La serva padrona Synopsis

Uberto, is a rather grumpy rich bachelor, whose servant, Serpina is ingenious, domineering, and self-confident. She does not hesitate to define herself as "beautiful, gracious, witty", and is as resolute and determined as Uberto is the champion of indecision. 

Serpina has taken care of Uberto's house all her life, behaving as if she were the mistress, and taking advantage of the fact that her rightful master is weak in character and perennially hesitant. 

To impose his authority and take revenge, the elderly master announces one day that he wants to get married. Serpina gets jealous and decides that the only solution is to become the future wife herself. She then devises a cunning plan with Vespone, another servant, and announces that she too will marry: the predestined one is a certain Captain Tempesta. Uberto is dismayed and realized he is in love with Serpina. Soon the elusive Tempesta (actually the disguised servant Vespone) shows up claiming Serpina's dowry, and threatens Uberto, who, in case of refusal, will have to marry the servant himself. Uberto joyfully accepts the second proposition, and Serpina, who wanted nothing more, from servant becomes msitress.

The Sarasota Opera production of La serva padrona is preceded by an original "Prologo", a musical prelude to the opera, in which Serpina and two other servants enjoy an evening of songs while the master is out. Piccini's overture La buona figliuola and the overture to Pergolesi's own Neapolitan musical comedy Lo frate 'nnamurato complete this unique produciton.

La serva padrona Background

Almost three centuries have passed since, in 1733, Pergolesi’s La serva padrona was premiered at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples. His very promising operatic career cut short by a premature death, Pergolesi left behind a catalogue of compositions that is astonishing for sheer size and musical quality; but La serva padrona is, together with the Stabat Mater, the title that consecrated his fame eternally.

Composed of two intermezzi for the opera seria Il prigionier superbo, La serva padrona was intended to be a light musical diversion between one act and another of the main work staged. But it quickly became all the rage, touring major Italian and European opera houses. Its extraordinary historical importance is reflected in the enthusiastic reception it received in Paris in 1752 by the intellectuals of the Encyclopédie. For them, La serva padrona became the symbol of a style that fuses - to quote the French philosopher D’Alembert - “l’imitation de la nature et la vérité de l’expression” (imitation of nature and truthfulness of expression).

In fact, with only three characters and an incredibly simple plot, Pergolesi depicts an era and a society in its entirety. The comedic style combines humor with social implications, establishing the prototype of feminine wit and plebeian ingenuity as victorious.

The work reveals distinctly modern traits in the vivid representation of the characters, in the mastery of dramatic timing, and in the confident characterization of affections and human relationships. All this through a masterful score that runs lightly and with perfect adherence to the text, its puns, and its mutability of tones and situations