Thursday, November 6, 2008


Cimarosa's The Secret Marriage
based on the English comedy "The Clandestine Marriage"
by David Garrick and George Colman.

Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 9th of November 2008 at
3 - 6 pm

9:00 Composer of the Week
Roger Wilson on DOMENICO CIMAROSA (1749-1801)
(R Mon 7.00pm) (RNZ)

LIBRETTO (Italian)

Domenico Cimarosa (1749 - 1801) , The Secret Marriage (1792),
comic opera in two acts.

Il Matrimonio Segreto
Geronimo...................... Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
Elisetta.......................... Julia Varady
Carolina........................ Arleen Augér
Fidalma......................... Julia Hamari
Count Robinson............ Alberto Rinaldi
Paolino.......................... Ryland Davies
English CO/Daniel Barenboim (DG 437 696)

The two singers at the top of the list are unsecretly married; I don't know whether they first met at the making of this recording. The Penguin Guide says "Barenboim gives a fizzing performance", and it receives a rosette, marking it as very special.

Act 1
Right then. We begin this sparkling comedy of manners (and errors!). It is indeed a farce, but we will have strong sympathy for the suffering characters.

The grumpy one is Geronimo, a rich ‘old’ merchant of Bologna. He has two daughters, and he wishes to find aristocratic husbands for them. The elder one is Elisetta, and it will emerge that she is to marry Count Robinson, with 100,000 crowns written into the contract. (We need to be told beforehand that this aristocrat is in fact impecunious.)

The younger daughter is named Carolina, and she is already married to her father’s clerk, Paolino; their marriage is no secret to us, because they tell us right at the beginning; but nobody else who appears on the stage is in the know, including Geronimo, Elisetta, Count Robinson, and Fidalma, a wealthy widow, who is Geronimo’s sister and a member of his household.

After the jolly overture, Paolino comforts Carolina, who is anxious about the situation they are in. He has news for her: he will gain her father’s favour, because he has arranged for Count Robinson to seek the hand of Elisetta. When Geronimo comes in (acting like a gentleman of importance, the most illustrious of merchants) Paolino presents a relevant letter from the Count, and for this he receives due thanks and praise. Geronimo announces it to the whole family.

The two sisters have a spat when Elisetta starts boasting that she will become a countess, and Carolina is a nobody. Aunt Fidalma separates them. After Carolina leaves, Fidalma confesses to Elisetta that she would like to take another husband (we are told on the side that it is young Paolino she has her eye on).

Geronimo assures Carolina that she too will have a knight. She responds with a sad look and a despairing aside (many of the words sung in this opera are in brackets in the libretto!); she complains of a headache.

Paolino introduces the Count (they count each other as friends), and he greets the three ladies gallantly. He asks to be left alone with them. Now he has to guess which is the one he is to marry. He first ‘accosts’ Carolina as his ‘sposina’ (little spouse); “Oh, no sir, you are mistaken”. So he tries Aunt Fidalma; “No sir, you are mistaken again”. Elisetta owns up. Robinson thinks they are playing tricks on him, so he goes back to Carolina (and nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina, he is thinking). They all start talking to themselves, exclaiming that they have “un orgasmo” in their bosom (how will that be translated in the subtitles?). Pause to regain our composure.

We left the suitor Count Robinson with the three ladies of rich Geronimo’s household, namely Fidalma (his wealthy widowed sister), Elisetta (his elder daughter, who is promised to the Count), Carolina (his other daughter, secretly married to Paolino, his clerk). All four were suffering “un orgasmo” (which was translated as “turbulence” in the subtitles).

Carolina is agitated, and Paolino tries to calm her; he will take their case to the Count and to Fidalma. Robinson has made it obvious that he prefers Carolina to Elisetta, and now he informs Paolino (“Misery me, what a contretemps is this!”).

In scene 11, the Count woos Carolina, but she tries to persuade him that she is not a good bargain, having neither looks nor languages. Left alone (12), the Count reflects on this.
Geronimo (scene 13) hears Elisetta’s complaint; she is supported by Fidalma; Geronimo does not accept it, as gentlemen do not behave like plebeians. Paolino ushers them off into the banquet-hall.

Carolina and Robinson are together again in earnest discussion (14): “Think about my sister”; “I feel no love for her”. Elisetta (15) rails at them both, then Fidalma intervenes, and intercedes with Geronimo (16). When Paolino enters they sing a sextet :”What sad silence”. The Count confesses, and they all start complaining about their ears or their head.

Act 2
Geronimo confronts the Count; he insists the wedding will take place; Robinson is prepared to accept a lower bride-price for the younger daughter. But he has to find a way to make Elisetta reject him.

Robinson tells Paolino (2.2) that the father has agreed to the change of plan. In despair Paolino (2.3) approaches Fidalma (most of their conversation is in brackets!), who thinks she is the object of his love. Fidalma passes this confidence on to Carolina (2.4), and Paolino joins them in a trio of misunderstanding.

Recapitulation: Count Robinson (an unwealthy aristocrat) is looking for a wife in rich Geronimo’s household; the eligible women are Fidalma (Geronimo’s wealthy widowed sister), Elisetta (his elder daughter, who is promised to the Count), Carolina (his other daughter, secretly married to Paolino, his clerk); not knowing about her secret marriage, the Count is asking for Carolina, and is prepared to take her at half-price. For her part Fidalma believes (mistakenly) that young Paolino wants to marry her, and she informs Carolina.

Carolina in consternation confronts her hapless spouse, accusing him of building a harem, and saying she will go and throw herself at the mercy of her father. However, Paolino announces his plan of escape: a carriage will come to the garden gate later, and they will flee to the home of his aunt. Carolina is not sure, but agrees to this (an elopement after the wedding, we might say).

Here [2.7] the Count does to Elisetta what Carolina had done to him: present a really bad image of himself to make her despise him. His defects include somnambulism, but she dismisses them all as trifles, and ultimately suggests he is only joking. This compels him to swear that he does not love her.

[2.8-11] Elisetta and Fidalma confer; each thinks that Carolina is her rival; she is a coquette and should be put away in a convent. Geronimo accepts that Carolina should be sent to a nunnery the next day, as a punishment for flirting; he is deaf to her desperate plea (and to much else that is said around him!).

[2.12-13] Carolina soliloquises: everybody is “in orgasmo”. The Count enters, and declares his heart is still set on her; at her prompting he promises to fulfil her every wish, and kisses her hand.

[2.14-15] Geronimo and the other two women surprise them. Obviously Carolina allows every man who comes along to kiss her, and therefore she must be confined in a convent. Elisetta confides to her aunt that she is prepared to pardon the Count’s indiscretion.

[2.16-17] Paolino has come for the great escape. Geronimo orders him to despatch the letter concerning Carolina’s entry to the nunnery. Paolino sees that the moment for flight has definitely arrived, and he goes into Carolina’s room to fetch her.

[2.18] Robinson (still thinking of Carolina) and Elisetta (still intent on marrying him, and here spying on him) have a brief chance encounter by candlelight and an exchange of courtesies.

[2.19] The married couple, sneaking out, hear a noise and retreat into Carolina’s room. Elisetta thinks the Count is the man talking to Carolina; raging with jealousy, she summons the whole family to witness this treachery. They call upon the perfidious Count to come out, and he does emerge, but from his own room. Carolina and Paolino then confess that they have been married for two months. There is reconciliation all round, though Geronimo is not given any lines until the final ensemble, where all affirm their contentment with the two marriages.

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