Hold the front page – not every Rossini comic opera is a masterpiece! Squeezed between Il barbiere di Siviglia (February 1816) and La Cenerentola (January 1817), La gazzetta (September 1816) pales in terms of both plot and score. It’s a Goldoni-inspired farce containing standard opera buffa devices, although the theme – how people are influenced by mass media – remains pertinent. The pretentious Neapolitan Don Pomponio travels the world trying to find a suitable husband for his daughter, the capricious Lisetta, by taking out adverts in the local newspaper offering her to the highest bidder. What could possibly go wrong?

Carlo Lepore (Don Pomponio)
© ROF | Amati Bacciardi

Arriving at a Parisian hotel, feckless rich boy Alberto is seeking a wife. He sees the ad, and his interest is aroused. But Lisetta is already in love with hotelier Filippo (an unsuitable match), who throws Alberto off the scent. The elderly Anselmo checks into the hotel with his daughter, Doralice, whom Alberto deduces must be the daughter up for grabs. Misunderstandings, disguises and marriage proposals abound as the farce is then eked out for two hours before a happy ending. In this revival of Marco Carniti’s 2015 production for the Rossini Opera Festival, it feels longer. 

The opera is not without musical interest. It’s Rossini’s only opera to feature Neapolitan dialect, an interesting target to poke fun at given it was composed for Naples. The best music in La gazzetta comes at the very beginning, a sparkling sinfonia – played here with wit and relish by the Orchestra Sinfonica G Rossini under Carlo Rizzi – that is instantly familiar. Rossini hastily recycled it a few months later for La Cenerentola, one of his most popular works. 

Martiniana Antonie, Pietro Adaini, Carlo Lepore, Giorgio Caoduro and Maria Grazia Schiavo
© ROF | Amati Bacciardi

La gazzetta itself features recycled material, composed – as often seems the case with the Swan of Pesaro – against the clock. Shortly after the (disastrous) Barbiere premiere in February 1816, Rossini had arrived in Naples only to discover fire had consumed the Teatro San Carlo and that he was suddenly required to compose a royal wedding cantata for Rome and supervise rehearsals for a production of his Tancredi. Work on La gazzetta was delayed and when Rossini finally got round to it, he “borrowed” music from, among others, Il turco in Italia (for the masked ball quintet and the Pomponio–Lisetta duet) and La pietra del paragone (for the duel scene). This production also features the rediscovered Act 1 quintet, which features music familiar from La scala di seta and the Act 1 Barbiere finale. At times, it’s like a Rossinian Where’s Wally? spotting the musical sources.

The cast of La gazzetta
© ROF | Amati Bacciardi

Rizzi is a fine Rossinian and injected plenty of spice into the orchestral playing, but much of the singing was under par. The cast was led by Carlo Lepore as the pompous Pomponio, whose quickfire patter was tireless, although his bass-baritone now sounds dry and reedy. Maria Grazia Schiavo’s waspish Lisetta was not always intonationally secure and had a tendency to aspirate coloratura, but she rattled it off at impressive speed. The mezzo-soprano seconde donne were stronger, Martiniana Antonie a perky Doralice and Andrea Niño an accomplished Madama La Rosa, each given an aria di sorbetto – literally a license for the audience to eat sorbets! – that was not composed by Rossini but by an unnamed accomplice who also penned the secco recitativo

Tenor Pietro Adaini’s wide vibrato and constricted high notes did not always appeal as Alberto. The most impressive voice on display was baritone Giorgio Caoduro in the role of Filippo, although his method of producing coloratura seemed highly unusual, forcing his whole body into shakes and shudders. 

Giorgio Caoduro (Filippo), Carlo Lepore, Pietro Adaini (Alberto) and Ernesto Lama (Tommasino)
© ROF | Amati Bacciardi

Carniti’s staging is frenetic in its comedic effects, a far cry from Dario Fo’s more stylish predecessor here. Giant letters often feature, ferried around by the hotel staff, eventually spelling out ROSSINI OPERA FESTIVAL at the end. Don Pomponio’s silent servant, Tommasino, is turned into a major role, a tour de force by Ernesto Lama, although I quickly tired of his frenzied mime. The duel scene between Alberto and Filippo and refereed by Pomponio is properly funny though, their weapons reduced from pistols to swords to light sabers, eventually to a Swan Lake tribute at the barre, while the Turkish masquerade is played for laughs. More perplexing is Filippo’s disguise as a “Dutch Quaker” to pay suit to Lisetta; costuming him as a Chinese aristocrat – complete with coolie hat and Fu Manchu moustache – would have been questionable even in 2015, but in today’s climate? It’s time this Gazzetta had an editorial intervention.


Mark’s accommodation in Pesaro was funded by the Amici del ROF

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