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<<  -- 3 --  Robert Anderson    QUICKSILVER MUSIC

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Parmenione has in fact travelled to maximum effect and now introduces himself to a luxurious villa on the bay of Naples as Count Alberto. That he instantly makes a pass at Ernestina is not what Berenice and Stuart Kale as Uncle Eusebio expect. But the portrait fits the lady, and Parmenione's devotion seems unshakable [watch and listen -- chapter 9, 35:01-36:08]. That the real Alberto should on arrival immediately fall in love with the maid is equally baffling and for the moment socially disastrous. But there is no wavering in Alberto's affection either [watch and listen -- chapter 10, 36:09-37:31]. The household is in uproar, and there is nothing the Naples sun can do to calm an explosive situation.

From left to right, Monica Bacelli (Ernestina), Natale de Carolis (Don Parmenione), Stuart Cale (Don Eusebio), Susan Patterson (Berenice) and Robert Gambill (Count Alberto), with differences resolved at the end of Rossini's 'L'occasione fa il ladro'. Screenshot © 1992 Schwetzinger Festspiele/SWR/Maran Film GmbH/NVC Arts International
From left to right, Monica Bacelli (Ernestina), Natale de Carolis (Don Parmenione), Stuart Cale (Don Eusebio), Susan Patterson (Berenice) and Robert Gambill (Count Alberto), with differences resolved at the end of Rossini's 'L'occasione fa il ladro'. Screenshot © 1992 Schwetzinger Festspiele/SWR/Maran Film GmbH/NVC Arts International

It seems impossible to disentangle which is the proper groom or the rightful bride, and Rossini's quicksilver music relishes every nuance of the characters' protestations until he launches a quintet of total perplexity [watch and listen -- chapter 11, 41:20-42:43]. Already Rossini has at his finger-ends the bag of operatic tricks that enchanted all Europe and eventually led him to the singing of duets with George IV of England. Nor will he unravel the mysteries of the plot or the secret of the suitcases till he has revealed the identity of the portrait as that of a friend's sister in search of whom Parmenione had originally set out. So Albert can marry the seeming maid, and Parmenione the aristocratic lass who had pretended otherwise for reasons best kept to herself [watch and listen -- chapter 22, 85:31-87:02].

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Copyright © 28 June 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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Classical Music Programme Notes for concerts and recordings, by Malcolm Miller