What gift to get the opera lover who has all the popular operas? Easy. Get an obscure one that is a lot of fun. Such is Baldassare Galuppi’s 1754 comic opera “Il filosofo di campagna” (The Philosopher of the Country) which is now available on a Bongiovanni DVD in a 2012 performance from the Teatro Comunale, Belluno.
Until now, the name Galuppi was familiar only as the subject of a poem by Robert Browning but his music was unknown to me. With a libretto by the venerable Carlo Goldini (whose “Turandot” was used for the libretto of the Puccini opera), “Filosofo” tells the usual convoluted tale of a network of lovers.
Now hold your breath: Don Tritemio (Carlo Torriani) wants his daughter Eugenia (Ilaria Zanetti) to marry the rich peasant Nardo (Cuneyt Unsal), nicknamed the Philosopher, while she loves Rinaldo (Max Baldan), having her housemaid Lesbina (Giorgia Cinciripi) pose as Eugenia when Nardo shows up, and he falls in love with her, while promising his niece Lena (Camilla Antonini) that she will get a husband by the end of the day. (Get it?)
As one would expect, the serious arias are designed to express a single emotion, while the comic ones show the stupidity or cleverness of a given character. For example, Don Tritemio sings to Rinaldo his “reasons” for rejecting him as a suitor for Eugenia by explaining he is rejecting him because he said “No”!
The cast is pleasant and are enjoying the silly romp. The tenor playing Rinaldo, which by the way was sung by a woman in the original production, is not complimented by close-ups, what with his double chin. But a stronger negative is the far too many close-ups of conductor Fabrizio da Ros, who seems at best disinterested in the proceedings and at times even bored! And the business of superimposing him over the actors is more than annoying. He makes even von Karajan look modest.
The program notes are quite interesting. However, an essay on the social importance of the plot pushes the thesis a little too far. Yes, the plot is a little like—not a lot like–that of “The Barber of Seville,” but while Figaro is at pains to help a nobleman, there is no such element in the Galuppi work. The latter is far too lighthearted to carry any heavy social satirical burden.
The running time is 110 minutes, the picture is in 4:3 ratio, and the subtitles are in English and Italian.