Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
La Scala di Seta - Farsa comica in one act (1812) [105:00]
Dormont - Daniele Zanfardino (tenor); Giulia - Olga Peretyatko (soprano); Lucilla - Anna Malavasi (mezzo); Dorvil - José Manuel Zapata (tenor); Blansac - Paolo Bordogna (baritone)
Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento/Claudio Scimone
Damiano Michieletto (stage director); Paolo Fantin (stage and costume design)
rec. Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro, August 2009
Picture: NTSC/16:9; Sound: LPCM 2.0 & dts digital surround; Region: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian
OPUS ARTE OA1075D DVD [105:00 + 22:00 (documentary)] 

La Scala di Seta
was the third of the five comic farces Rossini wrote for the Teatro San Moisè in Venice. Like the other four its plot is broadly comic and hardly original, in this case based very loosely on Colman and Garrick’s The Clandestine Marriage which had been used earlier by Cimarosa for his very successful Il Matrimonio Segreto. Rossini’s score is full of invention, particularly in terms of rhythm, orchestration and sheer comic drive. Its very well known Overture is only the opening of a consistently delightful score. This performance makes use of a new critical edition by Anders Wiklund, although I could not detect any obvious changes from that used in earlier audio recordings. The one difference that is immediately apparent is the inclusion of an aria for the baritone, Blansac - “Alle voce per l’amore”. The booklet explains that this is by Rossini though was not intended for this opera. Unfortunately no further explanation of its origin is given.
The most important point about this performance is that the cast are thoroughly at home in the musical idiom. There is never the sense, once common in Rossini performances, that they would be happier with, say, Verdi or Mozart. The many difficulties are not always surmounted in the heat of a live performance - if audience dress is any guide it was a hot evening - but no one gets flustered or is too obviously over-parted. The orchestra plays with finesse, and once past the Overture, which lacks real spontaneity, they respond with wit and affection to Rossini’s wonderful score. The singers who make the greatest impression are Olga Peretyatko and José Manuel Zapata but all have real virtues and there are no serious weak links.
The production is updated to the present and seems to be ruled above all by the ingenious set. This consists of a painted floor plan of a very modern apartment. There is furniture but no walls, windows or doors. The audience is however able to see where they are as the “backcloth” is a mirror of the stage seen from above which makes it obvious which room the various characters are in. It takes a few minutes to get used to this and the camera angles do not always make it clear what is being viewed but by and large this is an amusing and effective device. Unfortunately the producer’s efforts have not gone much beyond devising some rather obvious action within it, and the final scene, which should involve characters hiding and appearing from various positions is simply a muddle, neither funny nor clear and certainly not the climax of the action. I found myself more mystified than amused by it but the explanation of the thinking behind the production in the short documentary “extra” suggests that this might have been more fun in the theatre. I hope so as what we see here is more a generic farcical situation than the very specific one that is needed to be the cause of real laughter.
If DVDs of this opera were more common it might be possible simply to pass this one by. As it is, however, one should perhaps be grateful that it exists at all, and certainly some enthusiasm is due for the quality of the musical performance. You may well think it worth having to see once and thereafter to listen to with eyes closed or aimed solely at the subtitles.
John Sheppard
One should perhaps be grateful that this exists at all and some enthusiasm is due for the quality of the musical performance.