I cannot find fault with this piece - costumes, superb acting, staging, and singing of hauntingly lovely and/or hilariously funny songs. Corbelli's performance as the aging lover ("Oh, my foot!") is worth the entire price of the DVD. This is superb.
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi was just over 26 when he died in 1736. Lo Frate 'nnamorato is an example of how his his early death was an immense loss to the world of music, especially opera, and we must be grateful to Riccardo Muti for rediscovering this gem. This production is a masterpiece. Well chosen performers, intelligent orchestration and superb staging all combine to produce an inspiring art work.
If this opera is anything to go by, the ill health Pergolesi suffered during his short life doesn't seem to have dimmed his joie de vivre. He also seems to have understood and appreciated women, especially servant girls. The maidservants Vanella and Cardella sung by Elizabeth Norberg-Shulz and Nicoletta Curiel run circles round the other characters and make fools of them, especially the male characters except for Ascanio, which is a trouser role. As great an operatic composer as Verdi undoubtedly was, I always think it was a pity that so many of his his operas ended with someone dying and mostly had nearly twice as many male characters in them as they did female ones. So, how refreshing it is to have a composer who seems to understand and value women so vividly. I feel privileged to possess a copy of this first rate performance of an opera, which was composed by such a genius of a young man who died before he was able to realise his full potential.
I will start with the picture quality, which is below what what would see nowadays. It is acceptable but look at the year of production. The sound quality is crisp and clear, with an excellent balance between voice and orchestra. The revolving set is quite clever, with doors, archways, stairs and balconies seamlessly changing as the central structure gives different perspectives. There is no backdrop, but this does not seem to matter. The costumes are themed, somewhat fanciful and pastel creams, greens and other mild tints, both for the male and female characters. There are enough differences to make the characters easily recognisable. The singers are all so good that they do not need individual appraisement. To pick out one would not be fair to the rest. Characterization is pretty good, I would single out the maid Cardella by Nicoletta Curiel and Corbelli as Marcaniello for outstanding contributions. Nuccia Focile looks a bit too feminine for the trouser role and the mezzo Nina, Bernadette Manca Di Nissa does not look too happy, but her voice is great. The gentlemens roles all give some scope for individuality, the ladies roles somewhat less. Corbellis gouty foot gives him an edge on the comedy and he makes the best of it. The plot is humorous on a gentle level. It revolves round a series of arranged and inappropriate marriages which do not suit the ladies concerned. It is not helped by the sisters having the same pronounced name with different spelling. There is a good synopsis in the booklet, along with libretto, it explains all, but do not try it all at once. I suggest that you donot worry too much about the plot, sit back, watch, listen and enjoy. The item numbers in the booklet do not match with the on screen check, if you try to work out where you are, just ignore the title numbers and look who is on stage. It is rather a long work at three hours, and I find that at one sitting I become a bit over baroqued, so I have one act per night. I do notice at the end of the DVD the artistes are still taking bows to a fast diminishing audience
A gem. An opera and a composer I have never come across before but a joy to encounter such music. It is staged, sung and conducted immaculately and it is presented without stupid updating. Singing wonderful especially by Bruno De Simone and Alessandro Corbelli. A tragedy Pergolesi died so young. He could have given Mozart a run for his money.
One of my favourite acquisitions. An opera I'd never heard of, by a composer who isn't exactly famous, but full of attractive songs, beautifully sung by a talented cast. on clever set , and very funny! What more could you want? Buy it, it's a bargain.
Baroque opera at its best, given the fact of it being a comedy one ought not get caught up in any attempts at overly incisive analysis, as such it has wonderful value for the pure entertainment it provides. Personally I thought the revolving stage was an ingenious device and added considerably to the flow of the piece. An easy opera to watch, agreeing with a previous review, the choice of stage and costume colours seemed just right, in any case the piece speaks for itself no need for overdone colouration. Overall the singing was very good, with character appropriate deliveries, never coming across as strained or overdone. As for the music, personally I'm not a big fan of Ricardo Muti, and am not about to in anyway criticise this offering, quite the contrary. On this occasion all seemed as it should be, overall exceeding my expectations, just because the piece is a comedy doesn't mean it should be handled with any less care, or mindfulness of interpretation and especially in the case of comic opera tempi is of the utmost importance, Maestro Muti in this instance succeeded admirably on all counts. As one might expect from such a relatively old piece, reproduction both sonically and visually did let it down somewhat, to be fair though, it was more than watchable. Having said all that, and I could spend a good deal more time on positive observations, as there are many, one must come to the negatives. In terms of the piece itself negatives really come down to personal taste and preference, of course its not perfect, but given certain limitations it does a more than adequate job. However, the audience and their constant interruptions of applause, not to mention coughing and throat clearing etc etc. I persevered only because I was so enjoying the opera itself so much. Perhaps I'm just becoming more intolerant as I get older, I really didn't think it necessary for audience applause as frequently as was the case here, as for the coughing. I am a smoker of 30 plus years, I have sat through Wagner's Walkure and not found it necessary to cough, clear my throat or indeed make any other form of offensive unnecessary noises. It was the applause that really annoyed me, ordinarily a good resounding applause can add to the atmosphere projected by a rousing piece, in this case its effect was quite the opposite. A shame really, for me it spoiled what could have been a very enjoyable piece. As some of you may be aware one can acquire this as part of a set of eleven DVD's, however after my experience with this one I don't think I shall be purchasing anymore in this set. Clearly not everybody is so effected by such distractions, if you are, frankly I would avoid the purchase of this example. Otherwise, I would recommend it without hesitation.