Opera Scotland

Scala di seta La scala di seta; The Silken Ladder

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

Text
Giuseppe Foppa

Source
L’ échelle de soie (1808) by François-Antoine-Eugène de Planard, which is itself distantly derived from The Clandestine Marriage (1766) by Colman the elder and Garrick.

Premieres
First performance: Venice (Teatro San Moisè), 9 May 1812.
First UK performance: London (Sadler’s Wells Theatre), 26 April 1954.
First performance in Scotland: Perth (Theatre), 22 May 1984.
Scottish Opera premiere: As above.

Background
While La scala di seta has remained known in modern times largely because of its delightful overture, the opera as a whole still works well on those rare occasions when it is revived in the theatre.

Characters
Giulia, Dormont’s ward (soprano)
Germano, Dormont’s servant (bass)
Lucilla, Giulia’s cousin (mezzo-soprano)
Dorvil, Giulia’s secret husband (tenor)
Dormont, Giulia’s guardian (tenor)
Blansac, a wealthy friend of Dorvil (baritone)

Plot Summary
Dorvil has been secretly married to Giulia. She still lives in the house of her guardian, Dormont, and he uses the silken ladder of the title every night to join her in her room.

As the opera starts, Giulia has already lowered the ladder from her bedroom window, but Germano, her guardian’s servant still lingers. As soon as she gets rid of him, Lucilla comes in. When Giulia is at last able to have a word with her husband he tells her that his wealthy friend Blansac has been lined up by her guardian to marry Giulia. She has the idea that Blansac should be persuaded to marry Lucilla. Dorvil tells Blansac that he will have no luck with Giulia, but the newcomer sees this as a challenge, and bets Dorvil that he will succeed. The husband reluctantly agrees, in order to test his wife’s fidelity. However Giulia has had the idea of attempting to seduce Blansac to find if he is good enough for her cousin. Confusion reigns. The next evening, Blansac now successfully pays court to Lucilla, but Germano tells him about the silken ladder, saying that he is expected to seduce Giulia. Germano then tells Lucilla about it so that she becomes jealous, believing it is intended for Blansac. In the end, Dormont finds the ladder and goes to Giulia’s room where he finds both suitors concealed, Blansac having climbed in after Dorvil. Giulia and Dorvil are forced to confess that they are married already, which allows Blansac to propose to and be accepted by Lucilla, so everyone is happy.

RECORDINGS

HOMMAGE or FONIT-CETRA (2 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1988

Conductor: Gabriele Ferro
Orchestra of Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Luciana Serra (Giulia), Cecilia Bartoli (Lucilla), William Matteuzzi (Dorvil).

This is an excellent modern recording, based on the latest critical edition. Ferro is a natural conductor of Rossini and this Pesaro Festival cast is unlikely to be bettered. Natale de Carolis is excellent as Blansac and Oslavio di Credico as the guardian.

BRILLIANT (8 bargain CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1992

Conductor: Marcello Viotti
English Chamber Orchestra
Teresa Ringholz (Giulia), Francesca Provvisionato (Lucilla), Ramón Vargas (Dorvil).

Brilliant’s bargain boxes of CDs giving complete batches of a particular section of the musical repertoire are mostly superb value. This one (originally on Claves) contains five operas on eight discs. The Silken Ladder is one of three that spreads to a second disc, and the notes contain the Italian text, though no translations. The performances are generally fine. The cast includes Ramón Vargas, now well known as a singer of music rather heavier than when he recorded this Rossini. We also hear Natale de Carolis, an excellent Blansac in 1988, who now repeats the role.

The Cast

Blansac
 a friend of Dorvil
Dormont
 Giulia's guardian
Dorvil
 secretly married to Giulia
Germano
 a servant
Giulia
 Dormont's ward
Lucilla
 Giulia's cousin

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