SALIERI La scuola de' gelosi
La scuola de’ gelosi was originally produced in Venice during the 1778/79 carnival. Haydn organised performances at Eszterháza (1780 81), and in 1783 it inaugurated Joseph II’s new opera buffa troupe in Vienna – where the cast featured Francesco Benucci and Nancy Storace (later Mozart’s first Figaro and Susanna). It has intriguing parallels with Le nozze di Figaro, such as structural elements and some specific incidents (a count propositions a disguised woman, not realising it is his own countess), and the quick-paced crazy events and complicated emotions in the hierarchical love lives of noble, bourgeois and working-class characters. Moreover, there is an obvious kinship to Così fan tutte at this ‘school’ for lovers: a worldly wise lieutenant manipulates two hot-headed couples to become extremely jealous of their spouses before exposing the deception in order to teach them a humbling lesson.
Recorded live in Leverkusen by WDR, Werner Ehrhardt pays careful attention to details, and L’Arte del Mondo play more than capably in arias and ensembles that aptly characterise witty banter, scampering tetchiness, enraged outbursts and suave evocations of tenderness. Fortepiano continuo inclines towards anachronistic over-industry in recitatives (a passing mention of ‘sposata’ gives us a snatch of Wagner’s Bridal March), but nonetheless contributes significantly to the vivid sense of theatricality in conversations between the excellent team cast.
The jealous merchant Blasio and his feisty wife Ernestina are sung with comic acumen by Federico Sacchi and Roberta Mameli. Francesca Mazzulli Lombardi’s eloquent Countess arrives halfway through Act 1 with a melancholic cavatina lamenting that her husband no longer loves her (there’s something similar in the air to ‘Porgi amor’). Emiliano d’Aguanno’s smoky tenor makes the randy Count Bandiera’s adulterous superficiality very clear, whereas Patrick Vogel’s Lieutenant sings with a notch more cantabile sensitivity. Affectionate exchanges between the comic servants Carlotta and Lumaca are sung endearingly by Milena Storti and Florian Götz.
Suspicions, intrigues and attempted dalliances unravel and resolve in arias and ensembles that do credit to Salieri’s musical abilities (even if the glib conclusion that men and women should stick with what they’ve already got rather than look elsewhere is not exactly the miracle of compassionate humanity at the close of Figaro). DHM’s neglect to put aria titles in the track-listing or index numbers in the libretto seems lazy, but this enjoyable performance illustrates that the Mozart-da Ponte masterpieces were not invented in a vacuum.