An interview with Dr. Simone Perugini, musical director of a new Cd release by Rc Record Classic Label dedicated to Paisiello’s “Il Barbiere Di Siviglia”.
Mr. Perugini, music Director of a cast of young and talented singers accompanied by Harmoniae Templum Chamber Orchestra, conducts Giovanni Paisiello’s “Il Barbiere Di Siviglia” for a new CD release by Rc Record Classic Label, available starting from June, 6th.
Maestro, after the release dedicated to the Cimarosa’s inedit Overtures, you decide to record a Paisiello full opera and with a new performed edition of the most well-known opera by the Italian composer, “Il Barbiere Di Siviglia”. Why do you dedice to choose this title already available in a few performances cd releases?
Indeed, Giovanni Paisiello is known almost exclusively for being the musician who preceded Rossini in the composition of “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” or who followed Pergolesi in the composition of “La Serva Padrona” and was, for that reason, considered slightly unlucky. Everyone knows almost at least the most famous pieces of the Rossini revival of the opera, but almost nobody has ever heard a note of the work composed by Paisiello, who is not at all an unlucky composer, but one of the most gifted and influential composers of his time. Yet Rossini, in the blissful bitterness and youthful awareness-he was 24 years old when composing his Barber- had some fear (or pretended to have) in taking over the rewrite after the enormous success of Paisiello’s version. The Tarantine composer, in addition, was still alive at the time of the debut of Rossini’s work (though he would die a few months later) and was already considered by his contemporaries, like Cimarosa (passed away on 1801), a myth. At the same time, Rossini was all considered a kind of resurrected Cimarosa.
Rossini and Sterbini (the librettist) rushed to the booklet printed on the occasion of the debut of their Barbiere (Rome, Teatro Argentina, 1816), a “Warning to the public” in which they declared great admirers of the aged Paisiello and for his ” Barber ” which premiered in St. Petersburg in 1782, and tried, with this somewhat shameless and awkward escamotage, to take over the audience. Also, to do it quickly and dirty, they also changed the title of the work that debuted as “Almaviva, Ossia L’Inutil Precauzione”.
The flop, as everyone knows, however, was the first of Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”, a real disaster that historiography has always unjustly attributed entirely to the clapping organized by fans of Paisiello who, however, likewise of their idol, did not appreciate the initiative of the young composer of Pesaro too much.
Sterbini and Rossini were almost totally involved with the previous model: not only in some cases, reusing entire verses of the booklet, but above all by replicating the formal and rhetorical models used by Paisiello. (For example: the structure of the famous air of Rossini’s “La Calunnia è un Venticello” faithfully follows the rhetoric used by Paisiello, with so many growing, suddenly strong orchestras, and orchestra emphasizing with the onomatopoeic redundancy the meaning of words, almost anticipating Mickey Mousing’s technique used for Film Music).
I therefore accepted the invitation to engage in “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” by Paisiello, with the main purpose of making known to the public a masterpiece admired, to say, by a certain Mozart (which inspired him to design together Lorenzo da Ponte, “Le Nozze di Figaro”) and swore by the public of time. Again, as I have already had occasion to say about the CD with the Cimarosa’s Overtures, if the audience then made a huge and lasting success to Paisiello’s work, there is going to be a reason why. To musicians the task of proposing such “why” to the public, the task of the audience to find and enjoy it.
Given its musicological studies, can we speak of philological execution?
Anyway: “philological execution” sentence is incorrect at all. Philology, as a discipline, has to do only with the study of texts. A musical performance, or a theatrical one can not apply philological criteria, since philology serves others. You can not cut with a spoon: each action must be made with the appropriate tool. At most, as far as musical performance is concerned, we can speak, and in any case with great approximation, of “historically informed execution” and, that is, aware – but only partially and without ever having the definitive scientific evidence – of how certain musical composition was performed at the time when it was composed. In our case, of course, the wonderful musicians of Harmoniae Templum play on period instruments; I tried to reconstruct the articulations, the phrases, the methods of sound pitches and support of the sound of the era (always relying on past texts that have passed on the techniques). The same work has been done, with great satisfaction, with the singers, who have recovered a whole host of essential elements for the performance of the eighteenth-century Italian opera: a particular kind of singing technique, the addition of variations and Cadences not written by the composer, the emphasis of the literary text in the performance of Recitativos (which in our execution are accompanied by fortepiano, cello and double bass). Performing a work in a “historically informed” way is to approach as much as possible with the spirit of the time, but with the firm and intellectually honest awareness of the interpreter that, if many elements of the practice at that time are recoverable, so many are lost at all. In the case of XVIIIth Century Italian Opera, it means in particular understaing the concept wich the holograph composer’s full score is not the testimony of the author’s definitive will, but is like a text on which the performers must, within limits philologically correct, operate – as it was then – almost a kind of “controlled music re-composition”, interpolating and overlaying all that series of musical elements that at Paisiello’s time were not written in the score but which were an integral part of the executive practice.
What would you like the public to appreciate from his interpretation?
The pure fun that animated our interpretation and the days spent together with the music of Paisiello. “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” is an extraordinary and humorous opera. My interpretation, also urged by Rc Record Label, a great promoter of this recording initiative, I hope to be spotty, funny, and I hope she never gives the listener a moment of boredom. We’ve put also ambient sounds, wind machines, some movement on the singers’ space almost to simulate a real theater performance. Certainly, I will be scolded by some of my colleagues that in some cases they have come too close or have overdrawn the score with sudden changes – not written by the author – and with dynamic additions. But everything is done consciously, in full respect of the author and knowledge, now consolidated by a ten-year musicologist and essayist experience, of the practice of the time. Much more we did than Paisiello only mentions in the score, but with my personal conviction, perhaps presumptuous, that Paisiello would have followed our choices or, at least, the taste that animated them. The purpose of the eighteenth-century composers was certainly not to assure themselves of imperfection, but to amuse the audience of their present.
Our recording is a very busy and colorful performance. Perhaps not overly orthodox, but certainly fun, cheerful and youthful (and therefore, to use a wrong term but in this case effective, very philological). I do not speak for myself, which I am almost 42 years old, but for my extraordinary adventure companions (orchestra professors and singers who do not exceed 35 years of age). During the rehearsals, before the recording sessions, we often had to stop and resume from the beginning, because he was laughing at us, urged by Paisiello’s text and comic situations in the work, as if we were the protagonists of a Totò movie [Editor’s note: Totò, a pseudonym of Antonio De Curtis, was a very famous Neapolitan comic actor of the second half of XXth Century. He was a comic star in about 100 film]. Here, all this joy of making music, having fun with a work full of brilliant ideas and fruitful ideas I would like to enter the spectator’s soul while listening.
Do you make a lot of cuts in the score?
Not at all. Not even a recitative note has been cut. We do, fortunaltely, a CD recording and not a performance on stage. I consider a cd recording as a sort of scientific document whose task is to deliver to the listener the integrity of a work, as conceived by the author, without however giving up on the genuineness and vivacity of an interpretation, Which must still remain “flesh and blood” and not just sterile and cold report.
Will we be successful? I do not know. I hope. We had fun, and you?
Interview by Anne Chapman
© 2017 Rc Record Classic Label