Monday 6 May 2013

Scarlatti - Dove è amore è gelosia

Giuseppe Scarlatti - Dove è amore è gelosia

Český Krumlov Castle, 2011

Vojtěch Spurný, Ondřej Havelka, Lenka Máčiková, Aleš Briscein, Kateřina Kněžíková, Jaroslav Březina, Bohumil Klepl, Tat'ána Kupcová

Opus Arte - Blu-ray

Dove è amore è gelosia (Where there is Love, there is Jealousy) was written in 1768 by Giuseppe Scarlatti (a nephew of the more famous Domenico Scarlatti) as a commission for Prince Joseph Adam of Schwarzenberg, the Duke of Krumlov to celebrate the wedding of his son Jan Nepomuk to Maria Eleonora, the Countess of Oettingen-Wallerstein on 24 July 1768.  It was the first opera to be performed in the newly renovated theatre of Český Krumlov Castle, and as such it seemed appropriate then to choose this rare work to be the first opera performed in this UNESCO heritage site when it was restored to its full glory in 2011.

There's historical justification alone in reviving this extremely rare work, but the opera itself isn't without merit either, even if the name of Giuseppe Scarlatti means little nowadays.  You can gauge a few things about Dove è amore è gelosia from the title alone, and the fact that it is an opera buffa written in 1768.  You would expect the comedy to play out along similar lines to Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro or Così Fan Tutte, and those examples will give you a good idea of the tone of the comedy and the arrangements if not the exact musical quality.  Haydn might be a closer point of comparison, since the work was also written to commission for a royal court and composed to certain specifications that included the Prince's daughter Maria Theresia singing one of the principal roles.

Composed for a small orchestra of Baroque instruments then, Dove è amore è gelosia can't hold up to the sophistication of Mozart's treatment of the opera buffa, but it's as delightful an example of this kind of work as you'll find.  The musical arrangements are driven by a vigorous harpsichord rhythms, with a small string accompaniment and some limited horns and woodwind, but it consequently has a lovely clear, bright sound, with jaunty buffo rhythms and a strong sense of structure.  As far as the treatment of the plot goes, it's similarly stripped down and, written for only four roles, far from the complexity of one of Mozart's works.  You could probably write this one yourself, so familiar is it with the conventions of the comic opera of this period.

The four principals are, inevitably, divided into two couples - one from the nobility and one from the servant class.  The Marquise Clarice and Count Orazio are involved in yet another bitter dispute on account of the Count's jealousy, always on the point of breaking up and calling off the wedding until a reconciliation is reached.  The other couple are of course their servants, Vespetta (the Marquise's maid) and Patrizio (the Count's manservant).  Their problem is the opposite of their masters, since Patrizio seems to be immune to sentiments of jealousy and unconcerned about Vespetta's suggestions of flirtations with other men.  How can he truly love her if he never gets jealous?  It sounds like both men need to be taught a lesson, and you know how that's going to turn out...

So yes, you can expect a plot to involve letters falling into the wrong hands, disguises requiring cross-dressing and resulting in mistaken identities, with people grasping the wrong end of the stick.  Hilarity inevitably ensues and lessons are learnt by all concerned.  And that's exactly what you get.  Dove è amore è gelosia is skillfully arranged, if not particularly inspired in this respect, but it's a light, undemanding and enjoyable entertainment.  The music likewise is light and pleasant, with clever little solo arias bemoaning the inconstancy of one's lover and some playful little duets that keep the comic interaction going.  With minimal stage direction to include plenty of comic touches, gestures and playful expressions, you can't go wrong, and that's pitched perfectly in delivered in Ondřej Havelka's stage direction and in the musical performance under the baton - or rather rolled-up music scroll - of Vojtěch Spurný.

The note about the rolled-up music scroll incidentally is a clue to this productions intentions to perform the work as close to period authenticity as possible.  There are good reasons for this, since Český Krumlov Castle is the only authentic working Baroque theatre in the world.  All the props, backdrops and stage effects are operated using the original rope and pulley systems (and it's most impressive to see these in action), the costumes and setting are period - with even the conductor and orchestra wearing period costumes and wigs - and the whole stage is entirely illuminated by candlelight.  You can't get much more historically authentic than that, and in the case of this particular work and for this setting it's perfectly appropriate.

This is however also a very good performance in its own right.  It might not be one of the great undiscovered works of opera buffa, but neither does Dove è amore è gelosia deserve to remain lying in obscurity.  This is a lovely production, sung well by a good cast, performed with verve and with a feel for the qualities of the work, its arrangements and its intentions.  The filmmakers want you to get an impression of just how authentic this is and there are consequently a few backstage cutaways to show the mechanical effects in operation, but for the most part Dove è amore è gelosia is filmed like any other opera performance and it looks marvellous.

There's a slight softness of tone then in the quality of the High Definition image in the Blu-ray, but that's entirely down to the use of natural candlelight.  The audio tracks in LPCM stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 are marvellous, giving a wonderful brightness and clarity to the musical performances and the singing.  The BD also has an interesting 52-minute documentary on the history and renovation of Český Krumlov.  It's a quite stunning building in a beautiful setting, and the detail on the workings of a Baroque theatre are of immense interest.  The disc is compatible for all-regions and has subtitles in English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.