Nina -- Cecilia Bartoli
Lindoro / Un pastore -- Jonas Kaufman
Il Conte -- Laszlo Polgar,br> Susanna -- Juliette Galstian
Giorgio -- Angelo Veccia
Villanelle -- Federica Bartoli, Golda Fischer
Chorus and Orchestra of the Opernhaus Zurich conducted by Adam Fischer
Director: Cesare Levi
Video Director: Thomas Grimm
This DVD captures a production of 'Nina, o sia La Pazza per Amore' ('Nina, or The Girl Driven Mad by Love') done at the Zurich Opera in 1998. It also includes a fascinating 40-minute documentary on Paisiello and 'Nina' done by Reiner Moritz that includes commentary by the opera's director, Cesare Lievi, in which he describes his ideas about how the opera has a proto-feminist subtext; he claims that Nina doesn't actually go mad, but simply pretends to be driven mad by her father's refusal to let her marry her lover, Lindoro, all in the service of punishing him and securing some freedom for herself. All that is well and good, but the production itself doesn't lean too heavily on this conceit and we are better off for that. It is, actually, a pretty conventional--and dramatically effective--staging, thank goodness. None of the post-Freudian Eurotrash production values one so often sees in continental opera stagings.
The story is fairly simple. Nina loves Lindoro, but her father, the Count, wants her to marry a wealthy rival. Lindoro and the rival duel, in Nina's presence, and Lindoro is killed. Nina goes mad immediately. All this occurs before the curtain rises. In Act I we meet Nina, who is under the care of her duenna, Susanna, on the grounds of the Count's castle. She is under the illusion that Lindoro is not dead and she awaits his return eagerly. This delusion is fostered by Susanna in order to spare Nina's delicate nerves. The Count is very sad for his daughter and regrets his earlier tyrannical behavior. But Nina doesn't even recognize her father. A shepherd appears, accompanied by a bagpiper, and sings a pastoral air. Nina remarks that he sounds like her beloved Lindoro and is reminded of her cruel fate. She becomes agitated and sings an interpolated rage aria by Mozart, 'Ah, io previdi!' (K. 272). Susanna prevails upon her to go into the village and bring presents to the peasants. Act II opens with the Count thanking Susanna for taking such good care of Nina when the major domo, Giorgio, arrives breathlessly to announce that Lindoro hadn't died after all, that he has returned in disguise as a shepherd, because although he cannot marry her, he wants to be near his beloved Nina. So it turns out Nina was not wrong to think the shepherd sounded like her dear Lindoro. The Count encounters Lindoro, greets him as a son, accepts him as a prospective son-in-law. Nina enters but takes a while to recognize that the stranger is her long-lost lover. They reunite and a happy finale ensues, but not before--in a clever touch--Lindoro begins acting like the lord of the manor and one gets some sense that all may not live happily ever after.
Cecilia Bartoli stars as Nina and sings up a storm. Her fioriture are a marvel, of course, and her acting quite good, although she does tend to chew the scenery in her mad scenes. The distinguished Hungarian basso, Laszlo Polgar, sings and acts the Count very effectively. Juliette Galstian is a particularly moving (and humorously very bossy) duenna, Susanna. A young and handsome Bavarian tenor, Jonas Kaufmann, is extremely effective as Lindoro, both as himself and in his disguise as a shepherd. Angelo Veccia sings the major-domo, Giorgio. The chorus and orchestra of the Zurich Opera are conducted expertly by the Hungarian Adam Fischer, a well-regarded opera conductor who was first made known to me twenty-five years ago in a stunning recording of Karl Goldmark's neglected 'Die Königin von Saba' ('The Queen of Sheba').
I was delighted to make the acquaintance of this rare Italian opera buffa. It makes me wonder whether we might enjoy Paisiello's 'Barber of Seville.'
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