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Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Il barone di rocca antica
21 Jan 2007

DITTERSDORF: Il barone di rocca antica

For those OperaToday readers prone to fantasies about being a member of royalty with one's own cozy opera house tucked away on the hereditary estate, this Hungaroton DVD will enable that desire. Filmed in August 2005 at the royal palace at Gödölló, Il barone di rocca antica, an operetta giocosa from Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, requires only four singers.

Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf: Il barone di rocca antica

Tamás Kóbor, Beatrix Fodor, Edit Károly, Gábor Bretz, Savaria Baroque Együttes Korhű Hangszereken, Savaria Baroque Orchestra Vezényel, Pál Németh (cond.)

Hungaroton DVD HDVD 32406

$39.98  Click to buy

Which is fortunate, because the stage at the royal palace appears to be about the size of a dressing room at the Metropolitan Opera.

In this small space two couples cavort: a "noble" couple and a pair of servants. Librettist Giuseppe Petrosellini (who saw the libretto first set to music by Mozart's buddy Salieiri) manages to juggle enough complications to keep the inevitable happy romantic resolutions postponed until the end of two acts, each about 50 minutes long. As great a wonder as that is, Ditters von Dittersdorf matches that level of craftsmanship, with consistently delightful and charming, if hardly original, music.

Pál Németh serves as both director and conductor. In the latter function, he leads a very small ensemble of musicians on period instruments in a delightful performance. As director, however, he has given every performer some bit of business to do at almost every moment, so that no one ever seems to simply listen to another character. In such a constricted space, one camera can easily pick up on all this hyper-activity, and it becomes wearing after a while.

The baron of the title is sung by tenor Tamás Kóbor, possessor of a light but pleasant tenor. His character spends an inordinate amount of time hectoring his manservant Giocondo. Gábor Bretz takes this role, his somewhat rough baritone appropriate for a pre-Figaro manservant. Beatrix Fodor performs as the baron's female counterpart, Beatrice. She sounds a bit overripe at her entrance, but as the evening progresses she settles down into a pleasing singer. The best of the cast takes the role of Giocondo's ladyfriend, Lenina. Edit Karoly has an attractive mezzo and a naturally charming stage persona.

The booklet essay by Katalin Tamás should be a model of its kind: extremely informative about every aspect of the opera, and stylishly written as well.

Yes, ultimately Il barone di rocca antica is a curiosity, but it makes for a most entertaining one on this DVD. If one feels like playing the lord or lady of the manor for a couple hours, pop this in the royal DVD player.

Chris Mullins

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