Scala di seta, La (‘The Silken Ladder’)
- Richard Osborne
Farsa comica in one act by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa after F.-A.-E. de Planard’s libretto for Pierre Gaveaux’s L’échelle de soie (1808, Paris); Venice, Teatro S Moisè, 9 May 1812.
La scala di seta is a freshly and fluently written diversion, memorable more for Rossini’s youthful rhythmic flair than for anything especially striking in thematic invention or harmonic colouring. As such it is a plausible response to Planard’s entertainment which offers some simple variations on the familiar theme of the secret marriage. Giulia (soprano) is secretly married to Dorvil (tenor) in spite of the wish of her guardian Dormont (tenor) that she should marry Dorvil’s friend, a young army officer, Blansac (bass). The only way out of Giulia’s dilemma is for her to encourage Blansac and her cousin Lucilla (mezzo-soprano) to fall in love, a plot that is brought to fruition after a bevy of overheard conversations, whispered meetings, and the elaborate use of closets, screens and the eponymous silken ladder. As befits farce, the characters in the opera have minimal inner lives. There is little that is remarkable or revealing about the delayed cavatinas of Giulia or Dorvil; Lucilla’s blithe, folksy ‘Sento talor nell’anima’ is the more attractive and representative piece. If Rossini is interested in anyone, it is the woozy old retainer Germano (bass). His duet with Giulia effectively launches the plot, and in a memorable scene, ‘Amore dolcemente’, it is Germano, baffled, tired and a little drunk, who drifts the music into somnolence before Blansac arrives to trigger the elaborately plotted denouement....