Il matrimonio segreto, Opera by D. Cimarosa
When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the most prolific and celebrated composer of comic operas, other contemporary composers would sometimes be forced to live in his shadow. However, Domenico Cimarosa was one glaring exception. Thanks largely to his greatest hit, Il matrimonio segreto, he not only rivalled Mozart’s success and fame at the time, but he also entered the standard repertoire. The premiere took place at the Imperial Hofburg Theatre in Vienna on 7 February 1792. Emperor Leopold II was in attendance, and he was so delighted by the performance that, legend has it, he ordered dinner for the cast and then had them perform the whole opera a second time. Apart from making it the longest encore in operatic history, this precedent confirms Cimarosa’s talents and his work’s instant appeal. Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice stages Il matrimonio segreto this season.
The libretto to Il matrimonio segreto, Italian for The Secret Marriage, was penned by Giovanni Bertati. He relied on the 1766 play The Clandestine Marriage by George Colman the Elder and David Garrick as source. Set in Bologna, the action centres on Geronimo, a wealthy man, his two daughters Elisetta and Carolina, his sister Fidalma, and his secretary Paolino. Carolina and Paolino are secretly married, which forms the opera’s main predicament. Before they can go public with their union, Geronimo’s older daughter Elisetta must be married first and married well. In a stroke of genius, Paolino arranges a marriage contract for her with Count Robinson, an impoverished nobleman. Upon arrival, however, the Count instantly falls in love with Carolina instead and is willing to take a smaller dowry to get her hand in marriage. Geronimo concedes, but no-one else accepts this new plan. Elisetta is quite fond of her prospective husband, and Carolina and Paolino are desperate to stay married and finally stop hiding. Meanwhile Fidalma has a secret crush that is about to complicate things even further…
Il matrimonio segreto is set up for many misunderstandings, unrequited love, and slapstick laughs. Powered by a humorous story and Cimarosa’s evergreen melodies, the opera has aged well, as audiences at Gran Teatro La Fenice can testify.