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DVD Spotlight

Teeming Stage Business

Rossini's 'La Gazzetta' -
reviewed by
ROBERT ANDERSON

'... a mismatch of music and action ...'

Rossini: La Gazzetta. © 2006 Opus Arte

This Naples opera was a flop, so much so that Rossini had little interest in its revival and wanted to use the best of it elsewhere (the splendid overture went to La Cenerentola). The libretto goes back to a Goldoni play of 1763 and essentially concerns a newspaper advert for a wife. Now that everybody advertises for everybody else, whatever sex or age, the idea is commonplace enough; indeed critics thought it old-fashioned even in 1816. Rossini queered his pitch still further by setting reams of recitative in a Neapolitan dialect he claimed not to understand. The saving grace was Carlo Casaccia as Pomponio, a natural comic, even if Stendhal thought his voice nasal, 'like a Capuchin'.

A scene from Act 1 of Dario Fo's production of Rossini's 'La Gazzetta'. © 2005 Opus Arte/Gran Teatre del Liceu/Mediapro
A scene from Act 1 of Dario Fo's production of Rossini's 'La Gazzetta'. © 2005 Opus Arte/Gran Teatre del Liceu/Mediapro

Whether all this justifies Dario Fo's transferring the largely reconstructed opera to the 1920s I question. We are said to be enjoying the aesthetic elegance of vaudeville in an atmosphere 'somewhere between Modernist and Art Deco'. There is no doubting the fertility of Fo's invention, the flights of his imagination, or his mockery of press baronial power. Indeed he explains himself admirably [watch and listen -- DVD1 interview, 0:28-1:46]. The result is teeming stage business, endless processions of newspaper headlines across the stage, and a mismatch of music and action that wipes any Rossinian smile from off the face.

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Copyright © 20 September 2006 Robert Anderson, London UK

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