culminated in 1793 in Vienna, where L’impresario became a two-act dramma giocoso comico with the addition of plentiful new music, some adapted from other Cimarosa operas, some borrowed from other composers’ works, and some newly-written, though probably not by Cimarosa. The quintet now concluded the first act, and a deus ex machina ending was contrived. Doralba, the mezzo, happens to have a lover called Strabinio, and he happens to be the chosen heir of a rich uncle, and the uncle dies right on cue, allowing Strabinio to take on the role of impresario—the show will go on! There is now an extended comic-opera finale which, however much it sparkles, cannot but feel somewhat at odds with the underlying humorous premise of the work. The two-act version was then compressed into a new, extended one-act version, and it is substantially this that the NNTT chose for the opera’s introduction in Japan. This was entirely understandable, for the production was designed as a showcase for the Young Artists, and only in these later versions do all seven characters get an aria and a rather more equal chance to shine.
The NNTT production, seen on March 7, was a triumph: a splendid advertisement not just for Cimarosa’s music, but for the depth of talent in the generation of Japanese singers now on the cusp of professional careers. It was directed by Hidenori Hisatsune, an acting coach at the Opera Studio, and employed simple, elegant, timeless set designs (by Michi Kurosawa) and 18th-century costumes (coordinated by Emi Masuda). The rotating stage of the Playhouse was skilfully used to maintain a sense of constant forward momentum; the 100-minute performance, without an interval, never flagged for a moment. Hiroyuki Tsuji conducted the NNTT Academy Ensemble with grace and precision, bringing out the underlying joyousness of Cimarosa’s music. The cast—one of two—was uniformly strong and put across the general impression of delight-in-performance that enthusiastic young artists convey so infectiously. It included Tamon Inoue, baritone, as Don Crisobolo, the impresario; with great farcical acting, he artfully looked, moved and even sounded as though he were very much on the wrong side of 50. The three female singers were sung deliciously, and with great clarity of intonation, by Yukana Iguchi as Fiordispina, Yuka Wada as Merlina and Saori Sugiyama as Doralba. Hirohito Nakata brought a powerful and resonant baritone voice to the role of Don Perizonio, the poet, capturing the affected pomposity of the character beautifully (the other cast, which I did not see, notably had a Chinese singer, Yincong Cheng, in this role). Takahiro Masuda, tenor, conveyed a great feeling for the stage as Gelindo, the composer; and if Shogo Mori was more anonymous as Strabinio, that’s mainly because the latter is a less developed character.
This Impresario was a catalogue of delights, and it would take many pages to do justice to them all, but I will highlight one. Merlina is given one of the gems of the score, ‘Il meglio mio carattere’, a ravishing aria in which she boasts that she is particularly suited to the role of a naive, innocent country girl (villanella). It is a gift to a talented buffa actress, as it involves the impersonation of two quite different characters, the boastful, bossy singer and the shy villanella. Moreover, through the aria she is carrying on two separate, symmetric conversations: to her lover Gelindo she is suggesting that her true character is displayed when she takes on the role of a villanella, but also showing off how well she can enact an insinuating, bossy singer to get what she wants from the poet; to the poet, she is suggesting that she really is a singer with whom he would be advised to keep on good
Opera, May 2021