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Domenico CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
Il Credulo (1786) [56:25]*
Tiburno: Cesare Valleti (tenor); Don Catapazio: Sesto Bruscantini (bass-baritone); Norina: Dora Gatta (soprano); Madama Filinta: Elena Rizzieri (soprano); Lesbina: Maria Luisa Giorgetti (soprano); Filiberto: Mario Carlin (tenor); Astrolabio: Franco Calabrese (bass)
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
‘Aprite un po’ quegli occhi’ (Le nozze di Figaro) (1786) [05:03] **
‘Madamini, il catalogo č questo’ (Don Giovanni) ( 1787) [05:02] **
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
‘Ecco il factotum’ (Il barbiere di Siviglia) (1816) [04:54] **
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
‘ Vi ravviso, o luoghi ameni’ (La sonnambula) (1831) [02:36] **
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
‘Oh, de’ verd’anni miei’ (Ernani) (1844) [04:51] **
* Orchestra Sinfonico e Coro di Milano della RAI/Alfredo Simonetti
rec. May 17, 1956, Milan
** No orchestra/conductor details provided; rec. 1952-1954, Turin.
ARCHIPEL ARPCD 0362 [79:06]


Cimarosa’s opera, which reuses some items from the composer’s Il matrimonio in ballo of 1776, exists in two versions. The first – the holograph manuscript of which is preserved in the Conservatorio di Musica SW. Pietro a Majella, in Naples – was entitled Il credulo and consists of two acts – although the second contains only one scene and a chorus. The second version is in one act and is entitled Il credulo deluso. The manuscript of this version is in London, British Library Add MS. 16001. The one-act version omits a few items, particularly some in Neapolitan dialect. 

The two-act version was first performed at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples during the Carnival season of 1786 when it was coupled with another farsa by Cimarosa, La baronessa stramba. In one version or the other, the opera had further performances in Florence, Rome, Modena and Venice and, beyond Italy, in Barcelona, St. Petersburg and Warsaw. 

I am indebted to the work of Nick Rossi and Talmage Fauntleroy in their book Domenico Cimarosa: His Life and His Operas (1999) for the information above. The Archipel issue of this preciously unpublished live recording contains no notes whatsoever, not even the date of the opera. Nor, of course, are there any texts or translations. What was performed in Milan in 1956 actually seems to be a conflation of the two versions – it is programmed as one act - though using the title of the two-act version - but restores at least some of the material omitted from the one act version as evidenced by the London manuscript. 

The libretto was the work of Giuseppe Maria Diodati, who worked with Cimarosa on several operas – including Le trame deluse (1786), L’impresario in angustie (1787), Le nozze in garbuglio (1795) and Penelope (1795) – and other Neapolitan composers, such as Giacomo Tritto whose works in this genre included Il cartesiano fantastico, 1790, Gl amanti in puntiglio (1794) and L’impostore smascherato, 1794. So far as I can work out, the plot of Il credulo is typical of the kind of concoction which usually characterises a farsa per musica in this period.

Don Astrolabio plans to marry off his daughter Norina to the rich but credulous Neapolitan Don Catapazio. Tiburno, the tenor – inevitably - in love with Norina, schemes to prevent this marriage. His first tactic is to suggest to Don Catapazio that Norina is insane. This leads Catapazio to insult Norina when he first meets her and, as a result, to quarrel with her father. The next stage of Tiburno’s plan involves telling Astrolabio that Catapazio is mad and that he should warn his daughter of this – which he does. As preparations for the wedding - largely in the hands of Madama Filinta - spiral into chaos, Tiburno reappears disguised as one of a team of Chinese doctors, able to cure Don Catapazio’s supposed madness, provided that he never marries. A happy outcome – naturally – ensues. 

The first thing to say about this recording is that the sound quality is not very good. The string tone is pinched and, at times, screechy; there is a good deal of distortion on climaxes and on some other occasions too. Individual arias tend to fare better than those passages in which several voices are singing. All of this doesn’t entirely spoil one’s enjoyment of this lively work. Neither orchestral playing nor singing is, stylistically-speaking, quite what we would get from a modern ‘period’ performance, but it makes up for this in energy and sense of fun. In a way it could be argued that performances such as this represent a living tradition, an evolution within the opera house, more than more scholarly editions and interpretations do. 

Bruscantini is a fine baritone, whose well-known expertise in Mozart is relevant here, making him a sympathetic interpreter of Cimarosa too, whose buffo manner has more than a little in common with that of Mozart. His diction is exemplary and he has a convincing dramatic presence. He is certainly the star of this performance. Valletti  sings very decently, though I have heard recordings of him that do rather more justice to the beauty of his tone. All the women acquit themselves quite well, though, again, the sound doesn’t do much for the higher registers of their voices. Still, enough survives for the performance to be enjoyable. So far as I know, there are no alternative recordings available. 

A ‘bonus’ comes in the form of five well-known arias from Bruscantini. Here the recorded sound is a good deal better, and there is much to enjoy in the intelligence and musicianship of his singing. 

Glyn Pursglove


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