Gioachino Rossini: La Cambiale di Matrimonio (1810)

Farce in one act. Running Time: 1 hour 13 minutes.

This was Rossini’s first professionally written opera. One of the numbers was eventually turned into Dunque io son in The Barber although you will probably have difficulty finding it.

SETTING: London, 1810. The English merchant Tobias Mill plans on marrying his daughter off to a Canadian named Slook, not realizing that she is in a relationship with a poor man named Edward Milford. The couple cruelly torment the Canadian (and Mill challenges him to a duel) until he comes up with a solution that makes it possible for the young people to marry.



Scene: A room in the house of the wealthy merchant Tobias Mill.

0: The overture *** is an amazing composition from Rossini’s student days using very limited resources (apart from a full string compliment, it is orchestrated for only two oboes, two clarinets, two horns, a flute, and a bassoon).

6: Non c’è il vecchio sussurrone The opera opens ** with a chatty but catchy duet for servants Norton and Clarina which immediately sets the opera in a comic mode. Tobias Mill comes on fed-up over difficulties calculating the distance between Canada and London (or rather the Americas to Europe) and the number ends in a fun comic trio. Apparently, Mill is to marry his daughter Fanny to a rich Canadian named Slook who is arriving later that day.

15: Tornami a dir che m’ami Fanny scouts out to make sure the coast is clear so she can have a tryst with her lover Eduardo Milford in a mild duet *. Their relationship is kept secret because he is very poor. Norton tells them that Fanny is to be married off to a Canadian. Mill comes on excited that the Canadian’s carriage has just pulled up.

22: Grazie, grazie! Slook arrives ** and is obviously very North American and unfamiliar with European greeting customs as he believes the servants are harassing him when they are trying to take his coat.

30: Darei per sì bel fondo Slook is assaulted by Fanny and Eduardo * although he does gain something of an upper hand on Eduardo in terms of physical strength. Eduardo threats to stab the man with a compass. Norton is able to rend the instrument from the young man and Slook flees to his chambers.

40: Anch’io son giovane Clarina expresses her experience with love and sexiness *.

44: Dite presto dove sta Slook refuses to marry Fanny and this perplexes rather than infuriates Mill (at least at first). The challenge for a duel by Mill occurs in an accompanied recitative which connects two sections of duetting **. Slook packs up his belongings (three people have threatened him with death within hours of his arrival in England!) and he catches Fanny and Eduardo kissing. At first he plans on using this to get back at the two but comes up with an idea that will provide a solution for the young people and give him a chance to get back at Mill: he makes Eduardo his heir.

54: Vorrei spiegarvi il giubilo Fanny thanks Slook for making her dreams come true (even though does she really deserve it?). The aria itself is musically nice enough *.

62: Porterò così il cappello The finale ** starts off as an arioso for the angry Mill as he prepares for the duel with Slook and goes through the scenario in real time for what would happen if he died or if he killed the Canadian. Slook arrives and switches out one of the duelling pistols for a peace pipe, which Mill picks up and takes with him for the duel because he hasn’t a clue what it is. Fanny and crew eventually show up and stop the duel. Eduardo presents Mill with the documentation proving that he is now Slook’s heir and so he can marry Fanny.  The two older men sit down and smoke peace pipes and everyone else really doesn’t like tobacco.


Now here is something quite different. Instead of the Europeans coming to America, the American (or rather the Canadian) comes to Europe! Cultural confusion ensues but are rather amusingly blended, especially when Slook arrives and the mix-up with the peace pipes. I do have a problem with Eduardo threatening to stab Slook with a drawing compass and then having then he is made his heir, but it does provide a tidy solution to the situation. You really empathize with Slook, not the lovers, who come off as mean at times (Rossini rightfully gives them the most boring music in the opera). Mill is just a buffoon, even if he is a rich buffoon. In the end an alpha minus.

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