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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Gazzetta (1816)
Cinzia Forte (soprano) - Lisetta; Bruno Praticò(bass baritone) - Don Pomponio; Pietro Spagnoli (baritone) - Filippo; Charles Workman (tenor) - Alberto; Agata Bienkowska (mezzo) - Madame La Rosa; Marisa Martins (mezzo) - Doralice; Simón Orfila (baritone) - Monsù Traversen; Marc Canturri (baritone) – Anselmo
Intermezzo Choir
Orchestra Academy of the Gran Teatre del Liceu/Maurizio Barbacini
Lighting designer: Franco Marri
Set designer, Costume designer, Director: Dario Fo
rec. live, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 1 and 3 July 2005
LPCM Stereo. DTS 16:9 anamorphic.
Region Code 0 (Worldwide). DVD9/DVD 5 dual layer.
OPUS ARTE OA 0953 D [163:00]


This is an absolute joy, from beginning to end; a marvellous piece of theatre conjured up by a kind of collaboration outside time between three Italian comic geniuses – Goldoni, Rossini and Dario Fo.

La Gazzetta (or, Il matrimonio per concorso) was premiered at the Teatro de’ Fiorentini in Naples, on 26 (28 in some accounts) September 1816. The libretto is by Giuseppe Palomba, based on a play - not a novel as the booklet to this DVD suggests – by the great Italian dramatist Carlo Goldoni, written in the 1760s, Il matrimonio per concorso. It was the only opera buffa that Rossini wrote for Naples. The first performance had to be delayed, perhaps because Rossini was exceedingly busy both musically – he was, after all, responsible for twenty-seven operas between 1812 and 1819 – and socially, being in the throes of involvement with his future wife Isabella Colbran. Perhaps in part because of the pressures of time, Rossini incorporated a number of pieces – generally revised and reshaped a little – from earlier works, and drew on the assistance of at least one collaborator. Philip Gossett summarises matters in his essay (‘Compositional Methods’) in The Cambridge Companion to Rossini, ed. E. Senici, 2004:

"It consists of a Sinfonia and sixteen musical numbers, joined together by secco recitative. All the recitative and two musical numbers were prepared by a collaborator … Four numbers (and much of the Act I Finale) are entirely new. Five are taken in their entirety from earlier operas (four from Il Turco in Italia, one from La pietra del paragone). Major sections of three others (including the introduzione and the Act I Finale) are derived from earlier operas (Sigismundo and Torvaldo e Dorliska), while a few melodies in the two remaining pieces, and the Sinfonia, are borrowed".

Fuller details can be found in the edition of the opera by Fabrizio Scipioni and Philip Gossett (2002). For La Gazzetta to receive its first modern production, in 1960, what the booklet of this DVD describes as "archaeology and surgery in order to complete its score and libretto" were needed. In turn, Dario Fo’s version takes a good many liberties – with the details, though not, I think, the spirit – of the ‘original’, so what we are dealing with here is a complicated kind of palimpsest. But as a good man of the theatre I have no doubts that Rossini would have understood the necessity for a theatre text to grow and change and would have approved of Fo’s work. I suspect, indeed, that Rossini would have loved this production!

Fo, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997, is not only a dramatist and an actor-mime, but also a designer and director, who has also written theatre-music on occasion. His sense of the theatre is profoundly steeped in the traditions of medieval and later farce, in commedia dell’arte, in the innovative use of the inherited comic tradition, most often used for purposes of political satire. He is a master of what one might call intellectual farce. He has previously directed productions of Il barbiere di Siviglia and L’Italiana in Algeri.

La Gazzetta’s splendidly absurd plot centres on the consequences of the Neapolitan Don Pomponio’s decision to advertise, in a newspaper, the fact that he wants to find a husband for his daughter, whose attractions are described in his advertisement. But that daughter, Lisetta, is already in love with Filippo, landlord of the hotel in which they are staying and described in the libretto as "astuto e bizzarro". Complications involving a number of other young men and women, and working towards the discomfiture of Don Pomponio and other parents unwilling to let their daughters have their heads, inevitably ensue and, as in any good love comedy, the young get their way - but not before many cross purposes and confusions.

Fo’s production was originally undertaken for the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, later transferring, with a largely different cast, to Barcelona. Fo sets the action in Paris early in the twentieth century, in a fashionable world in which Don Pomponio is quite out of place, his Neapolitan mannerisms the very opposite of Parisian chic. Fo’s production exploits the basic plot device as part of a sustained – but never heavy-handed – satire on the power of publicity and advertising, of the media in the broadest sense, in the modern world. The whole production is an absolute Catherine wheel of ideas; the stage is never empty, never still, peopled with marionettes and dancing nuns, flags and colourful motor cars, fashion models and dancers, marionettes and newspaper-reading men and women, advertising hoardings and acrobatic movement, and much, much else. There are visual jokes galore – some indebted to the silent movies, some to the traditions of Italian mime with which Fo is so well acquainted - and the result is a delightful visual equivalent to the aural sparkle of Rossini’s music. There is a self-referential quality to the production, with parodies of the death scenes of opera seria and assertions that this is ‘only’ a comic opera.

Fo is well served by a young, handsome and sexy cast, in which everyone looks the part in a beautifully dressed production. One has no difficulty in understanding why there is so much love and desire in the air! Cinzia Forte is a delightful, flirtatious, strong-willed Lisetta, and she sings impressively, especially at the top of her register; Marisa Martins is a charming Doralice and Agata Bienkowska characterises Madama la Rosa with wit and vocal assurance. Amongst the young men, Charles Workman’s bel-canto manner as Alberto makes a very favourable impression, and Pietro Spagnoli acts and sings delightfully as Filippo. Bruno Praticò is not a singer of the very highest quality, but in this buffo role his whole manner and presence are very well calculated, while seeming entirely natural. The ensemble numbers – such as the Quartet in Act I and, especially, the Finale of Act I, the Trio in Act II – are ravishingly done, both musically and visually. The orchestral playing throughout serves its purposes pretty well, though there are one or two points at which one might wish for it to be just a bit more dynamic. But this is a mere quibble in the face of a quite splendid achievement. This is the first recording on DVD of La Gazzetta. It will surely be a long time before it is succeeded by a better one.

Glyn Pursglove

see also review by Robert Farr


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