wrote Mirandolina in Nice,
working in Italian. Freed from worries
in the sunny relaxation of those years
the composer’s joy in creation pervades
this score. There is no sign of the
tragedy or darker grand passions that
had wrung from him such works as the
Third Symphony and the Concerto for
Piano, Timpani and Double String Orchestra.
Instead what we have is a work of exuberance,
affection and humour quite unlike the
surreal and sometimes bewildering impressionism
of Julietta or the grandeur and
stark grimness of The Greek Passion.
While detail of the
plot is just too much to summarise the
action is set in Florence at Miss Mirandolina’s
tavern. ‘La Locandiera’ is, by the way,
Italian for ‘the Mistress of the Inn’.
The plot is a triumph of inconsequentiality
of misunderstandings and all the trappings
of triviality, misanthropes, quarrels,
tricks, swordplay, swooning and punctured
pride. The action gravitates around
Mirandolina and the various commoners
and aristocracy competing for her attention.
It is Mirandolina who in grace and intelligence
triumphs over the mountebanks, knaves
and fools who are drawn to her.
This opera is a Rossinian
buffo intermezzo mixed with poignant
Mozartian elements from Cosi Fan
Tutte and Nozze di Figaro.
The score is strong on ensemble action
in which lines weave and interact faultlessly
and always with a smile. This opera
bears the sort of comparison that can
be made between Walton’s Troilus
and Cressida and his The Bear;
Die Tote Stadt and Korngold’s
Der Ring des Polykrates; Pilgrim’s
Progress and Vaughan Williams’ Sir
John in Love and Poisoned Kiss.
The opera reminds me strongly of Sir
John in Love in its potent combination
of serenade, bluff humour, trickery
and rodomontade. I should also mention
Smetana as a model for his Bartered
Bride music is affectionately alluded
to in the closing pages of Act III.
The cast has no weak
links. Strongest of all is Daniela Bruera,
the demands of whose taxing coloratura
role she meets with vaunting and well-placed
conveys the echt Martinů spirit.
This is a live staged performance complete
with the sound of movement, clomping
about, applause, laughter and all the
panoply of stagecraft. Only rarely does
the live context cheat the players but
one example is in the momentary
sourness of the trumpet solo at 1.01
on tr. 5 CD2. Everyone seems well attuned
to the essential kinship of this music
to Cosi and Magic Flute.
The Saltarello which divides Act II
from Act III effervesces straight out
of the dynamic pages of the Fourth Symphony
and draws spontaneous applause.
The discs are liberally
tracked so that each scene (of which
there are 21 across the three acts),
interlude, intermezzo and saltarello
can easily be located and played. Track
numbers are indicated in the libretto.
was premiered at the National Theatre,
Prague on 17 May 1959, three months
before Martinů’s death. The heroine
was sung by Maria Tauberová.
The box comprises a
double width jewel case holding the
two CDs and the slimmer of the two booklets.
The dumpy 240 page libretto sits alongside
the case, all accommodated in a light
card box. Eccentrically the libretto
in the sung Italian takes up the first
49 pages. The remaining 190 pages present
the libretto in English, German, French
and Czech. This was the wrong choice
for someone wanting to follow the goings-on
closely even if doing anything else
would have meant dropping one of the
This box is for Martinů
admirers and those who trace 20th century
opera down a path which does not take
itself over-seriously and yet which
has heart and charm. An important set
to add to Martinů’s growing representation
in the catalogue.