Violante (Maite Alberola) and Pippo (Marc Canturri) mocking their tutor (Federico Gallar)

Vicente Martín y Soler • anonymous
Il tutore burlato

Teatro Real
(Madrid, 18 June 2007)

Ignacio Jassa Haro


Sad to say, the opportunity to hear music theatre in Spanish at Madrid 's Teatro Real is a rarity. If Emilio Sagi, who had previously spent time at the Teatro de la Zarzuela and is an enthusiast for zarzuela, was unable to programme many Hispanic titles during his mandate, how difficult – not to say impossible – to imagine the theatre's present artistic director Antonio Moral (whose personal inclinations tend towards Ancient and Modern) changing this dynamic when creating “his” programme. In the upcoming season, the first designed by him and in which a batch of twenty (!!) operas will be staged, the only Hispanic (??) work amongst them will be Il burbero di buon cuore by Vicente Martín y Soler, one of three operas the celebrated Valencian composer wrote in Vienna in collaboration with l'abate da Ponte.

To whet the appetite for the (more than likely fully staged) revivals of the complete Pontine trilogy, the theatre in the Plaza de Oriente has this present season co-produced a production of Il tutore burlato (1775) with the Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales, in collaboration of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, in whose Auditorio Padre Soler at Leganés it was premiered last October. The initiative is part of an educational project of the Teatro Real which combines a group of singers new to the stage with the training orchestra of the Sinfónica de Madrid in the pit, aimed at a family and student audience. With the exception of that detail, nothing deviates in this production from the habitual scenic and musical excellence of this first amongst Spanish opera house, fiscal matters included.

Violante (Maite Alberola) spurns Don Lelio (Juan Antonio Sanabria)

The work's plot turns on the quadrangle formed by a young coquette, her jealous tutor and two enthusiastic suitors – one a nobleman already promised to another, the other a more humble one for whom the heroine falls. The librettist, whoever he might be, was clever enough to develop the ensuing love-tangle most amusingly so that the story gains interest as the work advances. Twenty year old Martín y Soler, writing what was to be his first theatre score, shows evident technical maturity and sure comfort with the aesthetic of his time. Still, although the music has impeccable formal finish its pages lack life, missing something of a spark – the seguidillas sung at the end of the second act are perhaps the exception that proves the rule.

What's more, the dogged obsession with reviving a work just as it was premiered – in Italian, in the Royal Palace of la Granja de San Ildefonso where the court was staying – deprives the audience of an understanding of the text and forces them to listen to insupportable quantities of secco recitative. El tutor burlado o La madrileña, the Castilian version of this three-act farce, probably adapted by Pablo Esteve, was performed at the Teatro de la Cruz in Madrid three years after the court presentation when the composer had already made the break to Italy, in what was to become an unstoppable European progress. Revived in 1995 through the efforts of Victor Pagán under Carles Magraner (who brought it to CD), the Spanish version is much more alive and suitable for staging, considering the characteristics of both music and libretto in Martin y Soler's firstborn.

Susana Cordón and Javier Galán

Ignacio García's staging, like everything by the young madrileño director we've seen, is impressive. He prioritizes visual values and slightly sidelines the dramaturgical effectiveness, although direction of the performers is never neglected. This is a bit odd, specially considering that in theory this spectacle is aimed at children and young people – something García forgets completely. A delicious mixture of 18th century and Outer Space with the narrative swinging both ways, marks a conceptual aesthetic governed by sets, costumes and lighting which sometimes distracts the spectator – for example through beautiful, clever lighting and stage tricks. The musical side suffers from muddy orchestral direction little clarified by Lorenzo Ramos: the singers are forced to shout to be heard over an orchestra that plays almost throughout with too much force. Of the better than average cast we should single out the protagonists (Susana Cordón/Marc Canturri, this evening), with whom vocal and theatrical values are specially well balanced and achieved.

How can this lack of concern for Spain 's lyric heritage on the part of the Teatro Real be understood? The flagship of Spanish opera should not forget her own rich music-theatre tradition, even though the city of Madrid has another performing space dedicated – in a form very limited by budget and lack of political decisiveness – to that repertoire. And what's worse, what unconfessed inferiority complex makes the Real decide to program Hispanic works almost unfailingly as “operas” when history and experience show that the greatest artistic profits of Spanish theatre composers are in the óperas cómicas , commonly called “zarzuelas”? How many blunders will be made before the people in charge of programming at this front line theatre realize this?

© Ignacio Jassa Haro 2007
translation © Christopher Webber 2007

Il tutore burlato . Music by Vicente Martín y Soler. Libretto anonymous, based on La frascatana by Filippo Livigni (music by Giovanni Paisiello) Cast: Violante - Susana Cordón; El caballero Don Lelio - José Ferrero; Donna Menica - Beatriz Díaz; Don Fabricio - Xavier Mendoza; Pippo - Marc Canturri; Anselmo - Gerardo López; Pastor / criado - Camilo Maqueda; Sergio Castelar – harpsichord player; Orquesta-Escuela de la Sinfónica de Madrid; Ana Garay (design); Antonio Belart (costumes); José Luis Canales (lighting); Ignacio García (director); José Antonio Montaño (repetiteur and continuo), Lorenzo Ramos (conductor)
New co-producción Teatro Real de Madrid and la Sociedad Estatal de Conmemoraciones Culturales, with Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Critical edition by Giuseppe de Matteis (Ediciones Iberautor S.R.L./ICCMU, 2007)

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