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Domenico Cimarosa

The Secret Marriage

Domenico Cimarosa - Il Matrimonio Segreto, opera (1772). Geronimo: Carlos Feller,
Elisetta: Barbara Daniels, Carolina: Georgine Resick, Fidalma: Marta Szirmay,
Il Conte Robinson: Claudio Nicolai,
Paolino: David Kuebler,
Un servitor di Geronimo: Werner Sindemann.
Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra.
Conductor – Hilary Griffiths.
Recorded 3-8 June 1986. Hard Subtitles (English).

The Secret Marriage is what the opera is usually called in English, for that is the name of the comedy by George Colman the elder and David Garrick on which Giovanni Bertati based his libretto- True, Bertati made extensive alterations. He made all the original English characters but one Italians, he eliminated one of the most important members of the cast (the father of the noble suitor), he shortened and simplified as librettists must, and he transposed the scene from London to Bologna. But the plot and the motivations remain essentially the same, and it would seem worth while to retain the title of a minor classic of the English stage which was a huge success a quarter of a century before Bertati discovered it, and it has remained a part of our literature ever since.

As an opera, it was also a huge success from the beginning and has remained the only one of Cimarosa's sixty-five operas to be heard in our century. It was his forty-ninth attempt, his biggest but by no means his only success. The wandering Italian composer had recently come from a period as court composer to Catherine of Russia to take up an analogous post in Vienna—the post that Mozart had so much wanted to have. He composed It matrimonio for the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II. The opera so delighted that monarch (so the story goes, at least) that he invited the cast to dinner and then demanded, as an encore, the entire score. No encore of equal length is recorded in operatic history.



(The Secret Marriage)

Opera buffa in two acts by Domenico Cimarosa with libretto in Italian
by Giovanni Bertati
based on the English comedy The ClandestineMarriage
by George Colman the elder and David Garrick

Geronimo, a merchant
Elisettahis daughter
his daughter
Fidalma, his sister
Paolino, his assistant
Count Robinson, an Englishman

Time: 18th century
Place: Bologna
First performance at Vienna, February 7, 1792



Bass. A wealthy, deaf, merchant. He wants his elder daughter, Elisetta, to marry Count Robinson. His younger daughter, Carolina, is secretly married to his clerk. Created ( 1792 ) by Giambattista Serafino Blasi.

Enrico Fissore  (Geronimo) Valeria Baiano (ELisetta) Antonella Bandelli (Carolina)  Carmen Gonzales (Fidalma) Roberto Coviello (Il conte Robinson) Paolo Barbacini  (Paolino)



Mezzo-coprano. Elder daughter of Geronimo who wants her to marry Count Robinson. Created (1792) by Giuseppina Nettelet.

(complete opera, first act)
Carolina: Ana Mikloviciu Elisetta: Margherita Pieri Fidalma: Evgenija Rakowa Paolino: Roberto Mattioni Il conte Robinson: Lorenzo Battagion Geronimo: Carlo Torriani



Soprano. Younger daughter of Geronimo, secretly married to Paolino. She is loved by Count Robinson who is supposed to marry her elder sister Elisetta. Created (1792) by Irene Tomeoni.

 (complete opera, second act)



Contralto. Sister of Geronimo whose household she runs. She is in love with his young clerk Paolino who is secretly married to her niece Carolina. Created (1792) by Dorothea Bussani.

Il matrimonio segreto / The Secret Marriage (1 act)



Tenor. Geronimo's young clerk. He is loved by Geronimo's sister Fidalma but is secretly married to Geronimo's younger daughter, Carolina. Created (1792) by Santi Nencini.

Il matrimonio segreto / The Secret Marriage (2 act)

Count Robinson:


Bass. An English lord whom Geronimo wants to marry his elder daughter Elisetta. He falls for the younger Carolina, already secretly married. Created (1792) by Francesco Benucci.

(THE SECRET MARRIAGE) - Jan 26th, 2018 [live stream]




Scene 1 After a thoroughly gay overture, sometimes performed as a concert piece, the curtain rises on the eighteenth-century drawing room of Geronimo, a wealthy merchant of Bologna with social ambitions but somewhat deaf. The social ambitions he hopes to realize through the marriage of both his daughters with members of the nobility, but he is not aware that Carolina, the younger of the two, is already married to Paolino, his business assistants That young couple opens the proceedings with a couple of duets. In the first of these— and the recitative passages between them—we learn the state of things. Carolina urges her husband to reveal the clandestine marriage to Geronimo. After all, she says, despite his gruff exterior he is basically a kind man and is sure to forgive them after a day or two. Paolino, however, is for waiting a bit longer. He has arranged a visit from Count Robinson, an English milord, who, for a dowry of 100,000 scuai, is ready to marry the elder sister, Elisetta. If that comes to pass, Geronimo should be so grateful to Paolino that he will forgive him. He shows her a letter from Robinson announcing his imminent arrival, and Carolina agrees that it might be better to wait.


The second duet is a lighthearted leave-taking between the lovers.

When Geronimo blusters onto the stage, he finds Paolino alone and receives the letter from Robinson. He is beside himself with joy to learn that a count is coming to make a countess of his elder daughter; and when, a moment later, the two daughters enter with their aunt Fidalma, who runs the house for her brother, he announces the good news in a typical eighteenth-century basso-buffo aria (Un matrimonio nobile). Carolina comes in for some scolding because she shows envy of her sister's good luck.

The three ladies of the cast then have an amusing trio in which Carolina pretends jealousy of her sister's prospective elevation, kneeling to her in mock subservience, Elisetta complains of Carolina's bad behavior, and Fidalma tries to placate them both. At its close Carolina exits in a huff and Fidalma confides to Elisetta that she too hopes to be married soon. She won't tell the girl to whomr but she lets the audience know, in an aside, that she is in love with Paolino.

In a brief scene Geronimo tells his younger daughter, to her consternation and mystification, that he is arranging a noble wedding for her as well as for Elisetta. He does not have time to give her any details before Count Robinson ar- rives. This gentleman turns out to be a fatuous fool, full of meaningless compliments to everyone; and he proceeds to assume first that Carolina is to be his bride, then Fidalma, and only lastly Elisetta. And when he finds out that it is Elisetta, he is patently upset, for Carolina’s bright eyes have already captured his fancy. The scene ends in a quartet sung by Robinson and the three women in which they are in full agreement on only one thing: the situation is not developing the way it had been planned and no one knows what will happen next.

Scene 2 Paolino visits Robinson in Geronimo's study, hoping to get his help in breaking the news of his own marriage to the old man. Robinson, however, forestalls him with the announcement that he does not like Elisetta and that he proposes instead to marry Carolina. In fact, he is willing to take only 50,00о scudi as dowry if the exchange is made; and he sends Paolino off to make the proposal to Geronimo. He could not have chosen a more unwilling agent.

Carolina now wanders into the study, and the Count takes the opportunity to propose. At first Carolina pretends to be outraged by his lack of honor and then, in one of the best arias in the opera (Questa cosa accordar), tells him how unsuited she is to many into the nobility. She is too humble, she says, she lacks poise, she is too small, she doesn't know how to behave, and she has no command of French, English, or German. In short, she's nothing but a silly littie girl-and she runs off with an utterly unconvinced Count in pursuit.

The other four members of the cast then come into the room, Elisetta teaffully complaining about the Count's lack of attention to her and Geronimo trying to excuse the man. Paolino speaks up—but not to deliver the Counts message. He merely tells them that everything's been got ready in the banquet hall for a celebration, and they all leave to inspect the festive board.

This leaves the room free for the Count to resume his pursuit of Carolina, and she is still trying to fend him off when Elisetta discovers them together. She immediately sets up a great cry about her sister's trying to ensnare her man. Everyone else hurries in; and in the grand finale to the act, both sisters try to explain their positions at once, Paolino and Fidalma say they are greatly mystified by what's going on, and the Count and Geronimo are fairly reduced to singing gibberish, so inadequate are they to dealing with the women.


Scene 1 The second act, like the first, begins with a pair of duets, but not between the same two principals. The Count finds his prospective father-in-law in his study and attempts, in the first duet, to tell him that he refuses to marry Elisetta as she does not please him. Between his own addlepatedness and Geronimo’s deafness, he has some difficulty in getting over the idea; and when he succeeds, it is met with indignation and a determination on Geronimo's part to keep him to his bargain. But in the second duet the Count proposes to marry Carolina instead, taking 50,000 scudi less in settlement. This proposal appeals to the old merchant much better, and he accepts on condition that Elisetta agrees.

Geronimo's study must be in a magically central location in his house; for as soon as he has left it, Paolino conveniently passes through, and Robinson tells him of the new agreement, suggesting that he himself bear the glad tidings to the lucky Carolina. The young fellow, left in despair, resolves to consult Fidalma about what he should do. As she conveniently happens by at this moment, he begins hesitantly to explain; but she, misinterpreting his emotions, tells him not to worry, and she promises to marry him out of hand. This is too much for him, and he faints dead away. Now it is Carolina's turn to happen by conveniently, and she, too, misinterprets the situation. When Fidalma goes and then quickly returns with smelling salts, Paolino fails to convince Carolina of his innocence; but when Fidalma finally leaves them alone, Paolino, in one of the few genuinely serious arias in the opera (Ah! No, che tu cori morir), persuades his wife of his fidelity and proposes that they elope together.


Elisetta and Fidalma are now both the sworn enemies of Carolina and, in a short duet, decide that she had better be packed off to a convent. And when Geronimo comes on the scene, prepared to persuade Elisetta to give up the Count, both women turn on him and get him, in a swiftly paced trio, to agree to the plan. Therefore, when Carolina comes to her father intending to tell him finally of her clandestine marriage, he brutally announces that she must go to a convent the next morning and then leaves her. She expresses her sorrow and confusion in the aria E possono mai nascere; and when the Count presses his suit once more by swearing that he will do anything for her in his power, she is about to take him literally at his word. However, they are interrupted by the other members of the family; and in the ensuing quintet her elders all insist that Carolina must go to a convent, Carolina tries in vain to tell them that she has not been encouraging

her noble suitor, and the Count resolves to run out on the whole mess.

Scene 2 That night Paolino and Carolina are about to elope when they bear someone moving and they quickly retire to her room. It is Elisetta who has heard their whispering and who immediately decides that her sister is entertaining the Count in her room. She summons first her aunt and then her father, and the three of them demand loudly, outside  Carolina's room, that the Count open the door. This he does—but it is his own door he opens, on the other side of the stage, where he has been awakened by all the noise. (Apparently he has decided not to leave after all.) Thereupon everyone shouts for Carolina td come forth and explain. The door opens, and Paolino and his wife throw themselves on their knees before Geronimo, admit that they have been married for two months, and beg for forgiveness. The old blusterer does not want to give in; but in the final sextet everyone else-even Fidalma and Elisetta—is so eloquently inspired by the romance of a clandestine marriage, that Geronimo finally gives in. The most improbable plea of all comes from Count Robinson. He says that he is a man of the world and must be listened to. He is so much in love with Carolina, he says, that she ought to be forgiven, and to promote that end, he will marry Elisetta. If one gives the matter any thought at all (as one shouldn’t), it is hard to foresee a jolly future for the Count and Countess Robinson, but his generous offer gives the occasion for a suitably joyous finale to the opera.

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