Small picture of Donizetti

 

 

 

Nini's La Marescialla d'Ancre

Teatro Pergolesi, Jesi, Le Marche, Italy, September, 26 & 28, 2003

The pictures provided by the Teatro Pergolesi of their production of Nini's La marescialla d'Ancre.

The recorded extracts () are taken from the recording of the 2003 Jesi production on Bongiovanni GB2362/63-2, courtesy of Bongiovanni records. Please note that some sound quality has been sacrificed in order to include them here.

 

Jesi in the Le Marche region of Italy boasts a small but splendid late 18th century theatre, the Teatro Pergolesi, obviously named after its most famous musical son, Pergolesi. However, Jesi's operatic roots spread wider; Spontini was born a few miles away and not too far beyond that is Pesaro, the birthplace of Rossini and Fano that of Alessandro Nini.  Born on November 1, 1805, Nini was largely self taught. His early career was quite eventful including a spell of 5 years teaching in St Petersburg. The very Germanic horn introduction to Act 2, Scene 3  of  La marescialla d'Ancre shows how Nini was influenced in his travels across Europe.

He returned to Italy in 1837 taking up a post in Novara in 1839 and eventually, in 1843, moving to Bergamo to assume, on Mayr’s death, the positions of Maestro di Capella of Santa Maria Maggiore  and director of Mayr’s school, at which Donizetti had studied. He remained in Bergamo for the rest of his life, dying there in 1880, although he had, by then, been manoeuvred out of the position of director of the school. 

Nini is largely unknown today, but between 1837 and 1847, he wrote 7 complete operas plus several incomplete efforts and had some success with them, particularly with La Marescialla d’Ancre (1839), considered his best, and Virginia(1843). From then on he seems to have occupied himself with his passion for religious music.  Probably the only piece of his to have been recorded thus far is the Ingemisco in the multi composer Requiem for Rossini that was organised by Verdi (Lyrica, LRC 01027). The resurrection of La Marescialla d’Ancre was the first Nini opera heard for around 150 years.

As with many Italian operas of the day, La Marescialla d’Ancre was based on a French play, in this case Alfred de Vigny’s  La Maréchale d’Ancre, first performed in Paris in 1831.  The play, in turn, was built on historic foundations, the murder or execution in Paris of Concino Concini and his wife Leonora Galigai, the marescialla of the title, the power behind Maria de’Medici, the mother and Regent of the young Louis XIII.  The libretto was by Giovanni Prati, who was to become better known as a poet of the Risorgimento.  It was his first attempt and this may well account for the libretto’s lack of the conciseness.

Even though Nini did not set the full libretto, cuts soon seem to have become the order of the day and the opera suffers some weakness in its dramatic structure, which were papered over reasonably effectively in the Jesi production. As so often, extra characters were added in the play and the opera to turn an essentially political tale into one motivated more by love interest.  Michele Borgia (not apparently anything to do with the Borgias), Leonora’s first love, turns up at the French court with his wife Isabella Monti.  Borgia has made common cause with the Count de Luynes to get rid of Concini but, on finding that Leonora is married to Concini, now wants to extricate her from the impending disaster.  In the meantime, Concini has become attracted to Isabella and the ensuing recriminations lead to a fine quartet towards the end of Act 1. 

In Act 2, despite pleas from Borgia and Leonora, Isabella is persuaded to testify against Leonora at her trial for witchcraft and there is a riveting scene between the two women at the trial when Isabella, after great torment, declares Leonora innocent.  Unfortunately this scene leads nowhere dramatically when de Luynes then produces a warrant for Leonora’s death signed by Louis XVIII, who has taken over power from his mother. Concini in the meantime has met and been killed by Borgia.  Leonora takes leave of her children, urging the elder to take revenge and there is a rousing final scene as she goes off to execution.

Whatever dramatic flaws there might have been, there can be no denying that Nini lavished some powerful and memorable music on it. While there were occasional echoes of Bellini, particularly Norma, and of Donizetti, the music was anything but derivative and the orchestral texture, in particular, was sophisticated and original, perhaps reflecting Nini's exposure to wider European influences in his travels.  The most intriguing number was the Act 1 quartet (  Part of the quartet ) which had the energy and pulsating rhythm to be mistaken for early Verdi and once again reinforces the point that, in his early years, Verdi was using the same musical language as his peers even if he wielded it with a firmer sense of the dramatic and with a truer melodic gift. In fact in a revival in 1851, a member of the orchestra complained that some of the music was copied from Verdi, only for Nini to point out that his opera had premiered before any of Verdi's.

Jesi did Nini proud with a traditional but well thought out and executed production from the team of Michele Mirabella (director), Paolo Calafiore (set design) and Paolo Rovati (costumes).  The lead singers were generally excellent: Chiara Taigi, dramatic and thrilling in the title role, Maurizio Comencini ( Concini), forceful but lacking subtlety, Marzio Giossi (Borgia) and Monica Minarelli (Isabella).   Fabrizio Maria Carminati drew vigorously energetic and at, times, beautiful playing from the Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, although occasionally he misjudged the volume for the size of  the theatre.

Bongiovanni recorded the performances and the CD is well worth getting both for its intrinsic enjoyment but to help appreciate what has, hitherto, been an unknown link in the evolution of Italian opera.

 

The Count de Luynes
(Francesco Palmieri) and
Michele Borgia (Marzio Giossi)
plot Concini's downfall.

De Luynes and Borgia 

 

Leonora 

Leonora (Chiara Taigi) 

 

Leonora confronts her
husband Concino Concini
(Maurizio Comencini)

Conicini and Leonora 

 

Act 1 finale 

The Act 1 finale quartet :- Borgia, Isabella Monti (Monica Minarella), de Luynes, Leonora, Concini and the chorus

  Part of the quartet

 

Leonora with her two children

 

Leonora and children 

 

Leonora before the court 

 Isabella refuses to accuse  Leonora before de Luynes.

 

Isabella and Leonora

 Part of the Act 2 Scene2 trio between Isabella, Leonora and Borgia

Leonora and Isabella Monti 

 

Concini's death 

The death of Concini

 

The final scene as Leonora is taken for execution

  Part of the final scene

Final scene 

   

 

 

 

Page initially published in  2009