(Previous section here.)
As I listened to this I kept hearing things that reminded me of other Mozart operas. Usually it was just a fleeting impression, and I suspect much of the time it was because the characters or the story was evoking other Mozart operas, e.g. Serpetta is a ‘scheming chamber maid’ of the type Despina is drawn from.
But in other cases the resemblance was definitely in the music. Take Belfiore’s first aria, “Che beltà, che leggiadria,” the beginning of which sounds like a dry run for Donna Elvira’s “Ah chi mi dice mai” from Don Giovanni. And guess what? What Belfiore gets next is . . . a kind of a catalog song! (like Leporello’s that follows “Ah chi mi dice mai”) Viz:
This is early Mozart and the music doesn’t have the same sweep and emotional depth as his later greater operas. But the whole thing is entirely enjoyable to listen to, and the performances are very good. Eva Mei (Sandrina/Violante) is a pleasure here from beginning to end. This seems like a high-ish sort of soprano part and we hear a lot of the top of her voice, e.g. Sandrina’s Act I Geme la tortorella and again in Violante and Belfiore’s reconciliation duet near the end of Act III (the reason Violante is wearing gauze over her dress is that that is what they wrapped her up in to kidnap her in Act II):
I really enjoy listening to Eva Mei sing Mozart – she is Konstanze on this DVD of Die Entführung aus dem Serail and there her “Martern aller Arten” brings the house down. Here the music isn’t as big and complex and exciting, but the singing is every bit as good.
But it’s not just Mei – the vocal performances here are uniformly high quality. I can’t think of a standout – this whole thing is done with a precision and warmth and comic flair that takes the story just seriously enough that we care but not so seriously that (as often happens when lighter dramatic material is forced to be heavy) it seems silly. This one’s a keeper.