Opera Scotland

Serva Padrona The Servant becomes Mistress

Music

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (born Jesi, 4 January 1710; died Pozzuoli, 16 March 1736)

Libretto

Gennarantonio Federico.

Source

Original.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Naples (Teatro San Bartolomeo), 28 August 1733.

First Performance in UK: London (King's Theatre, Haymarket), 27 March 1750.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Canongate Theatre), 21 June 1763.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Pergolesi died young, and though very successful in his day, is represented in the modern repertoire by a tiny number of works, chiefly his Stabat Mater and the delightful little comedy La serva padrona. His success in his lifetime led, after his death, to the development of a fashion for the attribution of works by other hands to the lamented young master, no doubt in the hope of increasing their value for the dishonest publishers. Stravinsky, in his ballet Pulcinella, used a number of themes by Pergolesi, which now turn out to have been by other hands.

La serva padrona is a piece of the genuine article. It is an intermezzo, a light comedy whose two parts were designed to fill the intervals in a three-act serious work, in this case another opera by Pergolesi, Il prigonier superbo (The Proud Prisoner), a work which is almost forgotten. The plot mechanism is by no means original - Telemann's Pimpinone is rather similar, though does without the commedia dell' arte associations of the mimed comic servant.

 

Characters

Uberto, a wealthy bachelor (bass)

Serpina, a maidservant (soprano)

Vespone, a manservant (silent)

 

Plot Summary

Uberto is fed up with the wilful behaviour of Serpina, and decides to marry a woman who will be tractable, while also running his household effectively. He instructs Vespone to find such a woman. Serpina conspires with Vespone to bring about her own marriage to the boss. She announces that she is about to marry, thus relieving Uberto of his difficulty. She introduces her fiancé to Uberto. The intended is Vespone in disguise, and he remains silent, while Serpina explains that to go through with the bargain, her 'captain' requires Uberto to provide a dowry. While the temptation to rid himself of Serpina is great, the cost rules this out, and he comes to the conclusion that he loves her himself enough to marry her.

The Cast

Serpina
 Uberto's maid
Uberto
 a bachelor
Vespone
 Uberto's servant

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