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Domenico SCARLATTI (1685 - 1757): La Dirindina

[I] "La Dirindina, Sinfonie & Sonate"ace
Marina Bartoli (Dirindina), sopranoa; Makoto Sakurada (Liscione), tenora; Giulio Mastrotaro (Don Carissimo), bassa; Federico Guglielmo, violine
L'Arte dell'Arco
Dir: Federico Guglielmo
rec: Sept 11 - 13, 2007, Preganziol (TV), Studio Magister
CPO - 777 555-2 (© 2012) (63'59")
Liner-notes: E/D; lyrics - translations: E/D
Cover & track-list

Federico Guglielmo, Elisa Imbalzano, Massimiliano Simonetto, Carlo Lazari, Luca Mares, Katia Ciampo, violin; Mario Paladin, Pasquale Lepore, viola; Francesco Galligioni, Francesco Montaruli, cello; Alessandro Sbrogiň, violone; Ivano Zanenghi, theorbo; Nicola Reniero, harpsichord

[II] "La Dirindina and Pur nel sonno"abd
Céline Ricci, sopranob; Jamie Barton (Dirindina), mezzo-sopranoa; Joseph Gaines (Liscione), tenora; Brian Shircliffe (Don Carissimo), baritonea; Richard Savino, mandolind
Ars Lyrica Houston
Dir: Matthew Dirst
rec: Sept 6 - 7, 2011, Houston, TX, Hobby Center (Zilkha Hall); June 15, 2012, Boyce, VA, Studio Sono Luminus
Sono Luminus - DSL-92159 [CD/] (© 2012) (66'24")
Liner-notes: E; lyrics - translation: E
Cover & track-list

Adam LaMotte, Maria Lin, Yung-Hsiang Wang, Alan Austin, Oleg Sulyga, Matthew Detrick, violin; Erika Lawson, viola; Barrett Sills, cello; Deborah Dunham, violone; Richard Savino, theorbo, guitar; Matthew Dirst, harpsichord

La Dirindina, intermezzoa; Pur nel sonno, cantatab; Sinfonia III in Gc; Sinfonia VII in Cc; Sinfonia X in Gc; Sinfonia XV in B flatc; Sonata in g minor (K 88)d; Sonata in d minor (K 89)e; Sonata in d minor (K 90)e; Sonata in G (K 91)d

Operas of the 17th century usually included a serious and a comical plot. Around 1700 the comical scenes were largely removed: the dramma per musica developed into the opera seria. Comical stories were still quite popular and performed between the acts of an opera. Such pieces were called intermezzi. As most opere serie were in three acts, the intermezzi had always two parts, to be performed after the first and the second act respectively.

La Dirindina by Domenico Scarlatti is such an intermezzo. The librettist, Girolamo Gigli, called it a farsetta per musica, a musical farce. It is about Dirindina, a young singer who takes singing lessons from Don Carissimo, whose interest in her isn't confined to her singing skills. When she resists his approaches he tells her that other pupils of his are more forthcoming. Dirindina is in love with the castrato Liscione, though. When she and Don Carissimo are involved in a singing lesson Liscione enters and tells her that she has been invited by an opera house in Milan. She decides to go, against the wishes of Don Carissimo. When his resistance doesn't bear fruit, he tells her that he will seek her mother's assistance to make her change her mind.
In the second part Liscione tells Dirindina how to behave when she enters the world of opera. He urges her to take profit from the gullibility of opera lovers from higher circles. He then asks her whether she has any experience in performing an operatic role. She demonstrates her skills in a scene from the story of Dido, using Liscione's sword as dagger. When she performs her scene Don Carissimo approaches and thinks that the scene is for real and that Dirindina really wants to kill Liscione. He hopes she does, because then his rival will be out of the way. She then sings: "Can you so easily tear yourself away from this breast, scoundrel, while you leave me fecund and replete by you?" Don Carissimo thinks she is expecting a child from Liscione: "Either nature or the man with the knife made a mistake". When Dirindina suggests she wants to kill herself he intervenes in the interest of the 'unborn child': "We'll rather send him to the orphanage!" Dirindina and Liscione are beyond themselves with laughter. Don Carissimo still doesn't understand and the piece ends with a trio in which Don Carissimo tries to make the two marry, but they answer: "Stop I'm a capon / Stop, I'm a hen! A pair like that doesn't get together and never lays an egg".

This intermezzo was to be performed during the Carnival season of 1715 in the Teatro Capricana in Rome, together with Scarlatti's own opera L'Ambeto, but the performance never took place. The censor prevented the libretto from being printed, "Gigli's text being considered extremely bold, pointed and thoroughly critical of the Roman musical establishment", Federico Guglielmo writes in the liner-notes. He believes that this was the first sign of criticism of the operatic world of that time. The most famous expression of such criticism was Benedetto Marcello's book Il teatro alla moda which was published in Venice in 1720. It seems that there were quite a few people in Rome who were very interested in Gigli's libretto and Scarlatti's music and both managed to disseminate their work through less official channels.

Intermezzi are best recorded on DVD. In this case I didn't miss a staging; the performances of the three singers are very good and they convincingly convey the plot and the way Gigli and Scarlatti have worked it out. Obviously the recitatives are more important than the arias which are rather short and not technically demanding. It is essential that there is a vivid interplay between the protagonists, and that is certainly the case here. Martina Bartoli, Makoto Sakurada and Giulio Mastrotaro have found the right approach to this piece, without ever exaggerating - a great danger in this repertoire.

At about the same time another recording of La Dirindina was released, with Ars Lyrica Houston, directed by Matthew Dirst. It is a good performance, and if I hadn't heard the CPO recording first I would probably recommend it. However, in comparison the latter comes out on top. There is not so much difference in the arias, which are good in both recordings. However, as I already indicated the recitatives are the heart of this piece and here the singers in the CPO recording are more convincing: there is a better interaction, the tempi are faster and the rhythm is treated with more freedom than in Ars Lyrica's performance. Jamie Barton is a mezzo-soprano and has a deeper and stronger voice than Marina Bartoli. The latter makes a younger and more naive impression which suits the role of Dirindina perfectly.

Ars Lyrica ends its programme with a cantata for solo voice, two violins and bc. The genre of the chamber cantata is more associated with his father Alessandro than with Domenico. However, his oeuvre includes a considerable number of such pieces. Although chamber cantatas were mostly scored for solo voice - in particular soprano - and basso continuo, sometimes instruments were added, especially violins. These usually only participated in the arias, but here they are also involved in the recitative which divides the two arias. Moreover, they play the instrumental sinfonia which introduces the cantata. It is a highly dramatic piece, particularly the recitative - partly secco, partly accompagnato - and the closing aria. Céline Ricci has a nice voice and is certainly a dramatic talent. It results in a theatrical performance which underlines the cantata's closeness to opera. Her performance is damaged, though, by her incessant vibrato. That is a serious blot on an otherwise fine performance.

Both ensembles have rounded up their programme with instrumental pieces. L'Arte dell'Arco plays four Sinfonias from a group of 17 which have been preserved in manuscript. Some of them have served as overtures to operas, and it is quite possible that the four sinfonias on this disc were also written as overtures to lost operas. They are for strings and bc, but according to New Grove the Sinfonia XV in B flat includes a part for oboe. The liner-notes don't explain why this part is omitted here. L'Arte dell'Arco delivers fine performances.

In Scarlatti's oeuvre one finds several sonatas which are intended for a melody instrument and basso continuo. Scarlatti didn't specify the instrument on which they should be played. Each recording includes two sonatas and the performers have chosen different options as far as the scoring is concerned. Recently I reviewed a disc with Valerio Losito playing the viola d'amore. The violin is a more common option, and Federico Guglielmo gives good readings of these sonatas.
In Ars Lyrica's recording Richard Savino plays the mandolin, with Matthew Dirst at the harpsichord. It is an unusual and interesting combination. However, I am not sure what the historical justification for this scoring could be, and in my view it doesn't work as well as a performance with a string instrument.

The Sono Luminus production comes in two formats: a conventional CD and a blu-ray disc. I don't have the equipment to play a blu-ray disc, therefore I can't assess its quality.

Johan van Veen (© 2013)

Relevant links:

Marina Bartoli
Jamie Barton
Joseph Gaines
Céline Ricci
Richard Savino
Ars Lyrica Houston

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