“Il Trespolo tutore” is more than just a diploma show. Warsaw’s three higher education institutions – the Academy of Dramatic Art, Fryderyk Chopin University of Music, and Academy of Fine Arts – have prepared premiere performances together for a few years. And it is first of all thanks to Artur Stefanowicz, an outstanding countertenor and renowned teacher, that the forgotten Baroque masterpieces come to light.
Sometimes those include almost surprising discoveries, and this is what we should call the return into the theatre of Alessandro Stradella’s “Il Trespolo tutore”, an opera allegedly unstaged anywhere in the world for 250 years. The fact that some piece was hidden in libraries for a couple of centuries makes us assume that it might be either unoriginal or worthless. But it is just the opposite – the work is a real discovery which every enthusiast of early music should know.
Antonio Stradella, who lived and worked in mid-17th century, was said to be as talented as masters of that period, Händel and Bach. He gained acclaim but did not care much about fame preferring a stormy life, which turned out to be short-lasting as he was killed by a hitman. Fortunately, a friend took care of his manuscripts and thanks to that Stradella’s compositions survived until our time.
Nevertheless, today we only know part of this heritage. And it is wrong, considering the originality of the piece presented by Warsaw students. Formally speaking, it should count as a comic opera, but Stradella broke this convention. He enriched carefree jokes with lyrical and heroic tones and he extended some simple arias, but first of all, he created a genuinely theatrical thing in which vocal parts are naturally joined with the dialogues of recitatives.
The intrigue is simple and complicated at the same time. The title character, Trespolo, tutor of the rich Artemisia, wishes to marry Despina. Meanwhile, Artemisia loves Trespolo but is not brave enough to confess it to him. She in turn is the one whom Nino has hopelessly fallen for. Tangled in this chain of feeling-based connections are also nurse Simona and brisk but slightly grumpy Ciro, who was based on the character of Brighella from the commedia dell’arte. At some point, this love puzzle starts to look very modern as all characters agree for a marriage of two women. Eventually, the end of this comedy is more traditional.
Director Paweł Paszta (doctoral student at the Academy of Dramatic Art) turned this 17th-century opera into a quite contemporary play with references to the commedia dell’arte, partly thanks to charming costumes made by Marta Kodeniec, a recent graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts. This way, with simple resources, a vivid, swift, and at times crazy and surprising performance was created.
Six singers from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music added to it their youthful charm and readiness to play together and test themselves on stage. In case of Magdalena Pikuła as Ciro, we should appreciate not only her casual way of acting but also her nice and – what is important – skilfully developed voice. Countertenor Rafał Tomkiewicz presented a similar vocal ease, moving between different conventions; his Nino had something Harlequin-like funny to him but he was also lyrical and despaired like Pierrot. Paulina Tuzińska as Artemisia is also worth noticing.
Musicians from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music were conducted by an Italian artist Andrea De Carlo who is regarded as a renowned expert on works by Alessandro Stradella. Therefore, tutor Trespolo, whom everyone wants to see married, is worth knowing. Student performances will be staged until 18 March.
Jacek Marczyński, Rzeczpospolita