I think that Pergolesi understood women, especially working women. Otherwise, how was he able to portray them with such sympathetic accuracy? Certainly, in Lo Frate 'nnamorato, it's the two maids, Vanella and Cardella, admirably played by Laura Cherici and Rosa Bove respectfully, who 'steal the show', which would be nothing without them plus Marcaniello, who suffers from gout and is played in this production by Nicola Alaimo who, in my opinion, does not fill the role as well as Alessandro Corbelli does in the earlier Opus Arte recording of this work conducted by Riccardo Muti at La Scala, Milan. Alaimo's portrayal of this lead character, well played as it is, is simply not as hilariously funny as that of Corbelli in the La Scala production. Then again, although I'm in favour of staging certain works in different periods from the ones in which they were composed, the mid Twentieth Century staging in this version, although well done, does the two maids no favours. Again, the maids in the La Scala version are even more delightfully naughty.
None the less for any of that, this Teatro Giovanni Battista Pergolesi production is still easily worth five stars. It's so good that this work has become popular enough in the Twenty First Century for it to be produced in more than one version. Some viewers will prefer one version and some another. Great works lend themselves to different interpretations and this one will certainly appeal to many. It's just wonderful that Pergolesi is, at long last, being recognised for the great composer that he certainly was. There's simply got to be something special about this young man who could compose such delightful operas all before he was twenty six when he sadly died. I'm so pleased I invested in this Blu-ray and, if a third version comes out, I'll buy that too. It's simply one of the happiest, funniest operas ever written and I thoroughly recommend it.
Lo Frate 'Nnamorato is Pergolesi's first comic opera. The music is fresh and enchanting throughout and the use of Neapolitan dialect adds pleasure. In particular, the aria with flute obbligato that opens the third act is stunning beautiful.
The musical performance is superb. The orchestra conducted by Fabio Biondi, plays with energy and enthusiasm. All the singers are wonderful.
The opera's plot was transferred to the 20th century, but it was done in a very graceful and effective way and looks completely natural.
Up until only a couple of years ago, Pergolesi reputation as an opera composer rested mainly on a few comedies and Intermezzi, most notably La Serva Padrona and Lo frate 'nnamorato. Historically, these are important works that took opera away from the rigid formalism of traditional classical subjects, but they don't stand up as well now as some of the other works revived by Pergolesi-Spontini Foundation (most notably the composer's incomparable L'Olimpiade). Lo frate 'nnamorato, one of Pergolesi's earliest works, now seems quite typical of the genre that he helped create.
There's a complicated web of romantic entanglements in the opera where everyone is in love with someone who doesn't love them, only for the situation to be resolved by late revelations about lost relatives, secret identities and unexplained mysterious backgrounds. The difference here is of course is the humour and the social context. Very little of the humour comes from the main characters, although Don Pietro is certainly a bit of a joker who likes to flirt with the maids and tries certain unconventional methods of romantic persuasion while the others just seem to prefer bemoaning the lot that fate has drawn for them. It's actually the maids Vanella and Cardella however who are the real heart of the work, two "serva padronas" irreverently making fun of the self-indulgence, false hopes, illusions and self-deceptions of their masters.
Without the seemingly minor contributions of Vanella and Cardella, Lo frate 'nnamorato would indeed be a rather conventional account of characters in the throes of despair over the trials of unrequited love, but the work also gains from Pergolesi's musical arrangements, his inventive comic writing and the earthy character of the libretto's Neapolitan dialect. That's given a fine account here in the 2011 production at Jesi by Fabio Biondi leading his Europa Galante ensemble on violin. It's a small ensemble of about 12 musicians, but as such the precision playing is all the more evident, as is the inherent warmth and lyricism within the score itself. It's a beautiful performance of the work. Willy Landin's sets also provide an attractive setting, updating of the period to what looks like a provincial Italian village in the 1950s, beautifully lit and coloured with warm sepias, oranges and browns. The stage directions however, although they try to keep the singers involved in some occupation, don't really succeed in making it come to life.
The singing on all the Pergolesi performances from Jesi so far has been of an exceptional standard, but their Lo frate 'nnamorato isn't the strongest. The young cast however are all good, the voices fresh, lyrical and distinctive, particularly in the roles where it counts, but not all of them can handle the lyrical coloratura. Patrizia Biccirè's Nena is one of the best performers here and Elena Belfiore - the mezzo-soprano used for the Ascanio countertenor/castrato role - is also excellent. The Act II trio between Ascanio, Nena and Nina ('Se 'l foco mio t' infiamma') is accordingly one of the highlights. Fortunately, the maids Vanella and Cardella played by Laura Cherici and Rosa Bove are also both excellent, keeping the work vital and entertaining to such an extent that it drags a little when they are not on the stage.
Arthaus provide another quality BD release for Lo frate 'nnamorato. The image quality is superb, clear with warm colouration, and the audio tracks capture all the detail of the musical arrangements and the singing. The disc is a BD50, compatible for all regions. Subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Korean. There are no extra features other than Trailers for the other Arthaus Pergolesi titles and a booklet with an essay on the work. There is no synopsis, but the plot is covered briefly in the essay and there is a full track listing that helps initially identify all the characters.
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 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.
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.