Martin Y Soler: Il Burbero Di Buon Cuore / Rousset
Elena de la Merced; Veronique Gens; Cecilia Diaz; Saimir Pirgu; Juan Francisco Gatell; Luca Pisaroni; Carlos Chausson; Josep Miquel Ramón
Orquesta Titular del Teatro Real (Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid)/Christophe Rousset
Irina Brook, director
NTSC All Region; 16:9; SS 5.1/LPCM 2.0; Approx. 140 mins.
Subtitled in Italian, English, German, French & Spanish
Recorded in High Definition on November 14th-18th, 2007, Teatro Real, Madrid
Il Burbero di buon cuore is a dramma giocoso in two acts composed by Vicente Martín y Soler to a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, based on one of the most popular and amusing French comedies by Carlo Goldoni, Le bourru bienfaisant. The recording of Il Burbero di buon cuore confirms the collaboration between Dynamic and Teatro Real of Madrid (which started with the release of the double CD in World Premiere Recording La Conquista di Granata by Emilio Arrieta). This opera had been absent from Madrid’s stages since 1792. In October 1789, in fact, Mozart composed two “substitute arias” for this opera: Chi sa, chi sa qual sia KV 582 and Vado, ma dove? Oh Dei! KV 583, which, given their superior musical quality, have opportunely been inserted in this edition of the opera, sung by Véronique Gens. Soprano Véronique Gens appears also on Dynamic’s DVD Agrippina by Handel, which won the Record Academy Award 2007 in Japan in the category DVD opera. Director Irina Brook is the daughter of the famous British director Peter Brook, at her debut in Teatro Real. She sets the action in today’s times and mixes several styles and epochs, creating a very well lit and bright setting with a very effective result. The touch of classical and baroque expert Christophe Rousset perfectly enhances the music. The French conductor delivers a lesson of style extracting from the Symphonic Orchestra of Madrid a sweet and smooth sound ideally harmonized with the partitura.
R E V I E W:
MARTÍN Y SOLER Il burbero di buon cuore • Christophe Rousset, cond; Elena de la Merced ( Angelica ); Carlos Chausson ( Ferramondo ); Véronique Gens ( Madama Lucilla ); Salmir Pirgu ( Giocondo ); Cecilia Diáz ( Marina ); Juan Francisco Gatell ( Valerio ); Luca Pisaroni ( Dorval ); Josep Miquel Ramón ( Castagna ); Madrid Teatro Real O • DYNAMIC 33580 (2 DVDs: 140:00) Live: Madrid 11/2007
The plot to Il burbero di buon cuore was taken from a 1771 play by Goldoni, Le bourru bienfaisant . As with all of Goldoni’s mature comedies, stereotypes of commedia dell’arte and old Roman farce are humanized with vivid personal detail. Thus, the Bartolo-like antagonist, Ferramondo, isn’t a conventional blusterer, but a kindly, well-intentioned man who is easily irritated and possesses a hair-trigger temper. His niece, Angelica, is too frightened to do more than equivocate before her uncle. This, of course, only drives him quickly up a wall. The other figures surrounding them are similarly more than expected—such as Ferramondo’s nephew, emotive Giocondo, a master of bad financial decision making, who desperately tries to live up to his uncle’s standards; and Giocondo’s wife, Lucilla, a spendthrift who dearly loves her husband, and doesn’t realize the monetary hole they’re in. (Not for nothing is the opera described as a dramma giocoso , which is usually taken to mean a work that mixes buffo and semi-seria elements.) Even the servant, Castagna, is deftly characterized, an alert, ironical philosopher who lectures Giocondo on living within his means. Lorenzo Da Ponte, not surprisingly, creates a clever libretto out of this material, and Martín y Soler provides a thoughtful setting that starts simple—not unlike Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro —only to grow in technical complexity and expressive depth as matters become more complicated.
Speaking of Figaro brings to mind the friendly rivalry of the two composers on Viennese operatic stages, best known for Mozart’s wink at Martín y Soler’s success with a musical quote from Una cosa rara (1786) in Don Giovanni (1787). Mozart also wrote a pair of substitute arias for Louise Villeneuve, the original Lucilla, when Il burbero was revived in 1789. They’re used in this performance, though one could wish the originals had been offered as a purely audio alternative among the extras. (There are also some significant cuts here, including material relating to a sub-plot involving the placement of Angelica in a nunnery so that Giocondo can acquire her dowry.)
The time and setting have been changed in this production, and we find ourselves in modern times, in the lobby of a moderately shabby hotel, still showing signs of former quality—along with a broad ragbag of typical hotel bric-a-brac from the late 19th century on up to the present. Irina Brook’s direction makes excellent and understated use of the lobby layout and its many appropriate props, with characters working, relaxing, and eating—in short, engaging in activities one would expect to occur where they are, instead of being placed in empty, sterile environments where they can only sit and wait for their lines. To her credit, the actors’ movements and reactions seem both natural and inevitable.
But you have to watch out when you change an opera’s time and location. They’re tricky things. Even here, with so much being handled well, the act I finale is problematic. Why should Ferramondo and his chess partner, the placid Dorval, suddenly express horror followed by anger at finding a man they don’t know in Marina’s hotel? The answer lies in the original setting. Marina wasn’t a hotelier, but a housekeeper, and the house belonged to Ferramondo. To find an unknown man upon entering one’s own house—and with only unmarried women present!—would have caused any man of the period grave concern.
There’s a casting choice that causes minor problems of its own, as well. Luca Pisaroni is a young bass-baritone, not more than 25 by his looks, yet there are several references in the libretto to his advanced age. Whether he was first choice for Dorval or not, he sings well, and acts in a pleasant if generalized “situation comedy” manner that works. Given a choice between having him shown at his proper age or disguised to look 20 years older or more isn’t a contest, as such disguises rarely work in realistic settings.
Most of the rest of the cast is similarly strong. Both Pirgu and Gatell possess effective lyric tenors, with the former getting the lion’s share of the work. His act I aria, “Degli anni sui fiore,” seems meant for a slower tempo than the quick, prosaic one Rousset wished upon it, but Pirgu floats an attractive tone and displays a pleasing sense of phrasing. Gens and Merced are vocally and interpretatively excellent, with the patricianly tone of the former and the sweetness of the latter providing good contrast. Ramón’s bass is little tested by his secondary aria, but he does a fine job overall. The best acting and some of the strongest singing comes from Chausson. He plays the choleric but large-hearted Ferramondo with a focus and attention to details of characterization that would grace a quality production of a Sardou play; yet he doesn’t lack for the customary verbal agility and solid, resonant depth of a basso buffo . Only Diaz seems overparted, her intonation sometimes suspect, her tone gray except at the bottom of its range when it blossoms out magnificently. The Madrid SO is in fine shape, and aside from rushing three slower arias, Roussett conducts sympathetically and with a light, engaging touch.
The camerawork is good, focusing on elements of action rather than whoever is singing—so you really do get to view all of what’s going on at any given time. Sound is Dolby Digital 5.1, and Linear PCM 2.0. Subtitles are available in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish. The video format is 16:9.
In short—with a few noted reservations—this is a fine cast in an unusually well-directed production of an entertaining, forgotten opera. It’s far above the standard cut of modern premieres for works of its period, and really could stand as an example of how to build a stage environment that works with singers and helps develop their characters instead of narrowing their actions. Do I think this represents the edge of a new trend? Not a chance. Do I think Il burbero di buon cuore is worth a viewing or several? Without question.
FANFARE: Barry Brenesal
Catalog Number: DYN-33580
Composer: Vicente Martin y Soler
Conductor: Christophe Rousset
Orchestra/Ensemble: Madrid Teatro Real Orchestra
Performer: Carlos Chausson, Cecilia Diaz, Elena De la Merced, Juan Francisco Gatell, Luca Pisaroni, Saimir Pirgu, Véronique Gens