The Secret Marriage
Il matrimonio segreto
Opera in two acts
Music by Domenico Cimarosa
Llibretto by Giovanni Bertati
A social-climbing father wants his eldest daughter to marry an aristocrat and is prepared to buy his way in. When the would-be suitor arrives, his eye falls on the younger daughter instead. But she has secretly married her father’s clerk. Although not often performed, this delightful comic opera was such a hit at its premiere, that the audience insisted on an encore, of the entire opera!
To read Il matrimonio segreto synopsis and background, click HERE.
October | 28 - November | 12
With Translations In:
Cast & Staff
Hair & Make-Up Designer
The Secret Marriage Synopsis
(Il matrimonio segreto)
The home of Geronimo, a well-to-do gentleman who lives in Bologna with his two daughters, Elisetta and Carolina, and his sister Fidalma.
Paolino is secretly married to Carolina, the younger of Geronimo’s two daughters. As the opera begins, he assures Carolina that he has arranged for her sister Elisetta to marry his friend and patron Count Robinson. Once Elisetta and the Count are married, the couple will finally be able to reveal their secret. Geronimo receives a letter from the Count asking for his daughter Elisetta in marriage, and is delighted that his daughter will marry a nobleman, as is Elisetta herself. Meanwhile, in a quiet moment, Fidalma, the girls’ aunt, reveals to Elisetta that she too plans to get married. (In an aside, she names the man she loves, none other than Paolino, who is completely unaware of her feelings.) The Count arrives and realizes he has a strong preference for the younger sister, Carolina. He tells Paolino that she is the one he intends to marry, even if it means receiving a smaller dowry. Count Robinson declares his love to Carolina, but she, without revealing her secret, tells him she has neither the manners nor the desire to become a noblewoman. Elisetta, seeing them together, accuses Carolina of trying to steal the Count for herself. The household gathers, and, In the finale to the first act, each character expresses his or her state of confusion at the state of affairs.
Later the same day.
Count Robinson explains to Geronimo that he intends to marry Carolina, not Elisetta, and that he is willing to accept a smaller dowry. Geronimo, pleased by the idea of saving money, accepts the deal, on the condition that Elisetta too agrees. Paolino, seeing the turn things have taken, resolves to ask the girls’ aunt Fidalma to help him. Delighted to find Paolino alone, Fidalma mistakenly assumes he is about to ask for her hand, and declares her love. The distraught Paolino faints. Carolina arrives, and Fidalma explains to her that Paolino has fainted because he was overcome by his feelings for her. Fidalma departs. As soon as Paolino comes to, Carolina confronts him, but, after explaining what has just happened, he suggests that they run away together before dawn. She agrees.
Meanwhile, Count Robinson, determined to convince Elisetta to release him, lists his many flaws, from gluttony to skirt-chasing. When she refuses to believe him, he confesses the truth, that she simply does not appeal to him. After he leaves, Fidalma arrives. She and the distraught Elisetta hatch a plot to have Carolina sent to a convent, leaving the path open for both of them to marry. They convince Geronimo that this is the best course of action. Carolina, finding herself alone with the Count, is about to confide her secret to him when the two are caught speaking in private. Geronimo, even more determined to send Carolina to a convent the following day, announces he is going to bed. Paolino and Carolina attempt their escape. Elisetta, hearing a noise, and suspecting that the Count is in Carolina’s room, wakes up Elisetta, Fidalma, and her father to accuse the Count of plotting to escape with her sister. When the Count emerges from his own bedroom, Geronimo, Fidalma, and Elisetta realize their error and apologize for suspecting him. Still, Elisetta continues to insist she has heard a noise coming from Carolina’s room. Carolina and Paolino emerge and finally reveal to all that they have been secretly married for the last two months. Geronimo threatens to cast them out, but the Count counsels him to forgive them instead, and promises to makes things right by marrying Elisetta after all. Elisetta, Carolina, the Count, and Paolino look forward to their happy wedding day.
The Secret Marriage Background
(Il matrimonio segreto)
Students in the library of the Naples Conservatory, sitting in the central Sala Rossini are surrounded by thirty-eight bas relief portraits of the most important and influential composers of the so called “Neapolitan school.”
Out of all thirty-eight, only one is instantly recognizable on the opera stage today: Vincenzo Bellini. The rest of the names run the gamut from mildly familiar (Giovanni Pergolesi, Niccolò Jomelli) to extremely obscure (Carlo Coccia, Fedele Fenaroli). But even the most obscure of those composers were giants in the field of opera during their time. The Neapolitan school was almost single-handedly responsible for the invention of comic opera, and its most famous member, Giovanni Pergolesi, wrote his most famous work, La serva padrona at the age of twenty-three, almost as an afterthought, as a comic intermezzo to be performed in between the acts of a larger opera seria. Sarasota Opera audiences were treated to Pergolesi’s delightful comedy in the winter of 2021, where the stock characters and dramatic situations were distilled to their most compact essence.
The comic intermezzi of the 18th century eventually grew to have a life of their own, usually reflecting local audience tastes. For example, many comic operas that had their premiere in Naples utilized the Neapolitan language in dialog for one or more characters. These pieces are found in a variety of structures from one-act farces to two, three, and sometimes even four-act works. Throughout the late 18th and 19th century though, the two-act format was the norm.
Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801) is another example of the Neapolitan school. Born in Aversa near Naples in 1749, Cimarosa was able to take advantage of the excellent musical education afforded him by the Naples Conservatory system. He went on to write operas, or commedie in musica (comedies in music) for all the major Italian theaters in Naples, Rome, Venice, and Milan. All told, he wrote nearly one hundred operas (and possibly more), the overwhelming majority of which were comic. After an unsuccessful stint in St Petersburg, Russia he landed in Vienna where his great masterpiece Il matrimonio segreto premiered in 1792 (the year of Rossini’s birth). So popular was its first performance that the Austrian Emperor Leopold II ordered a private and immediate encore of the entire opera the very same night of the premiere.
Although Cimarosa’s fame today predominantly rests on Il matrimonio segreto, it is hard to overestimate the influence he held over Italian music in the years before Rossini’s ascendance. After being fêted in the major international capitals of Russia and Austria, Cimarosa returned to his roots in Naples, ending his career by revising some earlier works and composing new ones. His career was tragically cut short when he was arrested for his political views by the repressive Bourbon regime governing Naples at that time. He was eventually able to escape, exiled, to Venice, by which time he was gravely ill. He died in Venice a few years later in 1801.
But his legacy would live on. In 1812, immediately following the premiere of Rossini’s L’inganno felice (another treasure of 18thcentury Italian music, that Sarasota audiences heard in 2020), the impresario Antonio Cera wrote to Rossini’s mother:
“I tell you, with all sincerity, that it is glorious that you have given birth to a man who, in a few years’ time, will be the ornament of all Italy, and it will be said that Cimarosa is not dead, but that his inspiration has passed on to Rossini.”
Even after his death, the name Cimarosa would ring through Italian history as an example of musical and dramatic perfection.