Castelnuovo-Tedesco: The Importance of Being Earnest (in Italian) - Andreolli, Misciano, Zanini, Adani; Campori. RAI, 1972
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Oscar Wilde’s wit is music in itself, but set to music in an ingeniously irreverent fashion by Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, his greatest comedy takes on a new life. Setting the play almost line for line (though it is heard here in Italian, which necessitates changing the central Alias from “Ernest” to “Franco” to preserve Wilde’s pun), Castelnuovo-Tedesco uses only two pianos and percussion to create one of the most original, yet unoriginal, operas in existence. His central devise is that of quotes and pastiche, which is omnipresent. Lady Bracknell, of whom Wilde observes “Only relatives, or creditors, ring in that Wagnerian manner”, sweeps in accompanied by blasts of Die Walküre or Der fliegende Holländer. To take a more specific example, her interview with Jack is set to Scarpia’s interrogation music from Tosca, and the plot-turning revelation that he was found in a handbag (“una valina!”) takes the form of a snatch of the Il Trovatore Miserere. In the same scene, quotes are clearly audible from Don Giovanni, Schubert’s Die Forelle and the Marseillaise. Algy’s “Bunbury” schemes are underscored with bits of the Flight of the Bumblebee, Cecily’s distain for Miss Prisim’s German lesson is awash in quotes from Das Rheingold, and the passive-aggressive tea party between “Franco”’s two fiancées gradually turns into a spitfire deconstruction of “Una voce poco fa.” Everything from Bach to Gilbert and Sullivan makes an appearance. The meaning behind some quotes is clear, and at other times it seems quite murky. However, the collage of the score is written in a way that consistently keeps the ear of an opera buff intrigued and actively listening. The cast is strong, though the women provide more constant aural pleasures than the men.