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Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
La serva padrona

In the year 1733 the composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, together with the lawyer-librettist Gennarantonio Federico, created La serva padrona as comic intermezzi to Il Prigionier superbo, an opera seria also by Pergolesi. It may comes as a surprise, however, that this celebrated work met with rather little success in the first years following its appearance. The first production was a solemn affair (the birthday of the empress Elisabeth, in the last year of Austrian rule over Naples); the cast was a felicitous marriage of experience and youthful freshness (the veteran bass Gioacchino Corrado appeared alongside the young soprano Laura Monti); the plot was well honed (a bourgeois comedy where the saucy maid entraps and marries the foolish old man). And yet La serva padrona did not manage to attract much interest at first. Its everlasting success—exalted even by Ranieri de’ Calzabigi in his own Lulliade--which stands up to well-founded musicological re-evaluations today of Pergolesi and his works, is in fact the result of numerous extra-musical factors. First of all, La serva padrona was fortunately born at a time when comic musical intermezzi were taking hold as an independent genre on the Italian stage (this had already been the case abroad for some time). In addition, Pergolesi’s early death in 1736 at only twenty-six years of age led to the posthumous veneration of a genius struck down by death at an early age, and the glorification of his operatic works. Finally, La serva padrona was the spark that set of the so-called Querelle des bouffons in Paris in 1752, opposing supporters of French and Italian opera. The bouffonistes on the Italian side included no less than Jean-Jacques Rousseau. (Eustachio Bambini, leader of the Italian theatrical troupe in Paris, probably rolled his eyes to see the hornet’s nest surrounding a play which he undoubtedly considered quite innocuous.)

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Cod.: TC.711604
Composer: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
Performers: Serpina: Federica Zanello, Uberto: Michele Govi · Ensemble Regia Accademia · Marco Dallara, Conductor
Edition: June 2007
Note: Integral Version, with two alternative final duets