Il signor Bruschino is a wacky comedy, written by Rossini for the Teatro di San Moise in Venice in 1813, where it enjoyed a total of a single performance before being thrown out of the programme after a resounding fiasco. The plot is paper thin, full of silly jokes and innuendos, so we can perhaps understand the Venetian public condemning this opera after its premiere. However, the music is among the best that Rossini ever wrote for an opera buffa.

Pietro Spagnoli (Bruschino) and Marina Monzó (Sofia)
© Studio Amati Bacciardi

Michele Spotti conducted the Filarmonica Gioachino Rossini in a sparkling overture, energetic without being frenzied, with a perfectly executed percussion effect of the string players tapping their bows on their music stands in rhythm. Spotti securely led the team in a fast-paced, brilliant rendition of Rossini’s charming score. The recitativi secchi were accompanied only by the fortepiano (Giorgio d’Alonzo), with grace and spirit.

The plot is set in the castle of Don Gaudenzio, in a non-specified era, where Sofia, Gaudenzio’s ward, is expecting the arrival of her betrothed, the son of Signor Bruschino, whom nobody has ever seen, (Gaudenzio having arranged the marriage via letter). Sofia is secretly in love with Florville, son of Gaudenzio’s arch-enemy. Bruschino’s son got himself in trouble gambling and womanising, and is stuck in an inn, kept prisoner by his creditor, the innkeeper, so Florville arrives at Gaudenzio’s castle and introduces himself as Bruschino’s son. Il signor Bruschino himself arrives at the castle and everybody tries to convince him that Florville is, in fact, his son. Quite a few silly misunderstandings later, the young couple manages to get married and Gaudenzio blesses their union, while Bruschino takes his libertine son home.

Pietro Spagnoli (Bruschino) and Giorgio Caoduro (Gaudenzio)
© Studio Amati Bacciardi

The directorial team of Barbe and Doucet set their production at the beginning of the 20th century on a boat, called “Il mio castello”, where Gaudenzio is the captain. This setting allows for some corny jokes, such as a spotlight flashing on the boat’s name every time somebody mentions the castle, and also for a quick wedding celebrated on board by Gaudenzio himself, as captain.

Gaudenzio is a virtuoso baritone role, typical of Italian bel canto, and Giorgio Caoduro showed a strong command of coloratura and technique. Only at times did his singing lose composure and elegance, but overall his performance was very successful. Bruschino’s part is closer to a basso parlante, of the opera buffa tradition, and Pietro Spagnoli was funny in his depiction of this ill-tempered, impatient, crabby character. The two of them held together the funny side of the action remarkably well.

Marina Monzó (Sofia) and Jack Swanson (Florville)
© Studio Amati Bacciardi

The two young lovers were Jack Swanson and Marina Monzó. Swanson’s light tenor has an old-fashioned quality; a beautiful voice, with technique and elegance. Monzó's was the best voice of the evening, her coloratura secure and perfectly supported, her high notes confident and strong. They had good chemistry and graced us with a charming love duet. Monzó was perfect in the interpretation of the cunning, mischievous young girl, faking doe eyes and complete innocence with her father figure, Gaudenzio. Right before the duet, when Gaudenzio explains what “marriage” entails to a falsely innocent Sofia, a cheeky d’Alonzo at the fortepiano played the tune of “Una donna a quindici anni”, Despina’s aria from Così fan tutte.

The cast was completed by Gianluca Margheri as a luxurious Filiberto, the innkeeper, Chiara Tirotti as Marianna, the maid, Enrico Iviglia as the Commissioner and Manuel Amati as the real son of Bruschino.

****1