La Lisarda

Baroque Opera in three acts by Giovanni Battista Mariani (circa 1634-1697)

Lisarda (soprano), Celia (soprano), Medoro (counter tenor)

2 violins, 1 viola, 2 harps, 1 cello, 1 contrabass, 1 theorbo, 1 lute, 1 organ

Conductor: Rogério Gonçalves

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© Reinhard Winkler

The oper La Lisarda is a cautionary tale for women who fall in love. Lisarda and her daughter Celia are both in love with Medoro, who cannot care less for Lisarda’s infatuation because she is too old: “Love requires youth”, an aphorism better embodied by Celia than her mother. Lisarda first tries to dissuade her daughter, warning her against love’s entrapment and men’s deceitfulness, simultaneously trying to keep Medoro for herself. Eventually, she gives in and take the place a woman of her age is expected to keep: renouncing love, she offers her daughter to Medoro, so that the happy ending of Baroque opera is respected, at least according to a male point of view. Lisarda’s double sacrifice –of both love and her daughter– represents the woman’s acceptance of the male rule along with her defeat and the negation of her desire. Musically however, Lisarda’s voice is significant and disruptive. Whereas Medoro and Celia sing delicate and elegant ariette, the most tragic and lyrical airs are sung by Lisarda. The suffering woman onstage represented a favourite character in Baroque operas and this one is no exception to the rule.

 

Along with other operas from mid-century, Mariani freely alternate recitatives, arias, and ariosos without clear distinction. It gives flexibility to the declamation, adhering closely to words of the libretto and following the rapidly changing passions of the characters in prey of the torments or the delights of love.

Giovanni Battista Mariani (env. 1634 - 1697)

 

Mariani was born around 1634 in Fossombrone and disappeared after 1697. In 1656, he is listed as a member of the family Pio di Savoia in Rome. First at the service of Prince Giberto, he is then transferred to the service of Cardinal Carlo Pio di Savoia around 1658. Mariani seemed to have chiefly composed oratorios for the Chiesa Nuova, of which none survived. He wrote La Lisarda ovvero Amor vuol gioventù (The Lisarda, or Love Requires Youth), a little opera called “scherzo drammatico”, performed in the palace of the dedicatee Conti for the carnival of 1659. The score survives in four manuscript copies (Venice, Modena, Turin, and Münster), along with three different editions of the libretto, a surprising amount for the time and the ephemeral genre of theatrical music. He wrote another short opera with the same librettist called Impegnarsi per complimento (To Dedicate Oneself by Compliments). No libretto was ever published and the only surviving testimony of this piece is a manuscript score preserved in Vienna. On August 1668, he was commissioned by Cardinal Flavio Chigi to write another small opera, called a “favola boschereccia” for a garden party in his palace of the Quattro Fontane. The libretto was written by the poet and librettist Sebastiano Baldini, who also was the Cardinal’s librarian. The music is lost but a description survives, written by the famous architect Carlo Fontana, who was the designer of the stage and special effects: “The applause resonated for the encomiastic composition of the author Sebastiano Baldini and the weaver of the music Giovanni Battista Mariani, one of the outstanding virtuosos in this profession.” We also learn that there was an all-male cast “praised for their excellence in performing their parts with so much spirit, liveliness, and grace”.

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