La Serva Padrona
Even though Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, a famous representative of the Italian Baroque, lived only 26 years, the works he left granted him a permanent place in the history of music. The brightest star in his artistic legacy is the seemingly simple intermezzo La serva padrona (The Servant Turned Mistress).
LA SERVA PADRONA / GIOVANNI BATTISTA PERGOLESI
This short work, written when Pergolesi was only 23, is still performed to this day in Europe, both in original language and in numerous translations.
The libretto written by Gennaro Antonio Federico is centred around a simple intrigue originating from the commedia dell’arte tradition. Here we have a wealthy old bachelor looking for a wife, and his cunning servant successfully presents herself as the best candidate. Pergolesi finds ideal musical measures to describe the characters, and the words they sing are reflected in the charming recitatives and arias. All this has been wonderfully outlined by Piotr Kamiński in his lexicon Tysiąc i jedna opera (“1001 Operas”), where he compared young Pergolesi’s talent to the skills of one of the greatest musical geniuses of all ages:
Perhaps only Mozart himself would be able to draw such an abundance of cheerful theatrical thought from the twelve tones of the chromatic scale, one hand clinging to the text, the other creating the endless music spells, and from them in accurate, efficient manner, vivid characters that have no secrets to us.
– Marta Dziewanowska-Pachowska