Italy’s Domenico Cimarosa churned out some 80 operas over a career that spanned no more than three decades of the late 1700s, earning considerable acclaim for them in the process. So perhaps it’s something of a surprise that only one of those works endures to this day.
Cimarosa’s dramatic comedy Il Matrimonio Segreto (“The Secret Marriage”) achieved its staying power thanks to its giddily cheerful score and endearingly silly story to match. It’s still heralded today as a masterful work that measures up to those of his similarly prolific contemporary, Mozart.
Oberlin Opera Theater will present Il Matrimonio Segreto in four performances at Hall Auditorium beginning Thursday, March 24, through Sunday, March 27.
The opera is recognized for bridging the works of Mozart and those of prominent Italian composers who would follow in the 19th century. It’s also said to be the source of the world’s longest encore: At the conclusion of its Vienna premiere in 1792, Emperor Leopold II demanded a second performance on the spot.
“It’s not like you’re getting a poor man’s Mozart,” says director Jonathon Field, associate professor of opera theater at Oberlin. He notes that Cimarosa’s score includes no shortage of breathtaking—and challenging—parts for his conservatory cast. “This opera endures because, musically and theatrically, it is full of moments that lead you directly into Rossini and Donizetti. There are a lot of later Italian opera traditions in this piece, which makes it feel very familiar when you listen to it.”
Among the opera’s groundbreaking conventions: “asides,” through which characters reveal their inner thoughts to the audience while keeping everyone else onstage in the dark; and “freeze” moments, in which the emotional heft of the scene leads the characters to pause the action and turn to the audience in disbelief.
The story centers around the household of the wealthy businessman Geronimo, whose coterie includes daughters Elisetta and Carolina, sister Fidalma, and secretary Paolino, who has secretly married Carolina.
Geronimo has arranged the marriage of his eldest daughter Elisetta to the wealthy Count Robinson, but his plans are rearranged when the Count falls for Carolina instead. Soon their love triangle spirals into a pentagon of sorts—filled with double crosses, confusion, and confessions.
The opera’s libretto, the best-known work of Giovanni Bertati, is sung in its original Italian with English supertitles. The score is performed by the Oberlin Orchestra under the direction of guest conductor Christopher Larkin.
TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW: Oberlin Opera Theater’s Il Matrimonio Segreto will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, March 24 through 26; the run concludes with a 2 p.m. matinee Sunday, March 27. Hall Auditorium is at 67 N. Main St. in Oberlin.
Tickets ($10, $8 for all students) are available by calling 800-371-0178, by visiting Central Ticket Service (67 N. Main St., Oberlin) noon to 5 p.m. weekdays, or through the online box office. All seating is general admission.
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