Monday | 29 January 2024

Making the pathetic, lyrical and comic audible with charm and great vitality

"Il matrimonio segreto": the first opera project of the HfK Bremen at the Speicher XI A
Conductor Marco Comin is the musical director of the opera project.
Conductor Marco Comin is the musical director of the opera project. © HfK Bremen

What fun is being prepared with concentrated seriousness! Snooty nouveaux riches, impoverished aristocrats, love-struck youths appear, celebrate mix-ups, intrigues, secrets, listen at doors, despair and blossom happily at the end: "Il matrimonio segreto" by the Neapolitan Domenico Cimarosa is the perfect example of an opera buffa, or dramma giocoso - as the Italians say. Alongside Mozart's works, this is the only comedy opera from the 18th century that still appears from time to time in the repertoire of European stages - and now the first opera project of the HfK Bremen that can be experienced in the event hall of Speicher XI A. Premiere: February 15, 2024, 7:30 pm. 

40 students started rehearsals with their instruments on January 22, followed by the singers three days later. Conductor Marco Comin is trying to make all the students audible and develop a unified sound. The Venetian studied piano and composition at the Conservatorio di Musica "Benedetto Marcello" in his home city and completed a conducting degree at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin, was chief conductor of the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich from 2012 to 2017 and has worked as a freelance opera and concert conductor ever since. At Bremen's Theater am Goetheplatz, for example, he conducted Verdi's "Un ballo in maschera" and Handel's "Alcina", as well as the Bremen Philharmonic Orchestra's "Glocke". Now in the Überseestadt. 

"It's my first project as a conductor with a university orchestra," says Comin. For him as a professional musician, it is almost an "obligation to help young musicians to pass on their own knowledge and skills". But it also keeps him awake, because he rediscovers much of what he has taken for granted in the exchange of joint work. Above all, the social phenomenon of music, listening to each other and reacting to it in the sense of a good overall sound. Especially in the fine art of accompanying the singing, to which the musicians adapt their phrasing and breathe along. Comin wants to stir up the enthusiasm that this communal experience is the reason to work even more intensively and to fall even more in love with the music. And he is happy to have a few more rehearsals than is usual for an opera production at the Stadttheater, for example.

For the conductor, "Il matrimonio segreto" has a special status. "It is clearly no longer a baroque opera, but a work of the classical period, at the interface between late Mozart and early Beethoven, i.e. the transition to romanticism, as well as a link to the Italian bel canto operas - as a forerunner of Rossini and Donizetti." As if it were written by these two, viewed from the perspective of Romanticism, the score is often heard, says Comin. In contrast to this interpretative tradition, he would like to develop a fresh, new version at the HfK Bremen and make the pathetic, lyrical and comic audible with charm and great vitality. The performance practice is historically informed and classical instruments will be used. 

As opera performances at the time of the premiere in 1792 involved eating, chatting and playing cards, it didn't matter if the performance lasted more than three hours in the background. Comin and director Gregor Horres have now shortened the work to reflect the way it is received today. This might make the comic character of the work, which is inspired by the commedia dell'arte, work more precisely. Comin appreciates the fact that lively people can be experienced there in all their ambiguity, and that the fire lurks beneath the nice surface. This is also evident in the score. In one scene, the women have a nasty spat and get fiery angry, but the music never loses its form, remaining refined and gallant. Weightless melodiousness. 

In terms of content, the opera is from a distant time, which the costumes and staging must make clear, says Comin. According to the title "Il matrimonio segreto", it is no longer conceivable today that a couple does not simply get married because they want to, but has to wait for an arranged marriage. But you could transfer the plot to a strict religious family where daughters are not allowed to choose their husbands? Comin: "Yes, but that wouldn't be politically correct." Comin also thinks it would be wrong to place the work too close to Mozart's frivolous "Figaro", the enlightened criticism of patriarchal power from the hypocritical grace of God. Although Cimarosa paints an ironic picture of the morals of his time, "as a child of the Ancien Régime, he is not a revolutionary like Mozart", says Comin. Situational comedy rules. It should be fast-paced fun.

Performances of the opera project will take place on February 15, 17 and 19, 2024, each at 7:30 pm, in Speicher XI A at the University of the Arts Bremen.


Singers of the HfK Bremen

Orchestra of the HfK Bremen

Musical direction: Marco Comin

Stage/costumes: Heike Neugebauer

Director: Gregor Horres