Alessandro SCARLATTI (1660 - 1725)
Intermezzi fra Palandrana e Zamberlucco
Barbara di Castri Palandrana (soprano), Gastone Sarti - Zamberlucco (tenor)
Fortuna Ensemble (Giorgio Spagnoli (oboe), Silvia Colli, Francesca Micconi (violin), Paolo Brunello (cello), Roberto Cascio (archlute), Marco Ghirotti (harpsichord))/Roberto Cascio
rec. 13-14 March 2001, Sala Bolognese of Palazzo Zambeccari, Bologna, Italy. DDD
TACTUS TC 661908 [43:01]

During the 17th century most operas contained some comic element. Its absent from the very first operas, like Monteverdi's Orfeo, but became an indispensable part of later operas, for instance those of Francesco Cavalli. Toward the end of the century the comic elements were removed. Gradually two kinds of operas came into existence: on the one hand the serious opera (opera seria) and on the other hand the opera buffa (comic opera). It was only during the first half of the 18th century that the latter genre fully developed. In the meantime the intermezzo took over the role of bringing some relaxation to a serious plot.

Different names were used for pieces of that type. The term intermezzo indicates its place: performed between acts of a serious opera. Often the intermezzo was split into various sections to be performed between every two acts, which explains the use of the plural: 'intermezzi'. That is also the case with the piece recorded here. It contains three sections, called 'Intermezzo primo', 'Intermezzo secondo' and 'Intermezzo terzo'.

The intermezzo usually had only two characters and a simple plot. The full title of Scarlatti's intermezzo is: Intermezzi fra Palandrana vecchia vedova e Zamberlucco giovine da bravo, translated: "Intermezzos between Palandrana, an old widow, and Zamberlucco, a young swaggerer". And that is all we are allowed to know, at least if we don't understand Italian. The booklet contains the complete lyrics, but - as so often in productions of this label - without English translation. And the programme notes tell a lot about the historical background of this piece, but nothing about its content.

The programme notes contain an interesting assessment of Alessandro Scarlatti's compositions for the theatre by the Bolognese count Francesco Maria Zambeccari: "He is a great man, and for being so good, he manages to be bad because his compositions are extremely difficult and suitable things for the chamber, but they do not succeed in the theatre; at first, whoever understands counterpoint will admire him; but hearing them in a theatre of a thousand people, there are no more than twenty who understand it, and the others, not hearing cheerful and theatrical things, become bored. (...) [Scarlatti's] style for the theatre is universally disliked, for one wants cheerful and lively things, as they have in Venice ...".

This supports what is written about Scarlatti, that he became increasingly out of step with modern trends in music. But apparently with this intermezzo he found great approval from those wanting "cheerful and lively things". Even though I can't understand the lyrics, and therefore only have a faint idea of what is going on, the music is certainly lively, and so is the performance. The singing and playing is really good, despite some rough edges. The acoustic is a bit too reverberant, though. And if I wouldn't have known which role Barbara di Castri was singing. I would never have taken her for an old woman. But maybe that's just a personal thing.

Johan van Veen

Nice music, performed well. Lack of translation of the lyrics makes it hard to enjoy the story