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A Filmed Operatic Performance That Must Be Rated As Good Or Better In All Departments Has Captured The Better Musical Characteristics of Donizetti.

10/10
Author: rsoonsa (rsoonsa@bandbbooks.com) from Mountain Mesa, California
21 January 2012

This savoury piece, to be translated approximately into English as THE TUTOR EMBARRASSED, was designated by its composer, Gaetano Donizetti, to be a "melodramma giocoso" (light opera), and it unquestionably is that. This was Donizetti's first operatic success, greeted with abundant enthusiasm by audiences who knew that the Italian master of lyricism had played fair with them. Initially produced in Rome (1824), it was retitled two years after by Donizetti, for subsequent performances, as Don Gregorio, a simplification that has not hurt the work's popularity. It was the beginning of an opera collaboration, pieces constructed by Donizetti along with his most favoured librettist, Jacopo Ferretti, and is based upon an 1807 drama of Giovanni Geraud, French/Italian playwright. This performance, long out of print, is one of three that were also released in an audio format by RCA, and is shot here not as an opera in performance, but rather as a filmed feature, that additionally gives ample scope to the playing of the Orchestra Filharmonica Di Roma, conducted by "Vasco Ugo Finni", a pseudonym for Giovanni Fusco who, together with his daughter Cecilia, performed the scores for the most highly regarded films of director Michelangelo Antonioni, music that Giovanni composed. For this film soprano Cecilia sings the primary role of Gilda. There is no dearth of thematic possibilities to be gleaned from a libretto that also offers a wealth of musical channels for scenes that course from the comedic through ribaldry and romance. The plot for this admirably constructed work is, in fact, formed as a melodrama of the blithely humorous type cherished by Italian audiences since the beginnings of the operatic form, having lively and institutionalized themes, revolving in this instance about two brothers with their dalliances, all touched upon in song by the pair's elders. There is a clandestine marriage as well, with the siblings' tutor at the heart of the action, while providing emotional support for them. From all of this, the libretto furnishes Donizetti, a votary of Rossini, material for his emblematic solutions of harmony as well as melody. Acting is competently managed by all, with syncing nearly flawless. Fusco sings well, and her tonal pyrotechnics would delight the composer. Donizetti's trademark: elaborate patter songs, and his whimsical ensembles are pleasingly on display and on target, those as duets being specially appealing. The foremost roles for this filmed version, as also upon the operatic stage, belong to Gilda, and to Giulio, father of the brace of brothers, performed strongly by baritone Antonio "Tonino" Boyer. Gilda's spouse, and secret sire of her child, is nicely performed by tenor Ugo Benelli, while veteran bassos Plinio Clabassi and Renato Capecchi also very ably handle their musical and acting turns. This was the first operatic work from the great composer to be presented outside of Italy: in Austria, Germany, England, Spain, and even in South America (Brasil). It was staged in London in 1846, only to be lost to musical drama audiences for over 100 years, until 1959 in Bergamo, but has been produced quite often since. From its spirited overture onward, the score of L'AJO contains some of Donizetti's most agreeably melodic pages, and a viewer will find shifting attention elsewhere to be unmanageable all the way through to the film's conclusion. Although released in 1964 in black and white, it remains one of the most satisfying examples of early Donizetti made for cinema. Occasionally, a small independent video label has released a direct copy, but L'AJO is always difficult to find in any format. It is sung in Italian; there are no English subtitles available with any product.

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