Opera Scotland

Matrimonio segreto 1957Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Piccola Scala)

Read more about the opera Secret Marriage

The chorus and orchestra of La Scala Milan appeared with great success at one of the early Edinburgh Festivals in 1950. The two conductors then were the veteran Music Director Victor de Sabata and the brilliant young Guido Cantelli. Clearly it was hoped that the full opera company would visit before long. However the Festival struggled for most of its first half century to accommodate grand opera in the King's Theatre, and no such visit was ever likely. In 1955, a small theatre, the Piccola Scala, was opened in Milan, with the intention of staging new works and revivals of little known smaller pieces. Foreign tours were quickly undertaken, to Vienna and Johannesburg, and an Edinburgh season at last became possible.

The thirty-six year-old Cantelli was appointed to lead the Scala company, but a few days after the announcement, he was killed in an air-crash at Paris on 24 November 1956. It was soon after this that the Edinburgh visit was announced, though the conductors would now be Nino Sanzogno and Antonino Votto. The programme originally announced included the work with which the new Milan house had opened, Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto and Bellini's La sonnambula (actually a main house production, though not very grand). Also proposed were Donizetti's Don Pasquale and a double-bill of recent operas by Menotti which would receive British stage premieres - The Medium and Amahl and the Night Visitors.

By August, Gianandrea Gavazzeni had been added to the list of conductors, while the schedule had also changed. Don Pasquale and the Menotti programme were dropped in favour of L'elisir d'amore and Il turco in Italia. While the presence of Maria Callas in the Bellini made headlines, several important singers made British debuts, including Rosanna Carteri and three excellent tenors - Giuseppe di Stefano, Luigi Alva and Nicola Monti.

The Festival opera schedule was as follows:

First week, commencing 19 Aug: Mon Sonnambula; Tue Matrimonio segreto; Wed Sonnambula; Thu Matrimonio; Fri Elisir d'amore; Sat Matrimonio.

Second week, commencing 26 Aug: Mon Sonnambula; Tue Elisir; Wed Matrimonio; Thu Sonnambula; Fri Turco in Italia; Sat Elisir.

Third week, commencing 2 Sep: Mon Turco; Tue Sonnambula; Wed Turco; Thu Elisir; Fri Turco; Sat Elisir.

Of the four operas brought to Edinburgh in 1957, Il matrimonio segreto was the only production which actually originated in the Piccola Scala, as opposed to the much larger main house. Its director, Giorgio Strehler, had already had a success in Edinburgh with the Piccola Scala's theatre company playing Goldoni, including a classic staging of The Servant of Two Masters. His later opera productions included a Seraglio, (also designed by Damiani) which ran for several years at the Salzburg Festival, and a famous staging of Simon Boccanegra, which La Scala brought to Covent Garden in 1976.

This cast, with one exception, was recorded in Milan, and it was, for many years, the only version generally available of this charming comedy. Luigi Alva and Graziella Sciutti gave attractive and sweet-voiced performances as the romantic leads. Gabriella Carturan was more appropriately youthful, and therefore dangerously threatening, than the much older, and mature-voiced, Fedora Barbieri, who sings Fidalma on the recording.

Performance Cast

Geronimo a rich merchant

Carlo Badioli

Elisetta Geronimo's elder daughter

Eugenia Ratti

Carolina Geronimo's second daughter

Graziella Sciutti

Fidalma Geronimo's widowed sister

Gabriella Carturan

Count Robinson an English milord

Franco Calabrese

Paolino Geronimo's young clerk

Luigi Alva

Performance DatesMatrimonio segreto 1957

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King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

20 Aug, 19.00 22 Aug, 19.00 24 Aug, 19.00 28 Aug, 19.00

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