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La Scala Di Seta
16 May 2006

ROSSINI: La Scala Di Seta

Here is another handsome production of an early Rossini one-act comedy from the Schwetzingen festival, held at the charming and tiny Rokoko theater in May 1990.

Gioacchino Rossini: La scala di seta

David Griffith, Luciana Serra, Jane Bunnell, David Kuebler, Alberto Rinaldi, Alessandro Corbelli, Harpsicord and fortepiano: Simone Young. Directed for Stage by Michael Hampe. Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gianluigi Gelmetti, conductor.

EuroArts 2054978 [DVD]

$32.98  Click to buy

As with Il Signor Bruschino (reviewed recently here), La Scala di Seta retains some renown for its lively, melodious overture. The rest of the score doesn't quite match the opening's melodic memorableness, but it certainly reflects Rossini's early mastery of comic energy.

Beautiful Giulia has married her tutor, Dorvil, in secret, while her obtuse guardian, Dormont, tries to arrange a "suitable" match with one Blansac. For the early 19th century, the details make for a "racy" situation, with the silken ladder of the title providing access for Dorvil to his wife. When their plans for a midnight assignation are overheard,  Giulia's cousin Lucilla steals into the room for an "education" in romance. Other complications ensue due to Giulia's reliance on the house servant, Germano, who at first has the affrontery to believe that the assistance his mistress requests would be of a more direct, amatory nature. Meanwhile, Dorvil tries to get Blansac interested in Lucilla. The inevitable mad scramble of confusion resolves itself fairly expediently at the climax, and the ladder becomes an inessential accessory.

Director Michael Hampe allows for some broad comic acting from the principals; in context, that style suits the material. Costumes are colorful and immaculatetly clean and pressed (except for the servant's, of course). The set, very reminiscent of that used for Il Signor Bruschino, accommodates all the action handsomely, with the one distinctive touch being a fascinating replica of an authentic gas chandelier of the era. The Arc de Triomphe, visible in the painted backdrop, serves as a reminder that the ostensible setting is France, though the Italianate flavor of the piece remains dominant.

By far the most interesting part of the opera is the character of Germano, with a relatively youthful-looking Alessandro Corbelli relishing his character's sexual aspirations, as well as delineating his boredom with his duties and the "superiors" he works for. Late in the opera Germano gets a genuinely honest emotional expression of romantic anguish, and as the realest moment in the opera, the impact just about throws the comedy off balance.

Luciana Serra enjoys her florid music, and David Kuebler, apparently the resident tenor of this festival, does his usual efficient job. All other principals sing well for conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti, who makes a quite goofy appearance himself in the overture, although not clearly intentionally so. The sound needs more sharpness in that opening, especially for the wind solos, but once the opera begins, the voices carry the day anyway.

Once again, as with the others in this series, for those who love Rossini and want to see some rarer pieces, staged traditionally and sung by a committed cast, this La Scala di Seta fills that bill.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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