Vicente Martín y Soler (born Valencia, 18 June 1754; died St Petersburg, 30 January 1806)
Lorenzo da Ponte.
Play La luna de la sierra (1652) by Luis Vélez de Guevara.
First performance: Vienna (Burgtheater), 17 November 1786.
First UK performance: London (), 10 January 1789.
First performance in Scotland: Ledlanet, Kinross-shire, 28 September 1967.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.
Una cosa rara, o sia bellezza ed onestà (A Rare Thing, or Beauty and Virtue) was hugely successful at its 1786 premiere in Vienna when it eclipsed Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. Mozart subsequently quoted from it in the final scene of Don Giovanni, composed the following year, on the assumption that audiences would recognise the melody. Lorenzo da Ponte admired Martín, and they collaborated on three operas in Vienna and a fourth one later on in London (1794). Martin spent most of his life from 1788 living and working in Russia. His music has an instant appeal, being melodious and catchy, with plenty of lively dance music.
Isabella, Queen of Spain (soprano)
Giovanni, Prince of Spain (tenor)
Corrado, a noble courtier (tenor)
Lilla, Tita’s sister, betrothed to Lubino (soprano)
Ghita, Lisurgo’s sister, betrothed to Tita (mezzo-soprano)
Lubino, a villager (baritone)
Tita, a villager (baritone)
Lisurgo, village Mayor (bass)
The Queen and her son Prince Giovanni are hunting. Their retinue also contains Giovanni’s friend Corrado. In a village, Giovanni meets and falls for one of the village girls, Lilla. She has been betrothed to another villager, Lubino, but her brother Tita is opposed to this and wants her to marry the headman Lisurgo, because he himself is about to marry Lisurgo’s sister, Ghita. The Queen takes Lilla’s side and offers her protection, with Corrado as her escort. When Lubino learns of Lilla’s escape from the control of her brother and Lisurgo, he threatens to kill them and is arrested. He is allowed to put his case to the Queen. She orders that he be set free to marry Lilla. Tita and Ghita also get married. When the two grooms go to buy presents for their brides, Corrado tries to bribe Lilla to accept the attentions of Giovanni. He also thinks he may have a chance himself. The Queen salutes the simplicity of rural life. The peasant quartet find their supper disturbed by the Prince’s serenade targeted at Lilla. She again has to convince her husband that she is entirely innocent. When they complain to the Queen about the behaviour of Giovanni, Corrado confesses to protect him and is banished from court. The villagers salute the Queen as her hunting party leaves.
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