Alessandro de Marchi: La Stellidaura vendicante, Provenzale
Alessandro de Marchi’s brilliant reconstruction of Francesco Provenzale’s La Stellidaura vendicante was written for Prince Cicinelli, a minor Neapolitan royal on a mission to impress the Spanish viceroy. Performed at the prince’s rented summer palazzo in 1674, its creative director and star was Giulia de Caro: singer, actress, sometime leaseholder on the Teatro San Bartolomeo, and, allegedly, lover of the viceroy and the viceroy’s brother.
A love triangle is central to the plot of La Stellidaura. Of more interest to the listener is the multiplicity of situations that call for special effects: a sleep aria; a dream in which bloodthirsty saracens rattle their scimitars; birdsong; poisonings and a lowborn character whose dialect and accompaniment – twanging colascione (a long-necked lute), hectic percussion and pithy sopranino recorders – are plundered from the street music of Naples.
The brace of laments for Stellidaura in Act II – ‘Chi d’amore lo strale ho in petto’ and ‘Il cuor del tuo venir la vita aspetta’ – attest to the seductive abilities of de Caro and fit Jennifer Rivera’s honed, toned mezzo-soprano voice like a glove. Less attractive are her suitors, two stiff baritonal tenors. Bass Enzo Capuano steals the show as the servant Giampetro in ‘L’airu chiù d’un cafaruni’ (I am as rank as a ram). Tenors aside, De Marchi has created a vibrant reimagining of this private, politically loaded entertainment, and his instrumentalists lavish the score with more detail than perhaps it deserves.