Cher Public

Seconda la commedia, sta cheto e lascia far

It’s been said that the final installment of the great trio of bel canto comedies is Don Pasquale, following Il barbiere di Siviglia and L’elisir d’amore.  Although the work slipped out of the standard repertoire in the later half of the 20th century, there has been a distinct upswing, including the first performance at Wiener Staatsoper in 32 years in 2015 which we’ll sample this week.  Michele Pertusi takes the lead, abetted by Valentina Nafornita, Juan Diego Flórez, and Alessio Arduini, under Jesús López-Cobos. 

After opening in Paris in January 1843, Don Pasquale reached La Scala later that year and by 1854 circled the globe with its Australian premiere.  It is generally regarded as the high point of the 19th century opera buffa tradition and, in fact, marked its ending.

In the role created by Giulia Grisi is Moldova native Valentina Nafornita, who won the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World in 2011, the year of her Wiener Staatsoper debut in a small role in Daphne (with odd diacriticals on the last two letters of her surname, it is pronounced “na-for-NITZ-ah”).  Not yet 30, she quickly graduated into roles such as Susanna, Gilda, Pamina, Zerlina, Adina, and Musetta.  While centered in Wien, her career is now taking her to Salzburg, La Scala, Paris, and the major houses of Germany.  Add her to the list of young singers to watch out for.

  • Pete

    So, Google Translate yields … “Depending on the play, it is keto and leave it.” One Italian-English libretto has … “Assist us in this comic scene -- Peace let us manage -- ‘Twill succeed.”

    What’s the real meaning/significance?

    • Don’t ask me! I contribute the audio and write the text, but our gracious Doyenne supplies all the headlines. This is a from a passage sung by Malatesta in Act II:

      (prende Ernesto in disparte)
      (Figliuol, non mi far scene,
      è tutto per tuo bene.
      Se vuoi Norina perdere
      non hai che a seguitar.
      (Ernesto vorrebbe parlare)
      Seconda la commedia,
      sta cheto e lascia far.)

      • And you call yourselves OPERA QUEENS????

        There is a little skit going on to foil Don Pasquale. Ernesto, inclined to jealousy, has a part to play. So the intriguer Malatesta takes Ernesto aside to be sure he’ll play his part. “Ernesto vorrebbe parlare” is the stage direction: Ernesto wants to speak. Malatesta stops him and says: “According to the play, you keep quiet, and let it play out”.

        “Commedia” means a play, or acted story, “seconda” means “according to” — in this instance it’s a play or this script or this skit. The direction for Ernesto is to shut up and stay out of the way.

        • QuantoPainyFakor
        • La Cieca

          I am going to suggest that the “seconda” here is meant as an imperative, so the line would mean “Go along with the show, be quiet and let it play out.”

          The only reason I have any suspicion of this is that molt’anni fa I had to prepare an English singing version of this opera, the only line of which I remember is from Norina’s aria:

          I vezzi e l’arti facili
          Per adescare un cor.

          came out at

          I know the way to set a trap
          And what to use as bait.

          • La Cieca

            Actually come to think of it, another odd line or two pops into my head

            Ho testa bizzarra,
            son pronta vivace,
            Brillare mi piace scherzar
            Se monto in furore
            Di rado sto al segno,
            Ma in riso lo sdegno
            Fo presto a cangiar

            I remember as being something like

            I’m ready for laughter
            On any occasion;
            The least provocation
            Will cause me to smile.
            Beware of my anger
            When things are provoking
            But laughter and joking
            Are more to my style.

          • Armerjacquino

            Yep, an imperative- like Don Alfonso’s ‘Secondatemi’ when he introduces the ‘Albanians’.

            • QuantoPainyFakor

              Or, as the Martins were fond of saying:
              “Play along with me!” (Big mistake to learn great operas for the first time in English translations.)

  • Frederick Jackson

    Chautauqua Opera will be performing Don Pasquale this summer.