La Canterina


Haydn’s La canterina (THE DIVA) was originally intended as an intermezzo opera to be played in between Acts of a longer, more serious opera. For today’s audience it stands alone as a comedic chamber opera. It is a farcical tale concerning the double-dealing of a modestly-talented but beautiful opera singer, Gasparina. Aided by her mother, Apollonia, the two connive to exploit the obvious affections of their landlord Don Pelagio, who is also Gasparina’s singing teacher. At the same time, they do not neglect to tease the smitten Don Ettore to their advantage. The story opens with a visit from Don Ettore, who is trying to win favor from Gasparina with rich gifts he stole from his mother. He hides as Don Pelagio arrives to teach the songstress a new aria. When the rival lovers meet, the women try to pass Don Ettore off as a merchant. Don Pelagio surprises Gasparina with a proposal of marriage. The ease him out of the apartment without a commitment. After Don Pelagio leaves, Don Ettore is called back in but the singing teacher has forgotten something and returns. Both men recognize the deception and become angry. Don Pelagio decides to throw the women out of the apartment. Gasparina plays the old game of feigning a faint and makes a pretense of threatening to kill herself which, predictably, turns her simple suitors from anger to compassion. Smelling salts are unnecessary as the men lavish her with money and jewelry, the restorative effect of which brings about an amazingly swift recovery – ‘How lovely is the aroma of diamonds.’ In the end, the men recognize Gasparina’s greed, but decide she is worth it and happily hand over their riches.