Le Astuzie Femminili

Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), libretto Giuseppe Palomba
Teatro Flavio Vespasiano, Rieti, Italy

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Matteo Loi (on floor, Romualdo) and principals Credit: Arossifotostudio
Framed lovers: Valentino Buzza (Filandro) and Eleonora Bellocci (Bellina) Credit: Arossifotostudio
Matteo Loi (Romualdo), Eleonora Bellocci and Valentino Buzza (Bellina and Filandro in disguise) and Rocco Cavalluzzi (Giampaolo) Credit: Arossifotostudio
Running rings around him—Matteo Loi (Romualdo) Credit: Arossifotostudio

Cimarosa’s comedy, Le Astuzie Femminili was written in 1794, a couple of years after his most successful opera, Il Matrimonio Segreto, and was a reworking of his 1793 Amor Rende Sagace or Love Makes One Wise.

Given that only three years had passed since the death of Mozart, and that the text of Amor had been written by Giovanni Bertati, successor to Mozart’s librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte as poet to the Hapsburg court, from where Cimarosa had just returned, it is unsurprising that Le Astuzie or Women’s Wiles bears some of the character of the greater composer.

The story is an extended version of the familiar one of a young girl, Bellina, seeking to marry the penniless man she loves, Filandro, but here escaping not one but two forced marriages, aided by the intrigues of her friend Ersilia and the wily housekeeper Leonora. Her tutor Don Romualdo wants to marry her, and grab her fortune, but a will states that she will inherit the dosh only if she marries Don Giampaolo, to whom Romualdo is indebted.

Assumed and mistaken identities abound in a plot with as many twists and turns as a periwig. Attention to the recitative aids understanding of what is going on, but a helpful booklet describes the action in detail, with numbered references to the appropriate scenes.

The piece was later rearranged by Ottorino Respighi, but this was the first performance in modern times of the original version performed on period instruments, recorded at the lovely Teatro Flavio Vespasiano, Rietif 50 miles from Rome, Lazio, central Italy in October 2022. Played at a leisurely pace by the Theresia Orchestra under Alessandro De Marchi, it is at best a gentle, charming work, if not a particularly inspired one.

The lovers, Eleonora Bellocci and Valentino Buzza, make a sympathetic couple with good interaction. There is a similar resonance in their voices, and Bellocci shines in the best number in the show, "Sono allegra, son contenta", in which she agrees to take four husbands—provided she can do away with the first three.

A young, capable cast, including Rocco Cavalluzzi (Giampaolo), Matteo Lio (Romualdo) and Martina Licari (Ersilia), have relatively light timbres, well-suited to the score, and Angela Schisano displays a fine legato in Leonora’s one big aria.

Cimarosa provides a fine trio turning into a quintet in act one, and both acts feature satisfactory sextet finales. Between those, however, there is some perfunctory writing, and at two hours 46 minutes, one feels any future production might find a few judicious cuts.

Designer Michele Della Cioppa’s relatively simple set with folding screens cleverly conveys the different settings with a minimum of fuss, and Anna Biagiotti’s lovely 18th century costumes add to the elegance of the concept.

Reviewer: Colin Davison

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