Galuppi: La diavolessa

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WORKS: La diavolessa
PERFORMER: Kremena Dilcheva, Matthias Vieweg, Tom Allen, Johnny Maldonado, Bettina Pahn; Lautten Compagney Berlin/ Wolfgang Katschner
CATALOGUE NO: 999 947-2
Italian comic opera, which at the start of the 18th century began an energetic spurt of development in Naples, got a mid-century second wind in Venice. This boost was largely due to Baldassare Galuppi (1706-85). His collaboration with another renowned Venetian, the playwright Goldoni, resulted in their first comic opera, L’arcadia in Brenta (1749). Its huge success led to 18 more operas: spicy in social observation, formally innovative (the through-composed act finales that composer and librettist masterminded proved a particularly significant step) and lent a special vitality by Galuppi’s shapely, rhythmically buoyant, melodically abundant musical invention. La diavolessa (The She-Devil, 1755) comes not long after the Galuppi-Goldoni masterpiece, Il filosofo di campagna (The Country Philosopher). On this evidence it’s a work of some sparkle, drawing its fun from the attempts of a pair of adventurers to gull a snobbish, hidden-treasure-obsessed local dignitary. At the same time it lacks Il filosofo’s emotional variety. Galuppi, in the words of Browning’s famous poem, was ‘good alike at grave and gay’, but in La diavolessa the touching moments go missing.Nevertheless, it’s a colourful, deftly unfolded piece, well worth exploring. One senses as much in spite of the set’s obvious limitations. Based on a 2002 staging by the Lautten Compagney Berlin, the performance offers dutiful, vocally tidy, instrumentally assured execution (and a well-balanced recording); but the mainly German cast displays a distinct shortage of true theatrical zest, not to mention Italianate warmth and relish of delivery (the enunciation of both baritones is ponderously Teutonic). The English translations of CPO’s libretto and copious booklet notes are by no means all idiomatic. Max Loppert