Opera Scotland

Marriage Contract La Cambiale di Matrimonio; The Marriage Contract

Music
Gioachino Rossini (born Pesaro, 29 February 1792; died Paris, 13 November 1868)

Text
Gaetano Rossi

Source
Play La cambiale di matrimonio (1791) by Camillo Federici.

Premieres
First performance: Venice (Teatro San Moisè), 3 November 1810.
First UK performance: London (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), 23 April 1954.
First performance in Scotland: Perth (Theatre), 22 May 1984.
Scottish Opera premiere: As above.

Background
La cambiale di matrimonio was the first of a group of five one-act works commissioned by the little Teatro San Moisè in Venice, and the first of his operas to be performed. Already it shows a great deal of accomplishment, including a sophisticated sense of comic timing and a beautifully orchestrated overture. In 1984 Scottish Opera produced a successful pairing of this and The Silken Ladder in stagings by Graham Vick which opened at the Perth Festival and toured the company’s medium-scale venues before ending at Glasgow Theatre Royal. Scottish Television then filmed them.

Characters
Norton, Mill’s cashier (bass)
Clarina, a servant (mezzo-soprano)
Tobia Mill, a wealthy merchant (baritone)
Edoardo Milfort, Fanny’s lover (tenor)
Fanny, Mill’s daughter (soprano)
Slook, a Canadian, Mill’s agent (baritone)

Plot Summary
Sir Tobias Mill, an English merchant, receives a letter from Slook, his agent in Canada, asking him to look out for a suitable wife for him. Mill decides that his daughter Fanny is the ideal candidate. But Fanny is already in love with Edoardo. Norton breaks the bad news to the young couple, but when they are found together by Mill, Norton explains that Edoardo is the new clerk. Mill has now had the marriage contract drawn up and Slook’s arrival is imminent. When he does come, Fanny tries to dissuade him, but he says the agreement is clear. Edoardo finds it more and more difficult to maintain his composure, and he eventually quarrels with Slook. Norton takes Slook into his confidence by saying that the commodity he had ordered was no longer available, whereupon Slook breaks with Mill and is challenged to a duel. Slook now renounces his claim in favour of Edoardo and has the name on the contract changed accordingly. Since the duel would now be a waste of time he then explains the outcome to Mill, who is at last reconciled to it.

RECORDINGS

BRILLIANT (8 bargain CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1988

Conductor: Marcello Viotti
English Chamber Orchestra
Alessandra Rossi (Fanny), Maurizio Comencini (Edoardo), Bruno Praticò (Tobia Mill).

La cambiale di matrimonio is Rossini’s first comic opera and the first he saw performed. The quality he produced at this young age still astonishes. There is, of course, no musical indication of the fact that the characters and setting are British, and no attempt to differentiate with the one character who is Canadian, and therefore potentially exotic. A lot of plot is crammed into 78 minutes. This means that it fits neatly on to one CD – admittedly not an important point when it is only available as part of a set of five works. Francesco Facini, who sings Norton, will be remembered as Dulcamara with Scottish Opera in 2009 and as Bartolo in the Thomas Allen staging of Figaro in 2010. Otherwise, with the exception of Bruno Praticò, the cast is largely unfamiliar, but they produce an enjoyable performance

The Cast

Clarina
 a servant
Edoardo Milfort
 Fanny's lover
Fanny
 Mill's daughter
Norton
 Mill's cashier
Servant
 
Slook
 a Canadian, Mill's agent
Tobia Mill
 a wealthy merchant

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