Pergolesi: Livietta e Tracollo; La serva padrona

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COMPOSERS: Pergolesi
ALBUM TITLE: Pergolesi
WORKS: Livietta e Tracollo; La serva padrona
PERFORMER: Argenta, Van Mechelen, Biccire, Di Stefano; La Petite Bande/Sigiswald Kuijken; dir. Ferruccio Soleri (Luna Theatre, Brussels, 1986)
These Pergolesi one-acters were taken ‘live’ from a 1986 Brussels staging. The 18th-century comic intermezzo is a genre of huge historical importance but not necessarily sure fire revival material. One method of bringing it back to life is to do as Sigiswald Kuijken and his producer Ferruccio Soleri did: go for ‘period’ manners not only in the pit (Kuijken’s Petite Bande plays as well as ever) but on stage.


Relying on footlights and an intimate setting, and making no attempt to prise anachronistic significances out of these pieces, the team finds charm in them. The more durable work, La serva padrona (1733), is a comedy of Italian manners, and the two Italians here, soprano Patrizia Biccire and bass Donato di Stefano, not only sing extremely well but display the quicksilver mobility of utterance, gesture and facial expression that renders their roles unhackneyed and delightful.


In Livietta e Tracollo (1734), even more famous in its day, the comic situations are slighter, and while Werner Van Mechelen and the assured, bright-toned Nancy Argenta work hard and effectively, both lack a comparably idiomatic buffo touch. Nevertheless, this is pleasant, out-of-the-way fare for the sympathetically inclined. TDK’s English subtitles for Livietta e Tracollo are mostly gobbledegook, and its accompanying booklet is hopelessly inadequate. Max Loppert