Andrew Lawrence-King's new dramatisation of the hilarious book written in 1720 by composer Benedetto Marcello
satirising the music of Vivaldi and his contemporaries.
The LIBRETTO compiled from Marcello's book,
The MUSIC stolen according to his instructions,
The ACTION following his directions.
A delightfully irreverent introduction to Early Opera
for young audience-members,
a hilarious romp for aficionados.
The modern-day audience sees an 18th-century Venetian theatre-house from the Backstage, as Poet and Composer Aldiviva (spot the anagram?) stages his latest opera "MURDER OF AN IMPRESARIO", helped and hindered by the Virtuoso soloist (played by a Counter-Tenor), a mad Primadonna (Soprano), her gallant escort, Signor Procolo (Tenor), and her Mother (Mezzo). There are flying Arrows, sudden Earthquakes, Thunder & Lightning, the Extras and (how could the Theatre survive without him?) a Bear (Bass).
The Action faithfully follows Marcello’s farcical instructions, with his recommended Company of six singers. The lordly Impresario is the Bear’s alter ego. The Baritone takes on Marcello’s entire cast of caricature-roles: Poet; Composer; Lawyer; Prompter; Tenor, Bass & Counter-Tenor Soloists; Buffo Comedian; Cellist; Stage Extra; the Singing-Teacher who only knows one ornament; the Carpenter who removes all the chairs just as the rehearsal is supposed to start, and has to be bribed to put them back again; Old Simon who demands extra money for every task, but will play the Bear’s role for free; the Tailor who is still sewing costumes even as the Performance starts; the Ticket-Seller who overcharges strangers but lets his friends in free; the Barman, himself a keen amateur singer; even the Mother of the Virtuoso, who squabbles with the Primadonna’s Mother.
Marcello gives strict instructions not to explain the Plot to the performers, but the Copyists who prepare individual parts from Aldiviva’s precious manuscript sub-contract their work to the Bear, who re-writes the whole show.
Chaos ensues at Rehearsal, with the Primadonna arriving late, and the second harpsichordist entirely absent – his deputy, the Third Harpsichordist is (of course) the Bear.
In Performance, the Impresario sends the Double-Bass home early, so the Bear takes over, (wearing gloves, obviously). The Cadenza is so long that the Barman starts serving drinks, until the Impresario orders the cast to cut to the Finale – the usual Recognition of long-lost twins, a surprise Wedding, and Resolution of the Vendetta. At the backstage after-party, Aldiviva chats on the Sofa with the Bear.
As one fast-moving comic scene follows another, everyone will recognise their favourite Vivaldi themes (Aldiviva certainly is the Man for all Seasons), and Baroque fans will enjoy trying to identify every citation from Vivaldi, the Marcello brothers, Tartini, Vitali, Handel, Bach etc.
Every line of the libretto is compiled from the 1720 book. Marcello describes each character in turn, but Andrew Lawrence-King’s dramatisation re-orders the original material to allow this company of misfits to reveal themselves in direct speech, crisp dialogue, sharply-observed detail and precision-timed comic action.
As the original book demands, all the music is stolen and much of it is transformed, gleefully switching between major and minor, high and low octaves, duple and triple metre. The orchestral score calls for strings and harpsichord, with optional woodwind soloists, the optional luxury of trumpets and timpani in Act III, and even a pair of horns, if you really want to give the Impresario something to complain about!
Whilst the music is authentically Baroque, the format is thoroughly 21st-century. Instead of recitative, Marcello’s sharply satirical comments are delivered in witty patter-songs and rapid-fire exchanges. There is lively interaction between the characters. Musical motivs return to accompany Marcello’s extended jokes and oft-repeated catch-phrases: never mind the plot, bring on the Arrows, the Lightning, the Extras and the Bear!
Like all good comedy, Il Teatro alla Moda contains a grain of truth and great deal of love. We can all recognise the universal characters Marcello satirises so wickedly. And the glorious energy and strong passions of Italian baroque music retain all their original splendour in this warm-hearted and entertaining new setting.
IL TEATRO ALLA MODA
The Frontispiece The Ticket-Seller
The Dedication The Melodrama at the Door
ACT I - THEATRE ACT III - PERFORMANCE
The Drama The Overture
The Libretto The Prison Scene
The Contract The Action Scene
The Singing Lesson The Sleep Scene
The Audition During the Cadenza:
The Plot The Barman
The Copyist The Fight between the Mothers
ACT II - REHEARSAL The Final Scene
The Composer EPILOGUE
The Third Harpsichordist The Audience
Aria for the Primadonna
Aria for the Virtuoso
Aria for the Buffo
There are just six singers,
but the Baritone plays many roles.
the Poet & the Composer all look uncannily alike...
The plot thickens!
her GALLANT ESCORT