Pimpinone oder die ungleiche Heirat (with German and Italian libretto)
Telemann, Georg Philipp
Georg Philipp Telemann – Pimpinone oder die ungleiche Heirat
(b. Magdeburg, 14. March / 24. March 1681 – d. Hamburg, 25. June 1767)
Georg Philipp Telemann’s brilliantly comical The Unequal Marriage, or the Power-Hungry Chambermaid, better known by its colloquial title Pimpinone, is described in its accompanying libretto booklet as a ‘comic entr’acte’ [scherzhafften [sic.] Zwischenspiel].1 The term is rarely found in the hundreds of surviving texts from Hamburg’s Gänsemarkt Opera highlighting an entirely different project to the tradition of productions cultivated there during the eighteenth century. Pimpinone’s music, libretto, performance contexts and reception history illuminate much about the character of opera in northern Germany and about the changing identity of opera more broadly during the period.
Pimpinone premiered on September 27, 1725 as part of a larger evening of entertainment hosted by Jean-Baptiste de Poussin, the French emissary resident in Hamburg, celebrating the recent marriage of Louis XV and Marie Leszczyńska, daughter of the deposed king of Poland. Such events were commonplace at the Gänsemarkt theatre by the 1720s. Foreign dignitaries venerated their respective monarchs and autocrats’ birthdays, name days, marriage, deaths and anniversaries with lavish displays and performances. These expensive endeavours served as a political statement in a city that was a melting pot of national and cultural identities but concomitantly politically neutral.2 On this particular evening, Poussin arranged for grand illumination and set decoration for the theatre’s enormous stage and a performance of three pieces: an original prologue by Telemann and the Gänsemarkt Opera’s resident librettist, Johann Philipp Praetorius, honouring the union with an allegorical tableaux in two scenes and a ballet; an opera seria as the main feature, George Friedrich Handel’s Tamerlano (1724); and an accompanying entr’acte composed by Telemann, Pimpinone.3 The performances employed the full gambit of the opera company’s highest-profile singers in addition to those imported from Italy and elsewhere in Germany. The Berlin-born castrato Antonio Campiloi sang the role of Bajazet for Tamerlano for example. Though dominant on other European stages, castrati were a rarity on the Hamburg stage; Campioli’s appearance therefore marks something of a speciality. The roles of Vespetta and Pimpinone in The Unequal Marriage were sung by Susanna Kayser—known to Hamburg audiences as ‘Madame Kayserin’—and the younger of the Riemschneider brothers, both celebrated personalities and both regular performers on other operatic stages.
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