Overture to The Secret Marriage (1792)
Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801)
Domenico Cimarosa was born of poor working parents near Naples. After spending 10 years at the Naples Conservatory, he held the post of music master at a girls conservatory for 5 years, as had Vivaldi 70 years previously. Later, Catherine the Great invited Cimarosa to become Maestro di Capella in St Petersburg, a post he held for 4 years until 1791. It was on his return from St Petersburg that Cimarosa visited Vienna where he was appointed Kapellmeister (replacing Salieri).
The Count commissioned from Cimarosa a comic opera, The Secret Marriage. He so enjoyed the first performance, that the Count invited the assembled audience back to his palace to hear it all again! The Secret Marriage is the best known of 60 (!) comic operas written by Cimarosa. It tells a rather improbable tale of a dithering father, Geronimo, trying to marry off his daughter Carolina to a rich suitor. Unfortunately, Carolina is already married, unbeknownst to her father, and so various chaotic schemes are hatched to satisfy the old man. Musically it both resembles Mozart (who died 2 months before its premiere) and looks ahead 20 years to Rossini. The overture starts dramatically, but rapidly dissolves into froth and jocularity, accurately capturing the mood of the opera.