Pimpinone, Opera by T. Albinoni
A poor young woman meets a stupid rich man and decides this is her one chance to advance in life – what could go wrong? This classic comedy plot is paired with the delightfully coy and dynamic music of Italian Baroque master Tomaso Albinoni in Pimpinone, an intermezzo comico that is coming back home to Venice, at Teatro Malibran.
In the early 18th century, the habit of sprinkling a little comedy into an otherwise serious performance was slowly dying out, but audiences still needed comic relief. Out of this conflict, the new genre of intermezzo comico was born, whereby an unrelated story unfolded in the breaks of the serious action. A prolific overachiever, Albinoni managed to make his intermezzo Pimpinone so good that it quickly became a standalone performance work.
With a libretto by Pietro Pariati, Pimpinone has razor sharp wit, plenty of belly laughs, and a social message that rings timeless. The poor young chambermaid Vespetta enters the household of the dull Pimpinone and quickly hatches a plan to manipulate him into marrying her. Predictably, the thick rich man succumbs to the charms and wits of the peasant girl. As soon as they are wed, the table turn and Vespetta reveals her true nature, which is far less pleasant than initially expected.
The social commentary and the humour of Pariati inspired Albinoni to compose a comedy opera as dynamic and on-point as its libretto. In an anticipation of the opera buffa stylings of later decades, the composer crafted an amalgam of quickly interchanging arias and duets interspersed with a lot of parlando that lets the text’s comedy truly shine. The melodies exude playfulness and simplicity, which reflect the main characters’ own narrow mental horizons. A slice of everyday life in contemporary Venice, served with a side of piercing humour, on a canape of free-flowing melodies – who could resist?
Pimpinone was premiered as part of Albinoni’s opera seria Astarto on 26 November 1708 at Teatro San Cassiano in the composer’s native Venice. From there, it quickly grew in popularity and, earning its own place upon the stage, spread far and wide across the operatic world. The contentious relationship between Vespetta and Pimpinone comes to life on the stage of Teatro Malibran!