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LABELS: Opus 111 Tesori di Napoli
WORKS: Li zite ‘ngalera
PERFORMER: Roberta Invernizzi, Emanuela Galli, Maria Ercolano, Roberta Andalò; Cappella de’Turchini/Antonio Florio
While Pergolesi’s La serva padrona (1733) is generally credited with popularising opera buffa throughout Europe, the genre, with its roots in comic intermezzi and the commedia del’arte, had flourished in Naples since the 1710s. Leonardo Vinci devoted his early career to such works but Li zite ‘ngalera (The Lovers on the Galley), first performed in 1722, is his only opera buffa score to have survived intact. It now comprises Vol. 8 of Opus 111’s adventurous ‘Tesori de Napoli’ series.


Set outside a barber’s shop, Bernardo Saddumene’s pithy libretto runs the gamut of comic characters and devices: anarchic servants tangle with cross-dressing lovers, badinage alternates with knockabout farce. Vinci’s score is brisk and lively, strong on rhythmic vitality but low on melodic interest, the pacy buffo style allowing few opportunites for elaborate arias or virtuoso vocal display. (Notable exceptions include the lyrical ‘Nenna mia’ and the poignant love duet ‘Che buo’ che spera?’.)


The Cappella de’ Turchini perform the lilting Neapolitan dialect with terrific aplomb, though even their zestful repartee can’t disguise the fact that Li zite, with its pages and pages of comic recitatives and frequent on-stage slapstick, remains much better suited to the theatre than to compact disc. Graham Lock