The Jewel Box
An opera in two acts and an epilogue
Music by W.A. Mozart
Libretto by Paul Griffiths
|Dottore, a cynic||Alexander Grove|
|Pantalone, a plain man||Marc Labonnette|
|Colombina, a soubrette||Ilona Domnich|
|Pedrolino, a heartsick lover||Mark Chaundy|
|The Composer||Serena Kay|
|The Singer of opera seria||Michaela Bloom|
|The Father||Vojtech Šafařík|
An opera buffa begins with a quartet … and ends. The music stops, the characters disintegrate. Colombina, Pantalone, Pedrolino and the cynical Dottore, four characters from commedia dell’arte, no longer have the music which provides them with rôles and with life. The arrival of a young Composer might save them from this limbo, if he could be persuaded to write them a new opera, but his work is disrupted by a mounting passion for Colombina, to the dismay of the melancholic Pedrolino as much as the assertive and lustful Pantalone. And there is another woman in the Composer’s life, the mysterious Singer of Italian opera seria, his tragic muse. He is given a choice of books containing libretti for his new work: comic versus tragic. He must also choose between staying or leaving. Lingering, he begins composing, manipulating the desires and jealousies of the comedians, but this new opera is interrupted by the arrival of his Father, loving but overbearing, who clearly believes that the buffa world is unsuitable for his son’s talents and aspirations. Dottore claims the Composer for his own purposes. The Act ends with a stalemate of conflicting wills: “we must find how to go on”.
At the start of the second act, Pantalone tries to seize control and plans a new opera without the Composer’s help. The Composer refuses to obey his Father’s renewed commands to leave, as Pantalone moves in to impress Colombina, causing Pedrolino to kill himself. The reappearance of the Singer and the growing instability in this comic world persuade the Composer that it is indeed best to leave: his departure breaks Colombina’s heart and she also takes her life. Dottore sarcastically congratulates Pantalone on the outcome of his ‘opera’, but Pantalone’s heartfelt remorse enables the suicides to be resurrected. In a strange and embryonic new world, personalities and rôles are magically transformed: the Composer is reconciled with his Father, and is sent out by the Singer into a life of creative independence. Only Dottore is unable to be reborn….
Opera, November 2006
Top-drawer Mozart, served up with panache
Opera Now, January 2007