L'infedeltà delusa

Haydn

Information

Libretto by Marco Coltellini
English translation by Andrew Porter

The Orangery terrace, Westonbirt School, 27 August 2005 and
St John's Smith Square, London, 20 September 2005

Cast

Cast 2007

Wantage , Wotton, Thaxted, Buscot

Vespina Rebekah Coffey
Sandrina Serena Kay
Filippo Tyrone Landau
Nencio Amos Christie
Nanni Nicholas Merryweather
   
Musical Director and pianist Kelvin Lim
Director Jeremy Gray

Cast 2005

Vespina
Kim Sheehan
Sandrina
Cheryl Enever
Filippo
Huw Rhys-Evans
Nencio Nicholas Sharratt
Nanni
Nicholas Merryweather
   
Conductor Jason Lai
Director Jeremy Gray

Cast 2004

English Haydn festival, Bridgnorth

Vespina
Sinéad Pratschke
Sandrina
Cheryl Enever
Filippo
David Hillman
Nencio Nathan Vale
Nanni
Nicholas Merryweather
   
Conductor Jason Lai
Director Jeremy Gray

 

Synopsis

Act I
A beautiful evening falls at the cottage of Filippo, an old peasant. He has been in negotiations with Nencio, a relatively prosperous farmer. Also present are two younger peasants: Vespina, who is in love with Nencio, and her brother Nanni. Both are worried: she because Nencio leaves without saying goodbye, and he because he cannot see his girlfriend Sandrina, the over-protected daughter of Filippo.

When Sandrina enters, she senses that something regarding her is amiss and questions her father. Filippo is pleased to announce that he has found a prosperous husband for her, namely Nencio. After much protestation, Sandrina realises she can only obey her father, but hopes to continue loving Nanni nevertheless. When Nanni returns she repeatedly has to answer "no" to him, according to her promise to her father. When Nanni eventually understands the situation he swears vengeance.

In Nanni's house, Vespina recounts the state-of-play of her love affair with Nencio, but Nanni's agitated return leads both brother and sister to seek revenge.

Nencio serenades Sandrina below her window. Vespina and Nanni hide and listen to his conversation with Filippo and then with Sandrina. When Nencio attempts to woo Sandrina by saying he will take her by force, Vespina comes out of hiding and slaps him, and the whole company quarrel furiously.

Act II
Vespina sets about a plan to sort things out. Disguised as an old woman, she tells Filippo that she is in search of the wicked husband – one Nencio – who has abandoned her daughter. The revelation upsets both Filippo and Sandrina, and when Nencio arrives, Filippo insults him and declares that he can no longer count on his daughter's hand.

Quite bewildered, Nencio meets a German servant – Vespina in her second disguise – who announces that 'his' master, the Marquis of Ripafratta, is about to marry Sandrina. Now it is Nencio's turn to be furious and he is about to seek satisfaction from Filippo when the Marquis (Vespina again) arrives and reveals that he actually intends to marry Sandrina off to one of his kitchen scullions. Nencio is thrilled that Filippo will be tricked in this way and offers to be a witness to the wedding.

At home, Filippo attempts to prepare Sandrina for a life of luxury, but she would still prefer to live in a cottage as Nanni's wife. Vespina, now disguised as a notary, and accompanied by Nanni as the Marquis' servant, prepares the marriage contract which, in anticipation of the arrival of the Marquis, Nanni signs. Brother and sister reveal their true identities, and Sandrina discovers that she has become married to Nanni. Nencio finds that his signature on the contract has married him to Vespina. Although Filippo has been outwitted, rage turns to reconciliation and general rejoicing.

Reviews

from MusicOMH.com
MusicOMH.com

X

from MusicOMH.com

MusicOMH.com

Whilst the last seven of Mozart's operas continue to pop up in the repertoires of most opera companies on a regular basis, and Beethoven's Fidelio is never far away, Haydn's wonderful and innovative works for the theatre linger in obscurity. In consequence, it has been difficult to judge whether their reputation of not being stage-worthy is justified.

Certainly, Antal Dorati's pioneering series of recordings of several of the mature operas, in the wake of the scholarly Complete Haydn Edition of the scores, helped to bring them back into the limelight. But they still receive only a spattering of staged performances, as Haydn is considered box office death.

So it was all the more commendable that the sprightly Bampton Classical Opera company brought their summer 2004 production of the 1773 work L'infedeltà delusa to St John's, Smith Square, for a semi-staged performance in English.

Not that there was anything half-done about this sparklingly witty evening's entertainment, which delighted in almost every respect. That the venue was practically full also showed that people are eager to see Haydn's stage works, and one hopes that the company will turn its attention to more of his masterpieces in future years.

Deceit Outwitted, as the libretto's translator Andrew Porter calls it, was only given three times in Haydn's lifetime (as far as we know), the result of his being stuck as the court composer at Esterháza for the majority of his productive career. Certainly the post had its artistic benefits, and allowed Haydn to write no end of fascinating works - from the unusual story of Il mondo della luna to the five or so marionette operas he composed to satisfy the current fad in court society.

But it's a shame that Haydn never really had the chance to write a series of operas for a major city opera house, which would have thrown light on his talents for dramatic pacing.

One of the many strong points of Bampton's excellent performance was their complete conviction in the quality of the work. With only five singers, minimal sets and coloured lighting, they conjured up all the pictures necessary to convey this charming comedy.

The story tells of the shepherdess Vespina's cunning in winning her lover, Nencio, back from a pre-arranged marriage to Sandrina. Meanwhile, she paves the way for her brother Nanni to marry Sandrina in Nencio's place - and all to the disgust of Sandrina's father, Filippo.

It's a brilliantly composed piece, full of the most inspired arias, and the two act finales and the opening ensemble show an unprecedented level of dramatic craft in Haydn's stage works.

Of the five soloists, one was outstanding. The soprano Kim Sheehan is an artist to watch, a natural Mozart singer if ever there was one. I'm not surprised that her teacher is the great Lillian Watson. If the opportunity arises to hear her as Susanna in Mozart's Figaro, it will be a knock-out, as her solo singing in her four difficult arias, especially those done in various disguises, was brilliantly projected and elegantly phrased.

Also impressive was Huw Rhys-Evans as Filippo, who made an instant impact in his Act 1 aria when he orders his daughter to marry Nencio whether she likes it or not. His conveyance of the text was the best of the five, in fact, allowing us to hear very word without straining.

Perhaps Cheryl Enever needs a little more experience before she takes on more difficult roles of the size of Sandrina, but she did sing her final aria with emotion and was always dramatically engaging. Nicholas Merryweather warmed up in the role of Nanni after a wooden start, but the really stylish singing came from Nicholas Sharratt as Nencio, gracefully sung indeed.

Jeremy Gray's direction was much appreciated, incorporating the entire space available and really drawing the audience into the action. It was also mercifully unpretentious, allowing the farce to play for what it is.

The brilliant accompaniment came from the London Mozart Players, a period orchestra with bite, and Jason Lai was the talented young conductor.

Despite the odd reservation, this was always an enjoyable evening, and the only shame is that there are no further performances. Their summer 2006 production of an opera by Martin y Soler, Mozart's Spanish friend and contemporary, is certainly something to watch out for.

X

 

from Musical Opinion, 2004
Musical Opinion, 2004

X

from Musical Opinion, 2004

Musical Opinion, 2004

Bampton Classical Opera’s triumphant forays into rare repertoire in an Oxfordshire Garden have yielded witty revivals of Storace, Salieri and (this summer) Gazzaniga. For the English Haydn Festival at St. Leonard’s Church, Bridgnorth, Bampton’s inventive director, Jeremy Gray, mounted a modest staging of L’Infedelta delusa whose main assets were some entertaining comic detail, a clutch of useful voices, and sheaves of sizzling, well-honed Haydn playing from the English Haydn Orchestra under the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra’s young assistant conductor, Jason Lai.

Best of all was the heroine, Vespina (Sinead Pratschke), a ‘girl of spirit’ whose ingenious disguises (yielding the most entertaining music) - finally get her man.

The young tenor Nathan Vale is a rising star too, less for his embryonic acting than for his vocal qualities : there is a marked pathos to the voice, as revealed in his recent song recital for the combined Housman and Ivor Gurney Societies, which came over refreshingly in Nencio’s enchanting aria, carpeted by guitar-like strumming strings.

Haydn’s ensembles shone – including a wonderful quintet (‘bella sera’) and one punchy plotting duet for Vespina and her brother Nanni (Cologne-trained Nicholas Merryweather, a youthful baritone to watch out for). Sandrina’s angry outburst (Cheryl Enever) was suitably shrill.

Given the venue constraints, any staging was of needs limited. But when Gray turned the comic tap up and Vespina donned her successive disguises – notary, elderly crone, tipsy German serving lad - there was much to savour, despite librettist Marco Coltellini’s over-telescoped conclusion. The violins, both muted and at full throttle, and finessed oboes played handsomely, thanks to Jason Lai’s clear-thinking, crisp Haydn pacing.

X

 

from Opera Now
Opera Now

X

from Opera Now

Opera Now

With Bampton you have to go with the flow. The company has its own style - quirky, witty, zestful, even slightly silly – which, when it works, endows late 18th opera with rapid momentum, showing a constant empathy with its subject.

Director/co-translator Jeremy Gray and producer/translator Gilly French make a virtue of rare repertoire : Storace (Gli Equivoci), Mozart-Henneberg (The Philosopher’s Stone), Paisiello (Nina), Salieri (Falstaff) and Gazzaniga (Don Giovanni) have all had the Bampton treatment. It has served them well.

This season Haydn’s La vera costanza (1778-9) was staged in Bampton’s Oxfordshire Garden venue. Preempting that, a rough-and-ready staging of L’Infedelta delusa delighted Haydn aficianados by providing a cheeky climax to this year’s English Haydn Festival at rural Bridgnorth.

Not all seemed ideal. Makeshift staging, over-raised for sound and sightlines, lent a ragged look dispelled by neither set nor costumes (slovenly hangings, gamma-standard props) : all areas Bampton, despite forgivable restricted budget, must attack seriously in order to be taken seriously itself. Some looked like Garden Opera cast-offs; an artist’s eye seemed absent.

But Bampton invariably scores with musical verve and quick-fire delivery – here admirably led by a new conductor, Jason Lai, the BBC Philharmonic’s assistant (taking over from the Halle’s Edward Gardner) – plus here, a second half staging that soared above seedy beginnings.

Rocky horns marred the opening music; yet even they came good latterly. String and oboe tone was admirable, whether in a lovely Handelian minuet, or rising chromatically through Filip’s aria (a seasoned, grumpy old pater from David Hillman).

The cast had some real plums : Nicholas Merryweather (a gloriously gloomy Bardolph in Salieri and blistering as Storace’s Dr.Pinch) set the ball rolling as the heroine’s streetwise brother, vivid in rollicking siblings’ duet. If neither girl galvanised initially, tenor Nathan Vale’s thinly acted, two-timing Nencio stopped the audience in its tracks with his first aria, where Haydn slows the action (and quickens hearts) to perfection. An early quartet and later quintet (with stunning slow diminuendo), proved pure enchantment.

The real joy was Sinead Pratschke’s Vespina, in a set of Act II disguises designed to have Esterhazy’s audience hooting. A Harry Potter in drag (shades of Despina), then rustic know-it-all lad in hostelry mood, plus accented German servant, Pratschke’s comedy rivalled Mark Wilde’s Texan pilot and Amanda Pitt’s German spy-meets-French Resistance in last year’s side-splitting Falstaff. Abetted by ludicrous blue feather pen, hee-hawing horns, Vale pirriping “How delightful, how delicious” plus Lai’s perceptive Haydn pacing, she turned the latter half into sheer delight.

X

 

from the Shropshire Star
Shropshire Star June 2004

X

from the Shropshire Star

Shropshire Star June 2004

What a delightful way to bring the acclaimed English Haydn festival at Bridgnorth to a close. Bampton Opera’s production of L’infedelta delusa (Deceit Outwitted) was a joy from start to finish.

This comic opera from the musical pen of Haydn in 1773 with libretto by Marco Coctellini had sharpness, wit, pace and humour by the bucket load – and what is more an audience in St Leonard’s Church that really appreciated this most famous of Haydn’s operas.

The cast of five were ideally matched and obviously relished working together on this tale of farmers and their love lives.

It was the usual recipe of star-crossed lovers, a father who believes he knows best for his daughter, a little bit of disguise and deceit but with the end result that everyone is happy.

Sinead Pratschke as Vespina was superb making the most of Haydn’s music with her soaring soprano voice and also the most of her other considerable talent – for comic acting. And the comic scenes in the second act were particularly entertaining with all the cast proving their worth as actors as well as singers.

The English Haydn Orchestra, as usual, was excellent and there was the added bonus of the conductor – the very talented Jason Lai. This young man (he won the BBC Young Conductors Workshop in 2002 and is currently assistant conductor to the BBC Philharmonic) is surely destined for even greater things in the future. He set the pace for the evening moving the music pace up by several notches and keeping it full of energy and moving on, while losing none of the essential tenderness of some parts.

X

 

from Opera, September 2004
Opera

X

from Opera, September 2004

Opera

Although it was well received, I didn’t enjoy Jeremy Gray’s workmanlike Bridgnorth production of Haydn’s L’Infedelta Delusa as much as usual; yet Gray and Gilly French, Bampton Classical Opera’s imaginative producer-translators, have a knack of advancing prodigious young talent (tenors Mark Wilde and Benjamin Hulett, for instance). Sinead Pratschke, whose disguised Vespina elicited yet another classic of fine honed Gray comedy (compare Amanda Pitt’s witty disguise in Salieri’s Falstaff), proved a fine find; Nathan Vale’s strumming serenade revealed a tenor of lovely timbres and shy beauty; and Jason Lai judged the pacings like a Haydn specialist inspired.

X

 

Programme notes

Court spectacle and rustic simplicity
Jeremy Gray

X

Court spectacle and rustic simplicity

Haydn's operatic oeuvre was almost entirely written for and nurtured through his employment by the Prince Nikolaus I at his rural retreat at Esterháza, now in western Hungary– gradually to be transformed from a simple hunting lodge into a palace of Versailles-like opulence. Here Nikolaus Esterházy created a new opera house which opened in 1768 with Haydn's Lo speziale. The building was only to survive 11 years until destroyed by fire – a common occurrence for candle-lit theatres in the eighteenth century – but it was replaced within a year. In scale (about 400 seats) and scenic facilities it must have been comparable to the still surviving royal theatre of Drotnningholm near Stockholm (where the original theatre of 1752 was also quickly replaced after fire), but surviving illustrations suggest a far greater opulence than the endearing pasteboard and papier-mache confection of its Swedish cousin.

The focus of Haydn's early work at Esterháza – he was employed there from 1761 - were the occasional spectacular pageants mounted to flatter and impress visitors of the highest rank From 1776 until the Prince's death in 1790, he was also in charge of a regular troupe of mostly Italian singers whose repertory included not only his own compositions but the most up-to-date works of internationally successful masters, notably Anfossi, Cimarosa, Paisiello and Sarti: over these years Haydn was responsible for about 1200 performances of around one hundred operas, giving him an unrivalled access and experience of contemporary literature. Numerous surviving scores indicate Haydn's own corrections and revisions, cuts and rewritings, and his detailed involvement in that always delicate activity of bringing the written words and notes to their realisation on the operatic stage. As with Paisiello at the court of Catherine the Great at St Petersburg, Haydn was a dedicated and professional man of the theatre, and the still-lingering neglect of his remarkable stage repertory still surprises many who are lucky enough to see his works performed.

L'infedeltà delusa was first performed on 26 July 1773 at the Esterháza theatre for the spectacular birthday celebrations of Princess Maria Anna, widow of the prince's brother Paul Anton, who had been Haydn’s first patron at Esterháza. Amongst the guests was the Archduchess Maria Christina, daughter of the formidable Empress Maria Theresa. Haydn received 25 ducats from the Prince, and the work was repeated on 1 September to mark the visit of Maria Theresa herself (“When I want to hear good opera, I shall come to Esterházy” was her famous reported comment). The many pleasures of La canterina, Lo speziale and Le pescatrici notwithstanding, L'infedeltà delusa may be considered the first of Haydn’s major operatic works. However only one further performance was given in the composer’s lifetime, in 1774.

Marco Coltellini, whose libretti were also set by Gluck and Mozart, succeeded Metastasio as 'poeta Caesareo' at the imperial court in Vienna in 1769. His libretto of L'infedeltà delusa rejects entirely the more usual nobility and deities of contemporary opera in favour of a cast of simple – and ultimately happy - rustics who enact an unadorned story of amorous manoeuvres. What it lacks in dramatic complexity and subtlety, it more than makes up for in charm and a score of the highest quality, maintaining colourful variety and sensitivity throughout its modest length. Whilst the characters are treated equally, it is ultimately the wily Vespina who dominates, adopting an enterprising and outrageous series of disguises (anticipating Despina in Mozart's Così fan Tutte) and eventually outwitting the deceit of the inconstant Nencio, whom she is nevertheless happy to marry. Indeed the only nobleman, the Marquis of Ripafratta, turns out to be one of the several personae of the inventive Vespina. The context is Tuscan with, in the original Italian, hints of the local dialect, and Ripafratta is a small town between Pisa and Lucca.

As always in Haydn’s best music, what delights is a transparency of texture which never becomes simplistic, and a rhythmic energy and harmonic richness which keep the music constantly alive and engaging. Alternating rumbustuous humour and an humane warmth, the work seems to be the musical equivalent of the rustic landscapes (such as Cottage Door with Children Playing, 1778) and the so-called ‘Fancy Pictures’ (Girl with Pitcher, 1785, Girl with Pigs) of the English painter Thomas Gainsborough, testimony to the growing romanticism of contemporary attitudes to the pastoral landscape and the rural poor. Indeed the generous eulogy paid to him by John Constable could easily be transferred to the emotional charm of Haydn's L'infedeltà delusa:

'The landscape of Gainsborough is soothing, tender and affecting… With particulars he has nothing to do; his object was to deliver a fine sentiment, and he has fully accomplished it… The stillness of noon, the depths of twilight, and the dews and pearls of the morning, are all to be found on the canvases of this most benevolent and kind-hearted man. On looking at them, we find tears in our eyes, and know not what brings them.'

The mood of the opera is set from the very first bars of the remarkable Overture (in C Major, as is the second act finale, and Filippo’s second act aria): the allegro moves with drive and panache, but is kept in balance by a lyrical charm which is never cloying. A second section – a poco adagio in G – provides a foil of courtly elegance, almost like a minuet, before moving into the F major opening ensemble of the opera. This long and quite remarkable piece introduce four, and then all five of the characters, united in praise of the bella sera, the lovely evening with breezes blowing. In a different context, one might be listening to a glorious kyrie eleison or agnus dei: the mood is reflective and spiritual, and the ensemble establishes the common background which unites the characters. The spaciousness of this music is typical of Haydn and has been considered as a fault, preventing him from tackling the issues of pace and character which mattered so much to Mozart. But the painterly poetry of this music is of the very highest order, akin to the breadth and emotional focus of Handel’s operatic style.

Not surprisingly, therefore, it is the solo aria which forms the main musical medium of the work. Often lengthy, and sometimes repetitious, they nevertheless create colours and
moods of considerable variety and beauty, and many are superb in quality and imagination. Vespina’s are the widest-ranging: her first, Poets say that Cupid is blindfold, has a jaunty elegance with fragmented phrases which effectively establishes the wily inventiveness of this manipulative and endearing character. Her Act 2 disguises are musically hilarious: notable are the raucous German manservant’s Trinke, trinke Wein in plenty and the extraordinarily syncopated Oh good sir, I am so weary, I can hardly bend this knee, in which she plays a hypochondriac crone who collapses in a fit of disgusting coughs and splutters. But Vespina has a serious and passionate heart, as demonstrated in a powerful ‘rage’ duet with her brother Nanni, in which an insistent contrapuntal interplay and dramatic leaps across the full range of the voices. The final aria of the opera, given to the potentially tragic Sandrina, is perhaps the finest, sublime in its sentiment and its tender mellowness. Sandrina, resigned to marry the relatively wealthy Nencio rather than her beloved but impoverished Nanni, nostalgically prefers the ‘simple pathways’ of her former unsullied life to the ‘wordly pomp’ offered by Nencio: the music is an expansive and serene allegro with horns and oboes, restrained in passion and yet of the most moving sincerity.

The first UK performance of L'infedeltà delusa was a concert at the Royal Festival Hall in October 1960, followed by its staged premiere in 1964 at St Pancras Town Hall. Amongst its occasional later performances have been ones at the Wexford Festival in 1969 and at Garsington in 1993. Tonight’s production is a version of that presented by Bampton Classical Opera at the English Haydn Festival in Bridgnorth on 5 June 2004. This production imagines a further (fictional) production at another royal palace. The Empress Maria Theresa’s fifteenth child and young sister to Maria Christina was Marie Antoinette (1755 – 1793), who married the French Dauphin, later Louis XVI, in 1770. Marie deeply enjoyed music, and especially supported the career of Gluck and also of Salieri. She was also very fond of the music of Haydn, and his Symphony no. 85 (1785) bore the title ‘La Reine’ in homage.

Marie tried in many ways to escape the stifling etiquette and lack of privacy at the court at Versailles and often retreated with her friends to the Petit Trianon in the royal estate; here she encouraged informality of manner and dress, and took part in many theatrical and musical performances, building a special theatre there in 1780. In due course she had built for her a model farm (hameau) with cottages, a mill and a dovecote, where she continued to encourage a return to primitive and pastoral values. On the stage she especially enjoyed playing shepherdesses, village maidens and chambermaids. The character of Vespina would surely have appealed to her, and perhaps with her courtly friends Yolande de Polignac, and the Comtes de Vaudreuil, d’Artois and d’Adhémar, the ill-fated Queen of France could have sought solace in the simple and rural values of L'infedeltà delusa.

Jeremy Gray
X