Dove è amore è gelosia was the first opera to be performed in the newly renovated theatre of Český Krumlov Castle in 1768, and as such it seemed appropriate then to choose this rare work to be the first opera performed in this UNESCO heritage site when it was restored to its full glory in 2011. There's historical justification alone in reviving this extremely rare work, but the opera itself isn't without merit either, even if the name of Giuseppe Scarlatti means little nowadays.
You can guage a few things about Dove è amore è gelosia (Where there is Love, there is Jealousy) from the title alone, and the fact that it is an opera buffa written in 1768. You would expect the comedy to play out along similar lines to Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro or Così Fan Tutte, and those examples will give you a good idea of the tone of the comedy and the arrangements if not the exact musical quality. Haydn might be a closer point of comparison, since the work was also written to commission for a royal court. Scarlatti's treatment obviously can't hold up to the sophistication of Mozart's or indeed Haydn's treatment of the opera buffa, but this is nonetheless as delightful an example of this kind of work as you'll find.
Written for only four roles, it's also a much more simple affair than one of Mozart's comedies. The four principals are, inevitably, divided into two couples - one from the nobility and one from the servant class. The ladies are unhappy that their lovers are either too jealous or not jealous enough and decide that both men need to be taught a lesson. So yes, you can expect a plot to involve letters falling into the wrong hands, disguises requiring cross-dressing that result in mistaken identities, with people grasping the wrong end of the stick. And that's exactly what you get. Dove è amore è gelosia is skillfully arranged if not particularly inspired in this respect, but it's a light, undemanding and enjoyable entertainment.
The music likewise is light and pleasant, with clever little solo arias bemoaning the inconstancy of one's lover and some playful little duets that keep the comic interaction going, and they are delightfully sung and performed by the cast here. What's also notable about this particular production is that, since Český Krumlov Castle is the only authentic working Baroque theatre in the world, it's performed as close to period authenticity as possible. All the props, backdrops and stage effects are operated using the original rope and pulley systems (and it's most impressive to see these in action), the costumes and setting are period - with even the conductor and orchestra wearing period costumes and wigs - and the whole stage is entirely illuminated by candlelight.
This is a lovely production then, sung well by a good cast, performed with verve and with a feel for the qualities of the work, its arrangements and its intentions. The filmmakers want you to get an impression of just how authentic this is and there are consequently a few backstage cutaways to show the mechanical effects in operation, but for the most part Dove è amore è gelosia is filmed like any other opera performance and it looks marvellous. The quality of the High Definition image in the Blu-ray is excellent even though it is shot by candlelight, and the audio tracks give a wonderful brightness and clarity to the musical performances and the singing. The BD also has an interesting 52-minute documentary on the history and renovation of Český Krumlov. The disc is compatible for all-regions and has subtitles in English, French, German, Japanese and Korean.
This is a work in two parts with part one divided into seven scenes and part two into nine. There are just the four singers supported by a few walk on parts. Lenka Macikova appears as the Marquise Clarice, Ales Briscein as Count Orazio, Katerina Knezikova as Clarice's maid Vespetta and Jaroslav Brezina as Patrizio, Orazio's servant and confidant. All four perform excellently, are a joy to watch and are obviously enjoying themselves. The baroque costumes by Helena Kasarova could not have been designed better. They relate perfectly to the period of the action and even the orchestra are clad in the correct period costumes.
I like to think that Giuseppe Scarlatti would have enjoyed composing this enjoyable romp, which really is very funny even by modern standards. Even the theatre and staging are true to the period in which the work was composed. That is, except to say, they haven't used real candles, which is just as well considering the horrific instances there's been of theatres burning down during the candlelight era. During the performance the recording regales the viewer with fascinating glimpses of how the staging was operated during the Eighteenth Century. All kinds of wheels, pulleys and ropes can be seen along with how they made 'thunder'. None of these glimpses is long enough to spoil the viewing of the performance. On one occasion Lenka Macikova, in the role of Marquise Clarice, stamps her foot as a signal for the stage hands to open a hole in the floor, through which a writing desk and chair are elevated onto the stage.
I think it a mistake to compare this Scarlatti opera with the operas composed by such composers as Mozart. Comparisons are only useful when we're comparing like with like, which is not the case here. Great arias in the Mozart style would be out of place in such a work as this. There were three composers called Scarlatti: Aleessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), his son Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757) and Giuseppe Scarlatti whose relationship to the other two is uncertain; he may have been a nephew. What Giuseppe set out to do he did well, and more than well, if this excellent staging of his work is anything to go by. There are all kinds of operas. Some of us like some sorts best and others like different sorts. It would be a boring old world if we all liked the same thing and if all composers composed in the same vein.
Dove e Amore e Gelosia (Where there's Love there's Jealousy) is a masterpiece in its own right,. Giuseppe Scarlatti does what he set out to do and composed a masterpiece in its own particular genre of the joyful romp. I'm sure that many other viewers will jump for joy at this performance just as I do. How wonderful it is that there was a third Scarlatti who lived and wrote it. One of the things this work, and some other Eighteenth Century works, seem to show us is that the relationship between aristocrats and/or the gentry and their servants was more relaxed in the Eighteenth Century than it was in the Nineteenth.
In short, this is a top quality, cross dressing, romp of a farce performed to the highest standards in a period theatre setting in Krumlov Castle and it thoroughly deserves to be the winner of Havel Foundation Award 2012.