ANTONIO SALIERI’S THE SCHOOL OF JEALOUSY (La scuola de’ gelosi)
The Deanery Garden, Bampton, Oxfordshire: Friday, Saturday 21, 22 July
The Orangery Theatre, Westonbirt School, Gloucestershire: Monday 28 August
St John’s Smith Square, London: Tuesday 12 September
Libretto: Caterino Mazzolà
New English translation: Gilly French and Jeremy Gray
Director: Jeremy Gray
Conductor: Anthony Kraus
Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera (Bampton, Westonbirt)
CHROMA (St John’s Smith Square)
Following highly successful UK premières of Salieri’s Falstaff (in 2003) and Trofonio’s Cave (2015), this summer Bampton Classical Opera will present the first UK performances since the late 18th century of arguably his most popular success: the bitter comedy of marital feuding, The School of Jealousy (La scuola de’ gelosi). The production will be designed and directed by Jeremy Gray and conducted by Anthony Kraus from Opera North. The English translation will be by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray.
Setting a sharply cynical libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, this opera buffa was written in Venice and first performed at the Teatro San Moisè in 1778. It was selected to inaugurate the Emperor Joseph II’s new Italian opera troupe at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1783, with an outstanding cast including the star English soprano Nancy Storace (later one of Mozart’s favourite sopranos and the first Susanna) as the Countess, and Francesco Benucci (later Figaro and Guglielmo) as Blasio. Salieri revised the score for these performances including new arias specially for Nancy Storace, and the librettist Lorenzo da Ponte added some textual adjustments. The opera made a huge impact and became one of the highlights of Storace’s career.
La scuola de’ gelosi was performed widely across Europe – from London to St Petersburg - for several decades, and was praised warmly by Goethe. The opera’s great success in Vienna almost certainly inspired Da Ponte and Mozart to create La scuola degli amanti which eventually became known by its alternative title Così fan tutte and there are many narrative parallels between the two. In both fidelity and honesty are tested by means of dangerous games and deceits, and the manipulative Lieutenant in Gelosi is a counterpart to Don Alfonso.
It was the first of Salieri’s works to be performed in London, in 1786: The Herald judged “it is the first lyric drama that may be termed strictly good, whether we advert to the poem itself, the music, or the performance” and the Morning Post called it a “masterly composition” that “does great honour to Salieri, whose reputation as a composer must rise infinitely in the musical world, from this very pleasing specimen of his abilities”. For performances in 1780 at the court theatre at Esterháza, Haydn composed two insertion arias.
La scuola de’ gelosi is enjoying a current revival across Europe, including performances this year in Florence and Vienna and a recording by L’arte del mondo on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi. Bampton has also selected the work to mark the bicentenary of the death of Nancy Storace in 1817.
The cast includes Nathalie Chalkley (soprano), Thomas Herford (tenor) and five singers making their Bampton débuts: Rhiannon Llewellyn (soprano), Kate Howden (mezzo-soprano), Alessandro Fisher (tenor), Matthew Sprange (baritone) and Samuel Pantcheff (baritone). Alessandro was the joint winner of the Kathleen Ferrier Competition 2016.