late December 1781 at the San Samuele Theatre in Venice. The opera was hugely popular with audiences from the start, so much so that just a few months later it was produced at the Teatro alla Pergola in Florence (whose impresario, Andrea Campigli, was always very keen to bring his audience the latest hits from elsewhere in Italy). For the Florentine version of Il convito a few changes were made to both libretto and score. It seems likely that most of the revisions to the score were made by Cimarosa himself who, thanks to the opera’s Florentine success, was officially invited to compose a brand-new opera for the Pergola, La vanità delusa.

Amor rende sagace (‘Love Leads to Wisdom’) (1793)

On 1 April 1793 Amor rende sagace, a one-act dramma giocoso with libretto by Giovanni Bertati, had its premiere at the Vienna Burgtheater. Cimarosa composed the music for this opera after the immensely successful Il matrimonio segreto, premiered at the Burgtheater a year earlier. Unlike the latter opera, however, Amor rende sagace did not suit Viennese audiences’ tastes so well, at least according to a review that appeared in the Österreichische Monatsschrift in April 1793. Perhaps it was this disappointment and the potential for the opera’s score to fall into oblivion that led Cimarosa to have the libretto adapted in 1794 by Giuseppe Palomba. This new version became Le astuzie femminili, much of whose music was borrowed from Amor rende sagace.

San Filippo Neri che risuscita Paolo Massimi (‘St Philip Neri Raises Paolo Massimi from the Dead’) (1797)

It was the fathers of the Congregation of the Oratory of San Filippo Neri in Rome who commissioned librettist Giovanni Battista Rasi and Cimarosa to write the oratorio San Filippo Neri che risuscita Paolo Massimi. The work was first performed at the Oratory in Rome in 1797. Sadly no report survives on how it was received; all we know, thanks to a few surviving copies of the printed libretto, is that the oratorio was produced again, in the same venue, in 1802 and 1819. Rasi’s libretto was in large part adapted to Cimarosa’s existing music for the opera La Penelope. The composer wrote just two arias and the opening sinfonia expressly for San Filippo Neri.

Il trionfo della fede (‘The Triumph of Faith’) (1794)

Cimarosa wrote Il trionfo della fede in 1794 to a libretto by Clemente Filomarino as the ‘dramatic component to be sung at the Sedile di Porto on the day of the liquefaction of the glorious blood of San Gennaro’. The work was commissioned from him for the procession of the reliquary said to contain the blood of Gennaro, patron saint of Naples. For the same occasion the following year Cimarosa composed the cantata Il martirio.

Il capriccio drammatico (‘The Theatrical Whim’) (1794)

Il capriccio drammatico, a one-act comic opera based on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte (and not, as erroneously documented elsewhere, by Giovanni Bertati), was first staged at London’s Haymarket Theatre in 1794. In fact, it was not a new opera, but an adaptation by the librettist of a very famous work by Cimarosa, L’impresario in angustie, initially produced at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples in 1786. Here Da Ponte added two new characters to the text originally written for L’impresario by Giuseppe Maria Diodati, and changed the name of another character, from Doralba to Dorinda.

Il martirio (‘The Martyrdom’) (1795)

This is the 1795 work Cimarosa composed to be sung at the Sedile di Portanova on the day of the San Gennaro procession in Naples. The autograph score of Il martirio has been lost, but the writer discovered a manuscript copy (on which the critical edition of the overture included on this album is based) in the State Library of Montecassino (Italy), where it is catalogued under shelfmark 1-A-12.

Absalom (1782)

As mentioned above, Cimarosa composed the oratorio Absalom in 1782 for the girls of the Ospedaletto in Venice, shortly after succeeding Anfossi as music master there. The partial autograph score is housed in the library of the San Pietro a Majella Conservatory in Naples (shelfmark 13.3.13) and contains the entirety of the oratorio’s music.

Il matrimonio per sussurro, ossia Il cicisbeo discacciato (‘Marriage by Noise, or The Banished Gallant’) (1777)

In the early days of his career, Cimarosa often wrote arias and other music to be added to works by other composers when they were restaged in Naples, adapting them to the tastes and demands of the singers involved. By fortunate coincidence, the San Pietro a Majella library has the autograph scores of the pieces Cimarosa composed in 1777 for the opera Il matrimonio per sussurro, ossia Il cicisbeo discacciato by the Neapolitan composer Gaetano Monti premiered that year at the city’s Teatro Nuovo.

Il padre alla moda (‘The Fashionable Father’) (1795)

Cimarosa composed I traci amanti, a two-act commedia per musica, for the Teatro Nuovo in Naples where it had its premiere in 1793. In 1795 a new production of the work was staged at the Teatro Nuovo in Padua, with the title changed to Il padre alla moda. Cimarosa himself wrote two new arias for the occasion, one each for the characters of Mustanzir and Lenina, and a new overture.

Simone Perugini
English translation by Susannah Howe

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