Aarhus Sommeropera


Danish premiere of Telemanns wonderful comic opera with extra instrumental music and arias

Principals: Berit Barfred Jensen; Jesper Mikkelsen
Director: Jan Maagaard
Designer: Ivar Gjørup
Conductor: David Riddell
The Danish Sinfonietta - Randers Kammerorkester

Pimpinone (TWV 21:15) was premiered at the Theater am Gänsemarkt in Hamborg, on September 27, 1725, as a little light relief between the acts of Telemann's version of Hdndel's opera seria Tamerlano. Its full title is Die Ungleiche Heirat zwischen Vespetta und Pimpinone oder Das herrsch-süchtige Camer Mägden (The Uneven Marriage Between Vespetta and Pimpinone or The Dominating Chambermaid). The work is described as a Lustiges Zwischenspiel in three parts and was well recieved at its premiere, paving the way for other works of a similar nature, notably La Serva Padrona by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi.

In direct contrast to the magnigicent Baroque world of gods and counts with its overindulgence in love, longing, pain, and passion, these three intermezzi present an alternative, more practical reality, where the unemployed chambermaid Vespetta succeeds in bringing certain feelings to life in the rich, but lonley and distant Pimpione. He engages her as his chambermaid and housekeeper with surprising consequences to follow!

Telemann specified that if Pimpinone was to be performed on its own — which became increasingly commonplace as the work gained popularity in its time — that a series of Italian concertos should be sandwiched between the intermezzi to replace the acts of an opera seria. Instrumental music, together with two arias written by Telemann, but originally performed as part of Richard Keiser's opera Nebucadnezar, were added to complete Aarhus Sommeropera's version of Telemann's most popular opera. The whole story unfolded in a cartoon-strip universe where Baroque classicism met the present day.

This production proved to be a great audience success with thunderous applause at all performances. Director Jan Maagaard and set designer Ivar Gjørup created a stunning framework for the production, with room for both lightness and gravity, which gave the two eminent principals the opportunity to both entertain and move the audience:

"Exquisite pleasure! Both between and before the three scenes, Randers Chamber Orchestra performed other short works by Telemann, which in general gave a strong association to Handel. It was a great pleasure to listen to the nine musicians deliver an energetic, resilient and finely tuned elegance for the entire evening. Jesper Mikkelsen and Berit Barfred Jensen displayed their mastery of rococo comedy, with most of the performance being actually very funny. Pimpinone's confusion, and the couple's intense quarreling in their duets were well worth noting .. ... Berit Barfred Jensen's crystal clear voice blended so well with Jesper Mikkelsen's round and mellow sound. The beautiful frame of the old Helsingør Theater from 1817 was perfect for this type of performance." (Jyllands-Posten) *****

" 'Pimpinone' is a good choice for Aarhus Sommeropera, when for once you want to relax your ears, budget and modern-music ambitions. An easy, cheap and cheerful case. 'Easy', I say. Not at all. The singers must master the baroque vocal style, and the orchestra, Randers Chamber Orchestra, is so small and present that every passage, every tempo, every effort is weighed on gold scales. There are high standards in this genre in these days. But this 'Pimpinone' ably matches these standards under David Riddell's baton, which brings the performance a particular gaiety, both on stage and in the pit, where the violinist Mo Yi excels with her beautiful solos in the Telemann violin concerto. Jan Maagaard directed, and has moved the story forward in time to something similar to the present, at least I-phones play an important role, and the frisky Vespetta flirts with both the conductor and the musicians when she gets too bored with Pimpinone. There is a fine balance between comedy and banality, but in Aarhus they keep it on the comic side of the line. 'Pimpinone' lives its cartoon-style life, thriving on gags and vitality and a couple of singers who really manage to get in touch with the audience - baritone Jesper Mikkelsen as carpet-slipper hero, who doesn't manage to get much past Berit Barfred Jensen's shrew." (Gregers Dirckinck-Holmfeld - gregersdh.dk)

"The performance was a fun experience where both singers were very successful, but the high point of the performance was the orchestra under the direction of the dynamic conductor David Riddell. The violin solo by Mo Yi was one of the evening's real highlights! " (Operalogg.com)