Musical Director: Pyotr Belyakin
Stage Director: Dmitry Suslov
performed in Italian with spoken dialogues in Russian
Première of the production: 13 April 2013
Uberto, a comfortably off Neapolitan bachelor, has two servants, a pretty girl names Serpina and a mute named Vespone. He complaints vigorously of the girl’s failure to bring him his morning chocolate so that he can go out; and when they come in, he tries reading a lecture to both his servants on their deliberate inattention. But Serpina will have none of the lip. She gives him back everything she gets. The chocolate hasn’t been prepared; he’ll just have to do without it. This leads to Uberto’s first aria (Sempre in contrasti — “Always at cross-purposes”), in which he continues to complain but in which he already shows some weakness of which Serpina is quick to take advantage. She refuses to let him go out, even threatening to lock the door; and when he complains that she is giving him a headache, she delivers herself of an aria (Stizzoso, mio stizzoso — “My own fuss-budget”) in which she advises him to take her advice. Thereupon Uberto instructs Vespone to go find him a wife just to spite Serpina. A wife, says she, is just what he needs; and who could be a better one than herself? And the first half of the opera ends with a duet (Lo conosco à quegli occhietti — “I know him”) in which Serpina assures him that he really means to marry this beautiful and graceful servant even though he says he won’t, while Uberto insists that she is perfectly mad to think it.
Presumably a short while after, Serpina brings Vespone into the room, dressed as a soldier and wearing a set of horrendous false whiskers. When Uberto enters, she hides her conspirator outside the door and proceeds to tell her master that as he refuses to marry her and as she must look after her own interests,she has engaged herself to another. His name, she says, is Captain Tempesta, and he has a frightful temper. This softens Uberto somewhat; and when she sings him a sentimental tune about how one day he shall remember fondly (A Serpina penserte — “You’ll think of Serpina”), he begins to feel downright sentimental. He agrees to meet the frightful soldier. And while Serpina is away to bring her “fiance” in, Umberto admits to the public that he feels really sorry for the poor girl. Moreover, Uberto is worried by something else: Serpina says that her fiance demands a dowry from Uberto — four thousand crowns, otherwise it will go hard with Uberto. Uberto worries about his money. Tempesta-Vespone arrives. He was fully instructed by Serpina, and now he behaves brilliantly. With no words, he breaks into the house and through Serpina he makes Uberto understand that he demands four thousand crowns. Without the dowry he will not marry Serpina — but she suggests that another option is for Uberto to marry her. Uberto accepts the second option — that of marrying her: she is beautiful and he’ll keep his money. Protecting Serpina he offers her his hand and his heart. Just then, Vespone’s false mustache is displaced and his true identity is revealed. Uberto, however, is not cross. He and his fiancée sing a wonderful duet (Perte io ho nel core — “What I feel”) in which they sing how happy their hearts are, beating in the rhythm with the words: tippiti, tippiti and tappata, tappata. The duet ends with two eloquent lines:
Serpina: Oh, caro, caro, caro! (“Oh, darling, darling, darling!”).
Uberto: Oh, gioia, gioia, gioia! (“Îh, happiness, happiness, happiness!”).
Henry W. Simon