The Sunday Opera: Gioachino Rossini's "Matilde di Shabran"
Gioachino Rossini completed 39 operas before his early retirement in 1830 with many of them such as “La gazza ladra,” “Il barbiere di Siviglia,” “Semiramide,” “La Cenerentola,” and his final opera “Guillaume Tell” still being produced. However, this week’s Sunday Opera (2/19 3:00 p.m.) looks at one of his lesser-known works that has never been done at the Met, “Matilde di Shabran” which is subtitled “Beauty and Ironheart.”
“Matilde di Shabran” is the 32nd of Rossini’s operas and had its world premiere in 1821 at the Teatro Apollo in Rome. The libretto was by Jacopo Ferretti and was ultimately based on a play by Mehul. The opera received mixed reviews when it opened in Rome but fared much better when it traveled around Europe. However, it almost totally disappeared until it was mounted again in 1974 in Genoa in the original “Rome version.” There are also two other “authentic” versions from productions in Vienna and Naples.
Today, we’ll hear a 2004 recording of the Neapolitan version of the opera from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro.
The opera is set in the Spain of the Middle Ages and opens with a group of peasants arriving at the castle of the “ironhearted” Corradino (Juan Diego Florez). Their leader Egoldo (Gregory Bonfatti) has brought them to the castle in the hope of gaining his favor by giving him some of their produce. However, they meet the physician Aliprando (Marco Vinco) who reads the inscription on the castle gate since they cannot read. When they hear “Anyone entering without permission will have their heads split in two” and “Anyone who disturbs the peace will be starved to death,” they quickly withdraw.
Corradino hates everyone, especially women. This is problematic since Matilde (Annick Massis) is on her way to the castle having been commended to Corradino by her father as he died in battle. Corradino respected Shabran, so he is allowing Matilde to stay in the castle under the condition that he never sees her. Corradino states that he wants to find a husband for Matilde as quickly as possible and will supply her with a dowry. With this, the stage is set, and the strong willed Matilde decides that Corradino will fall in love with her.
Adding to the upheaval is the arrival of the Countess D’Arco (Chiara Chialli) who has been promised in marriage to Corradino as the result of a peace treaty. Corradino wants nothing to do with her either, and this allows some interesting fighting between the Countess and Matilde.
The rest of the story is far too complex to go into, but it deals with the prisoner Edoardo (Hadar Halevy) and his father Raimondo (Bruno Taddia) who are Corradino’s enemies, a poet/minstrel named Isidoro (Bruno de Simone), and members of Corradino’s household, Ginardo (Carlo Lepore), Egoldo (Gregory Bonfatti), and Rodrigo (Lubomir Moravec). Riccardo Frizza conducts the Prague Chamber Choir and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Galicia.
We’ll change things up after the opera with music of Paul Hindemith. Written in 1946 after Hindemith had become an American citizen with the terrors of the war behind him, his Symphonia Serena comes from a different side of Hindemith and even includes a paraphrasing of Beethoven that comprises the second movement. Here, it’s performed by the BBC Philharmonic conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier.