La Clementina 311.
(photo credit: Gregory Stolrov)
Italian 18th-century cellist composer Luigi Boccherini produced a sizable
catalogue of work during his 62 years on Planet Earth. His 350 compositions
include 20 symphonies, 91 string quartets, over 150 quintets, eight cello
concertos and 60 trios, not to mentioned religious works. However, when it came
to operatic work the sole entry in his CV is La Clementina.
“I don’t know
why he only wrote one opera,” muses Aeterna Opera founder-conductor Ilya Plotkin
who will wield his baton over seven Aeterna vocalists, a presenter-actor and 10
instrumentalists, including a harpsichordist, at Jerusalem’s Beit Shmuel this
Thursday at 8 p.m.
“Perhaps no one commissioned more operas from
Boccherini certainly had the requisite breeding. For a start he
came from Italy, and from a musical family. His father was a cellist and double
It was at the age of 18 that Boccherini Jr. made a decisive
career move, when he went to Madrid to work for Infante Luis Antonio, the
younger brother of Spanish King Charles III. After falling out of favor with his
royal employer Boccherini moved into a country residence and wrote some of his
best work, unhampered by employer constraints. La Clementina, with a text by
Ramon de la Cruz, belongs to the latter category.
La Clementina was
written in 1786, as a one-act operetta or, more accurately, a zarzuela – a
Spanish lyric-dramatic genre comprising spoken and sung scenes. It is a comedy
which relates the story of a wealthy widower by the name of Don Clemente who has
two daughters of marriageable age, and of disparate personalities. The zarzuela
is liberally laced with complex familial relations, love interest galore and
plenty of twists and turns.
“It is a soap opera,” says Plotkin plainly,
adding that not only has he not tried to disguise that mass appeal element, he
has placed it front and center.
“We have an actor who plays the role of a
TV presenter,” continues the conductor.
“You know, like with a soap
opera, he’ll tell us what happened in ‘the previous episode,’ and the actors
will come on stage and portray that behind him. The presenter will also tell us
about what the audience will see and hear. As the text is in 18th-century
Spanish, I thought it would be a good idea for the audience to know the
storyline well before we start.”
WHILE THE spoken and sung words may not
all be entirely intelligible to the average classical music fan, Plotkin says
the composer’s intent comes over loud and clear in the music.
“It is like
champagne,” says the conductor simply.
“The score is beautiful and
bright, and entertaining. The whole of La Clementina is entertaining and
very funny. It really is a joy.”
Some of the preparatory stages for the
production were not exactly a “joy.”
“I didn’t know the work and I
learned about it from one of the musicians in the ensemble,” Plotkin
“Then I had to get hold of the score, and that wasn’t easy, or
cheap. Eventually I found the score in Italy.”
And Plotkin says that life
didn’t get much easier once the sheet music was finally ensconced in
“It is quite a complex score and [director] Masha Nemirovsky
put a lot into it.”
La Clementina is also an intriguing due to its
“Boccherini lived and worked in Spain most of his
life, but he remained an Italian,” observes Plotkin.
“I think that the
person who commissioned the work from him was looking for that added Italian
element in the music. I think that, if La Clementina had been written by a
Spanish composer it would have been much more serious. Boccherini is full of
light and air and sunlight, like champagne. It is very
Thursday’s concert offers a rare opportunity to catch La
“It wasn’t performed much in Boccherini’s lifetime and it
doesn’t happen much in contemporary times either,” says Plotkin.
“I am at
a loss to understand why. It is such a beautiful work and so much fun. I’m sure
the audience will have fun with it.”
La Clementina will be performed at
Beit Shmuel in Jerusalem on Thursday at 8 p.m. For more info and tickets: (02)
620-3463 or www.musica-aeterna.com