Rossini (La) gazzetta

A lesser-known Neapolitan comedy from Rossini’s period of astonishing creativity

Author: 
Richard Osborne

Rossini (La) gazzetta

  • (La) gazzetta

Rossini’s fizzing two-act comedy La gazzetta (“The Newspaper”) may be well-made Prosecco rather than vintage Krug but its 2001 revival in a new critical edition gave much pleasure at the Garsington and Pesaro festivals. The opera was written for Naples’s Teatro dei Fiorentini in 1816 in the middle of an astonishing burst of creative energy. Within the space of 12 months Rossini produced a wedding entertainment and four operas, three of them masterpieces. Like the wedding entertainment, La gazzetta draws heavily on music he had written prior to his arrival in Naples (Il turco in Italia a prime source), though La gazzetta would itself bequeath its overture to La Cenerentola.

The opera is based on Goldoni’s acerbic romantic comedy Il matrimonio per concorso. Several settings were already extant when Rossini’s friend Gaetano Rossi provided a new version for Giuseppe Mosca in Milan in 1814. It’s likely that Rossini had that very libretto in his luggage when he arrived in Naples the following year.

The lead player in La gazzetta is the ambitious and fantastical Don Pomponio. It is he who advertises for a husband for his flirtatious daughter Lisetta in the eponymous gazette. Rossini wrote the role for the great Neapolitan buffo Carlo Casaccia. Neapolitan dialect was part of Casaccia’s act which created problems both for Rossini and for later performers of the role, though not, happily, for Naxos’s Pomponio, who is Naples-born.

The emphasis on Casaccia shifted the dramatic focus within Goldoni’s large cast of nubile girls, aspiring husbands and assorted social flotsam, with Pomponio, Lisetta and the innkeeper Filippo the principal beneficiaries. All three are strongly cast in this vividly conducted live “Rossini in Wildbad” performance, though the closely miked South-West German Radio recording doesn’t always flatter their tone or technique.

There exists a live 1960 Naples recording of La gazzetta conducted by Franco Caracciolo. Like the Garsington and Pesaro revivals, that made no attempt to replace the Act 1 quintet which is present in the libretto but which has been removed from Rossini’s autograph manuscript. It is possible that Rossini used the quintet’s opening maestoso for the sextet in La Cenerentola. As for the concluding stretta, it had probably been borrowed from the Act 1 finale of Il barbiere. (The words are identical.) For this Wildbad revival a reconstruction based on these premises has been provided by Stefano Piana, who links the two sections with a passage from La scala di seta. I’m not sure it’s the ideal solution. The Il barbiere stretta is both too well known and too powerful for a mid-act ensemble, however pivotal.

Meanwhile, how do non-Neapolitan speakers follow this wordy comedy, with its yards of – here vividly projected – secco recitative? Tidy-minded Garsington patrons will have on their shelves the excellent translation Rosalind Ingrams prepared for the 2001 production. What Naxos provides is an inappropriately dense track-by-track synopsis. (One stretch of frolicsome recitative generates a 500-word explanation.) A deftly scripted synopsis a fraction of the length would have served better. That and a properly annotated cast list. Don Pomponio, father of Lisetta. Lisetta, in love with Filippo. As the meerkat would say, “Simples!”

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