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A Satire on a Bad Poet this Week on The Lyric Stage

Giovanni Paisello wrote the satire Lo Sposo Burlato at the request of Catherine the Great. Hear it this Sunday (2/4) at 8 pm.

 Giovanni Paisiello was the reigning composer of Opera buffa in the late 18th century. A native of Naples, he was born there in 1740, and died there in 1816. In between, one of his extended sojourns out of the city was from 1776 - 1784 when he was the court composer in St. Petersburg for Catherine the Great of Russia. In 1778, she asked him to write an Opera Buffa for an open air performance that summer, and the result was the short opera "Lo Sposo Burlato", the "groom made a fool of". She had conditions - it should only be an hour and a half long, and the recitatives should be short. The librettist was Giambattista Casti, a member of the Austrian diplomatic corps in St. Petersburg who was really a spy for the Austrian emperor.

 The opera is a satire on bad poets, in this case the bass Don Totoro, who tries to win the love of the soprano Lesbina with his terrible madrigals. Lesbina's late father promised her to the rich Don Totoro, so she must accept his overtures. She asks for help from the tenor Valerio , and dressed as Sybil, Valerio fools the rather dense Don Totoro into thinking he is being taken down to Hell like Orpheus to find Sappho, a much more worthy wife than the commoner Lesbina. Hell is really a cave on Valario's estate, with servants enacting the denizens of hell. Totoro winds up rescuing and marrying his Sappho, who is really a maid, Lisette, and Lesbina and Valerio are free to wed as well.

Mike Harrah is host of The Lyric Stage, which airs Sundays at 8 pm.