Pergolesi Livietta e Tracollo & La Serva Padrona

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Pergolesi Livietta e Tracollo & La Serva Padrona

  • Livietta e Tracollo
  • (La) Serva Padrona

La serva padrona, most famous of intermezzi, is given here with a rare but comparable companion-piece. Livietta e Tracollo was written a year later and had its premiere in the same theatre, the San Bartolomeo at Naples, in 1734. It also is for two characters, light soprano and buffo bass, with two sections, originally to be played in the intervals of the evening’s opera seria. Rather more complicated and improbable than La serva padrona, it tells of a girl disguised as a French peasant (male) seeking vengeance on a robber who in turn appears disguised as a pregnant Pole. She succeeds in the first half, while in the second the man, now disguised as an astrologer, has more luck and they agree to get married. Musically it is not so very inferior to the Serva. Both have more wit in the music than in the libretto, with deft parodies of opera seria and a popular appeal in the repeated phrases of their arias, catchy without being coarse. In an interview for the booklet, the conductor Sigiswald Kuijken “dares”, as he says, to suggest a parallel with “our purely recreational television-films”. I’m not sure quite how helpful that is, though it may explain why one wonders from time to time whether one should not be doing something more useful and yet still doesn’t switch off.
For Livietta e Tracollo there is no other recording currently available on the Gramophone Database (a version from 1961 was recorded on Cetra), and the performance here is a lively one with Nancy Argenta as a resourceful and not too pertly soubrettish Livietta. La serva padrona has two competitive recordings (listed above), though neither has the extra attraction of such a coupling. Kuijken’s Petite Bande are numerically and stylistically comparable to the Ensemble Baroque de Nice (Pierre Verany) and the Collegium Aureum (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi), but play with a more distinctively ‘period’ tone. The speeds are sprightly and the rhythms light-footed. In both works, the women are better than the men, who (on this showing) lack the comic touch. Patricia Biccire sings attractively, especially in her ‘sincere’ aria, “A Serpina penserate”, and she paces her recitatives artfully. A lower baroque pitch is used and the final number is the short duet “Per te io ho nel core” as in the original score (the Pierre Verany recording under Gilbert Bezzina has a longer, later version).
The booklet contains both librettos (in Italian) and summaries of the plots, as well as Kuijken’s thoughts on the project.'

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