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.
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.
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preciously unpublished live recording contains no notes whatsoever,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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.