And I love the Schwetzingen Festival opera productions in their jewel-box 450-seat rococo theater. I've delighted in every hour I've spent there, in whatever capacity. This production filmed in 1992 displays all the virtues of Schwetzingen -- brilliantly and imaginatively designed sets, well-directed acting, well-rehearsed and tight musical ensemble -- supporting a fine cast of singers in a zesty performance of The Occasion Makes the Thief.
"L'occasione fa il ladro" is a 'stock' Italian comedy in the theatrical format that dates back, through Goldoni and the commedia dell'arte, to Plautus. The jokes come from the 'switched' identities of the four principals. Wealthy heiress Berenice switches roles with her maid Ernestina (who is really of 'good' family herself), while Don Parmenione roguishly steals the identity of Conte Alberto. With two guys & two gals in the plot, no one is likely not to foresee the cheery outcome of this frantic comedy. Musically, "L'occasione" is Rossini at his most madcap, with superimposed polysyllablic patter in duets, quartets, and quintets of exquisite frenzy.
The ensembles are the delights of this short opera. There are only two solo arias of memorable melodic beauty in this opera, both sung in coloratura by Susan Patterson as Berenice. Amazon gives pride of place to Monica Bacelli, by the way, but it's Patterson who excels vocally and who has the larger role. Tenor Robert Gambill is very effective, both as singer and actor, in the role of the admirable Conte Alberto. Tenor Natale de Carolis has the 'broader' comic role of the impostor - really a splendid fellow merely temporarily seduced into villainy by the "occasion" - and he struts and swaggers with convincing gusto. This is an excellent cast of singers, well directed in staging, well conducted in musical ensemble by Michael Hampe, from an orchestra pit that is a mere foot or two below the stage. Hampe's baton often flicks through the footlights.
Is there anything not to like about this production? Not for me, but as I said, I love Rossini.