the many opera composers who were active during the later
18th century, Mozart so dominates the present-day
repertory that one is tempted to think that his operas are
the only ones that are still worth hearing. Yet nothing can
be further from the truth, as this spirited performance of
Cimarosa’s The Secret Marriage shows. A couple of
further observations amplify the point. During the decade
after 1781, the decade of Mozart’s years in Vienna, that
master actually occupied eighth position in terms of the
number of operatic performances in the Imperial theatres.
Among those ahead of him were the Italian expatriates Giovanni
Paisiello, Domenico Cimarosa and, of course, Antonio Salieri.
The present opera by Cimarosa dates from 1792, the year after
Mozart’s death, and its first performance was so enjoyed
by the Emperor Leopold II that he provided supper for the
whole cast and orchestra so that he could hear it again that
to this sparkling performance, it is easy to understand the
Emperor’s enthusiasm. Moreover, this latest reincarnation
of the recording makes it hard to believe that the original
was made fully thirty years ago. This is a tribute to the
quality of the sound as much as to the performance itself,
excellent though the latter undoubtedly is.
latest version is attractively produced with a 68-page booklet
that includes full track listings, artist photographs and
the libretto in parallel Italian and English. Having gone
to this much trouble, it is surprising that there is no other
documentation by way of background material, and no synopsis.
Such are the vagaries of reissues.
who has heard the opera buffe of Mozart - Le nozze di
Figaro for instance – will readily recognise the same
style in this Cimarosa opera. For ‘number opera’, with its
more extended finales, was the prevailing approach during
the period, and Il matrimonio segreto employs this
method with remarkable vivacity and flair. One number after
another fizzes with life and musical appeal, consistently
delivered in this performance with vocal confidence and assurance.
The recitatives are lively enough to sustain interest even
on CD without any visual element, while the appealing inventiveness
of the arias and ensembles is such that number after number
proves to be a delight. As such each singer has the opportunity
to shine, while the orchestral accompaniments add beautifully
judged support and offer interest in their own right.
cast could hardly be better, since it consists of six experienced
singers who were assembled while at the heights of their
careers and the top of their form. As an example, listen
to the Act I sextet (track 12) in which they all feature.
The pacing and balancing of forces by Barenboim is exemplary,
and all the cast can be heard working together, to full and
are also various solo opportunities, of course. Julia Hamari
sings beautifully in her Act I aria, in which Fidalma advises
the young Elisetta, expressing the wisdom gained by her long
experience of dealing with men. For her part Julia Varady
in the latter role brings a special freshness to her music,
not least in her splendid Act III aria, by which time the
character’s own confidence has grown.
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau among the cast, there is the chance
to enjoy one of the great opera singers in action. He is
as alert as ever to the demands of teamwork, but it is still
true that his Act I solo ‘Udite, tutti udite’ is the
highlight among several highlights, delightfully conveying
his character’s personality in one of the most appealing
numbers in the whole opera buffa tradition.