Opera Matinee and Take Five
The rarely heard opera Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali aka Viva la mamma by Gaetano Donizetti, introduced by Elizabeth Alker, plus music marking Radio 3's Take Five.
This week's featured opera is 'Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali' (Conventions and Inconveniences of the Stage) or 'Viva la Mamma!' by Donizetti, introduced by Elizabeth Alker plus music marking Radio 3's celebration of youth and music, Take Five. Today’s featured young musician is the soprano Soraya Mafi.
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, opera in two acts
Donna Agata Scannagalli, Luigia's mother, a Neapolitan ..... Laurent Naouri (baritone)
Daria Garbinati, prima donna ..... Patrizia Ciofi (soprano)
Procolo, Daria's husband ..... David Bizic (bass)
Luigia Castragatti, seconda donna ..... Melody Louledjian (soprano)
Guglielmo Antolstoinoff, primo tenore, a German ..... Luciano Botelho (tenor)
Biscroma Strappaviscere, conductor ..... Pietro di Bianco (baritone)
Cesare Salsapariglia, druggist and poet ..... Enric Martinez-Castignani (baritone)
Pippetto ..... Katherine Aitken (mezzo-soprano)
Impresario ..... Péter Kálmán (bass)
Director of the Theatre ..... Rodrigo Garcia (bass)
Men of the Grand Théâtre of Geneva Chorus
Roberto Balistreri (chorus director)
Geneva Chamber Orchestra
Gergely Madaras (conductor)
In the city of Lodi, in a tavern room adjoining a theatre, a small troupe is fully assembled: Daria the leading lady and her husband Procolo, Luigia the second lady, Guglielmo, German tenor and Pippetto, countertenor, and some of the chorus. With a lot of difficulty, they are rehearsing the new opera by the maestro Biscroma, composer and orchestra leader, and Cesare, poet, librettist and grocer. Nearly all of them are unhappy with their roles and think they are being upstaged by the others. The impresario reminds them all of their duty as artistes. Biscroma announces that the next rehearsal is at five o’clock.
Mamma Agata, Luigia’s mother, makes a noisy entrance. She has just demanded that her daughter be given a bigger role. Biscroma makes her a vague promise that he will look into it. Meanwhile, the librettist proceeds to read out the show’s poster, which doesn’t please anybody, as each actor wants to occupy pride of place. Exhausted, Guglielmo, Pippetto and Luigia go away. Daria, the leading lady, has a sharp exchange with Mamma Agata, who reminds her that she used to sell cakes in the street. Procolo defends “his lady wife” and recalls her precocious talent and the successes she has enjoyed everywhere.
Scenes III and IV
The impresario, completely shattered, comes to announce that the countertenor has run off. Mamma Agata proposes, straight away, to replace him in the role of Romulus. In the absence of any other solution, the impresario and Cesare the librettist give in.
Scenes V, 5b and VI
Biscroma for the music, and Cesare for the libretto, are worried about the cuts and rearrangements that will have to be made, following the change in the distribution of the roles. Guglielmo, the tenor, asks for his duo part. Mamma Agata is ready to sing her part. Despite encouragement from Biscroma, an unconvincing trial takes place. Guglielmo refuses outright to sing a duo with her. A big argument ensues, music scores are torn up, and apparently there is even a fainting fit. Mamma Agata and Guglielmo both walk out and don’t return.
Scenes VII, VIII and IX
Procolo and Daria come back to the troupe. The impresario tells them about the departure of the tenor and countertenor. Now it’s Procolo’s turn to offer his services, but on condition that his “lady wife, who never sings secondary roles”, does not appear with Luigia. Mamma Agata threatens to pull out, Daria as well, and the storm gets even closer when Cesare brings in the scenes that he has rewritten, with newspapers and contract letters for the two singers. The letter that Luigia has received from her agent in Livorno threatens to terminate her contract if she comes with her mother. Biscroma and Cesare revise their work, Procolo reads out loud some bad critiques, Mamma Agata advises Luigia on the reply to her agent, while Daria acts the prima donna.
Everyone is cut short by the theatre director, who invites them to go back into the rehearsal. The artistes refuse for various reasons. So the director summons the police: Procolo and Mamma Agata are taken in hand by the gendarmes, to the great satisfaction of the composer and the librettist. Prudently, Daria and Luigia prefer to return to the rehearsal of their own accord, one on Cesare’s arm and the other on Biscroma’s.
Scenes XI, XIb and XII
On stage, the impresario and Cesare prepare the rehearsal. Agata arrives, followed by Luigia and finally Procolo, puffing out his chest like a peacock.
The rehearsal is ready to start again. It’s a spectacle in its own right, in the “kingdom of thunderous Jupiter”, with Procolo as the magnanimous warrior and Mamma Agata as the poor victim – not knowing how to read the music and scarcely even the text, she massacres the work to the great despair of its two authors. It’s a comical tragedy.
Last sceneThe masquerade is interrupted by the impresario, who brings bad news. The theatre director is banning the performance, due to the disappearance of the tenor and the countertenor. As everybody has been paid and largely spent their fees, the situation is delicate. Procolo proposes that they discreetly leave town at nightfall. The whole troupe enthusiastically agrees and disappears like a flash of lightening.