LE DONNE VENDICATE at Martina Franca, Italy
LE DONNE VENDICATE
Author : Niccolò Piccinni
Libretto by Carlo Goldoni
Review by Bruno Tredicine, Photos: Marta Massafra)
MARTINA FRANCA/ITALY: Also this year Kulturkompasset has been present to the annual Festival della Valle d’Itria in the all-white splendidly baroque small town of Martina Franca in Southern Italy not far from Bari.
It’s worthwhile to remember that this annual venue is focused on forgotten or rarely performed operas generally of the bel canto era. This year the main event was Meyerbeer’s Margherita d’Anjou, but for now let’s start with the first opera we’ve seen once arrived in Martina Franca.
Le donne vendicate (The avenged women) is a comic opera by the composer Niccolò Piccinni, born in region Puglie, the same land of Martina Franca, but raised in Naples, then the most important musical centre in Italy, where he became a successful composer.
In 1776 he was called to Paris by the Queen Marie-Antoinette, and there he achieved such a fame that his figure was set against noone less than Gluck: the two musicians were put on challenge giving them the task of writing an opera on the same subject. So their two Iphigenie en Tauris were born, even if in the centuries that by Gluck stayed for sure as best known.
The opera set in Martina Franca is still from Piccinni’s italian years. Le donne vendicate had its premiere in Rome in 1763 as an Intermezzo, a light work to be set in between the different acts of an Opera seria. The opera had a real success on its own, though, and was suddenly exported in Venice, Naples, Vienna and London, then forgotten until the 2000s.
The entertaining plot is simple: two girls, the young Lindora and Aurelia are friends but very different the one from the other. Aurelia is austere, serious and interested in books while Lindora is more frivolous. Both are upset by the misogynous Conte Bellezza constantly self-admiring his same beauty and despising womern so much that the uncle of Aurelia, the funny old Ferramonte can’t avoid to challenge him to a duel. But Ferramonte is a coward, and the fierce Aurelia is compelled to take his sword and take his place in the duel.
Seeing himself defied by a woman Bellezza gives up and his consideration of women changes. He will marry the beautiful Lindora while Aurelia will have her wedding with Ferramonte.
The plot is simple but ironic more than funny, it was written by Venetian Carlo Goldoni, the main Italian playwright in eighteenth century, and his style, his way to go with light hyrony inside the characters is fully recognizable.
The opera had a perfect staging in the courtyard of the old Masseria Palesi, an old country mansion whose façade was a perfect background for the opera. With just a few effective scenic elements (by Alberto Nonnato), stage director Giorgio Sangati has backed up the comedy with amusing humour and irony, without excessive comicity. Characters are well outlined starting from Conte Bellezza inceasingly admiring himself in the mirror that he takes constantly with him. Sangati choses also to underline the subtle rivalry between the two girls.
Another plus of the staging is to give the right value to the recitatives, carefully played and backed by clavicembalist Giorgio d’Alonzo. The action is supported by the mute actor With the four singers on stage we found the fine acting of the mute actor Marco Fragnelli, who goes around, before the starting of the opera, as a severe brigadier trying to keep in order the audience, then appears on stage as a butler mixed up in the various craziness maybe against his will.
The singers, all young, are sympathetic fitting to their characters building an effective teamwork which mixes up well the original spirit of the opera with nowadays’ sense of humour starting with
Barbara Massaro whose strong soprano, with a fluid and nice emission finds the right accents for the severe and resolute Aurelia.
Chiara Iaia (Lindora) has a nice lyric soprano, well substained all along the musical line allowing her to offer nice vocal effets and easy in the high notes.
The two female characters had also an extended aria, slightly in the style of an opera seria moment, which they both sorted well demonstrating strong accents and dramatic capabilities.
Manuel Amati has amazed the audience with his stage presence, comic in the depiction the beautiful conte Bellezza ‘lost in himself’ and in his virtues. Amati’s clear voice with soft tones makes him a ‘tenore di grazia’, and it will be interesting to hear him in more challenging roles.
Despite the makeup, baritone Carlo Sgura still looks young, maybe too young for the old Ferramonte. It’s to appreciate that he tries to capture the accents of a seasoned man but even if he sings very well, sort of mannerism is evident.
Ferdinando Sulla conducts the Orchestra ICO della Magna Grecia unusually set on the right side of the scene, so we have the rare opportunity to see the conductor’s face during his task. The orchestra is in small formation but the different soloists built the best sound perfectly in style with the opera, giving breathe and life to the score.
At the end strong applause and great success from the audience which crowded the courtyard of Masseria Palesi.
Author : Niccolò Piccinni
Libretto by Carlo Goldoni
Revisione critica di Francesco Luisi per gentile concessione della Società dell’Opera Buffa
Conte Bellezza MANUEL AMATI*
Lindora CHIARA IAIA
Ferramonte CARLO SGURA
Aurelia BARBARA MASSARO
Attore MARCO FRAGNELLI
Conductor FERDINANDO SULLA
Orchestra ICO della Magna Grecia
Stage director GIORGIO SANGATI
Scene ALBERTO NONNATO
Costumes GIANLUCA SBICCA
Light designer GIUSEPPE CALABRÒ
Maestro di sala e al cembalo Giorgio D’Alonzo