ROSSINI: La Cambiale di Matrimonio
Mussorgsky's composed his five-act opera Khovanshchina in St.
1872 and 1880. The composer wrote the libretto basing it on historical
sources relating to
the Moscow Uprising of 1682, the struggle
progressive and reactionary political factions during the time of
Tsar Peter the Great, and the passing of old Muscovy before Peter's westernizing
reforms. The opera was unfinished and unperformed when the composer died
in 1881. Today it is best known for its orchestral
preludes to acts I and IV, and "Dance of the Persian Slaves," (which
seems out of place in an opera as somber as this), and Marfa's Prophecy.
Rimksky-Kosakov revised and completed the work and
it had its
premiere in 1886. Shostakovich revised the opera in 1959 based on the
original vocal score, and his
and Stravinsky added a final chorus to the work. This new DVD is a performance
recorded May 26 and 29, 2007 at the Gran Teatre del Liceu. Many years
ago I saw a production of this opera at the Covent Garden Royal Opera
House, which ended impressively as Khovansky's followers were
enveloped in flames. You won't see that here. Director
Stein Wings presents his own version of the opera editing as he felt
appropriate, and the final death scene each of the Old Believers carries
a lit candle which is blown out as the person symbolically died. It works
with great effect, and the opera ends softly. Khovanshchina is
presented in Russian with an adequate if not outstanding cast. Elena
Marfa is dramatically strong, but her unevenness of production distracts.
The chorus is outstanding. Video quality is fine, as is the audio. This
is another view of an opera seldom presented (the Met didn't give it
1988 and 1999).
There are other DVDs of this opera (which I have not seen) conducted
by Claudio Abbado, Yuri Simonov and Valery Gergiev.
La Cambiale di matrimonio (The Bill of Marriage) is Rossini's first opera, a comic opera in one act composed in 1810 for Venice. The libretto was by Gaetano Rossi, who later collaborated with Rossini on Tancredi and Semiramide. Cambiale is a constant delight. Rossini's spirited music is perfect for the story about the bumbling English merchant Tobia Mill and his attempt to marry off his daughter Fanny to the wealthy Slook. The young lady is in love with Edoardo and there are many misunderstandings before the happy ending. This performance is superb with the entire cast having a great time and well able to cope with the score's florid writing. The single set works well, but the costume and makeup for Tobia Mill (baritone Paolo Bordogna) is overdone—he looks like a character from Planet of the Apes. Video is well done, but there is a problem with audio: in surround sound format the audio is out-of-sync with the video, very disturbing indeed—but you can avoid this by listening in the stereo mode. .
R.E.B. (April 2008)