La serva padrona
La serva padrona (The Servant Mistress) is an opera buffa by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710 – 1736) to a libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico, after the play by Jacopo Angello Nelli. The opera is only 45 minutes long and was originally performed as an intermezzo between the acts of a larger opera. The same libretto was later set by Giovanni Paisiello, a production of which has been released on DVD.
La serva padrona was originally an intermezzo to Pergolesi's opera seria Il prigioniero superbo (The Proud Prisoner). The two were premiered on 5 September 1733, the first performance after an earthquake in Naples had caused all theatres to be closed, and celebrated the birthday of the Empress of Habsburg.
Il prigioniero was unsuccessful in its day and is not a recognized title in today’s opera repertoire. Eventually the two pieces were separated, and La serva padrona went on to enjoy fame throughout Europe for years after its premiere. The importance of this intermezzo can hardly be overlooked in the history of opera. With a new finaIe, the French version played a large part in the Querelle des Bouffons. It was appealing because of its presentation of characters that were relatable to any audience, namely the cunning maid and her aging master. La serva padrona is often seen as the quintessential piece that bridges the gap from the Baroque to the Classical period. Owing to its importance, over time it came to be known as more than just an intermezzo and was performed as a stand-alone work.
Uberto, an elderly bachelor, is angry and impatient with his maidservant, Serpina, because she has not brought him his chocolate today. Serpina has become so arrogant that she thinks she is the mistress of the household. Indeed, when Uberto calls for his hat, wig and coat, Serpina forbids him from leaving the house, adding that from then on he will have to obey her orders. Uberto thereupon orders Vespone to find him a woman to marry so that he can rid himself of Serpina.
Same dressing room.
Serpina convinces Vespone to trick Uberto into marrying her. She informs Uberto that she is to marry a military man named Tempesta. She will be leaving his home and apologizes for her behavior. Vespone, disguised as Tempesta, arrives and, without saying a word, demands 4,000 crowns for a dowry. Uberto refuses to pay such a sum. Tempesta threatens him to either pay the dowry or marry the girl himself. Uberto agrees to marry Serpina. Serpina and Vespone reveal their trick; but Uberto realizes that he has loved the girl all along. They will marry after all; and Serpina will now be the true mistress of the household.
The piece is for bass, soprano, and a "mute" actor.
Among the recordings of the work are Virginia Zeani opposite her husband Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (1959), Renata Scotto and Sesto Bruscantini (c1960), Anna Moffo and Paolo Montarsolo (1962), Carmen Bustamante and Renato Capecchi (1973), Julianne Baird and John Ostendorf (1989), and Maddalena Bonifacio and Siegmund Nimsgern (1991).
Brazilian director Carla Camurati made a feature film version with Sylvia Klein (Serpina), José Carlos Leal (Uberto) and Thales Pan Chacon (Vespone).
- ^ Grout, Donald Jay and Hermine Weigel Williams (2003), p. 232
- Grout, Donald Jay and Hermine Weigel Williams (2003), A Short History of Opera, Columbia University Press, pp. 229-232. ISBN 0231119585
- Warrack, John and Ewan West (1992) The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. ISBN 0198691645
- A large pdf of the French version
- A complete score can be found in the Werner Icking Music Archive