La scala di seta
Giulia (soprano), the ward of Dormont (tenor), is trying to persuade her servant Germano (bass) and her cousin Lucilla (mezzosoprano) to leave her chamber in order to allow Dorvil (tenor), the young man whom she has secretly married (n. 1: introduction “Va’ sciocco, non seccarmi”), to escape. Indeed, every evening Giulia lowers a silken ladder from her balcony to the garden so that Dorvil can climb to her chamber. On emerging from his hiding place, and before leaving his young wife, Dorvil expresses his concern over the imminent arrival of his friend Blansac (bass), the charming beau that Dormont has chosen for Giulia.To avoid any embarrassment, the girl devises a scheme: Blansac should be induced to play court to Lucilla, who likes the young man very much.
In order to fulfil her plan, Giulia asks Germano, who would do anything for his young mistress, to help her. He must spy on Blansac and observe whether he is interested in Lucilla (n. 2: duet “Io so ch’hai buon cuore”). In the meantime, Dorvil arrives with Blansac, who has asked his friend to be his best man, but Dorvil tries to convince him that he should not marry Giulia since the girl would agree only to please her guardian, and not out of love. But Blansac is sure of his success in winning Giulia and he invites Dorvil to watch him in secret so that he might admire his accomplishments as a lover.
Worried and bitter, Dorvil is forced to accept (n. 3: aria “Vedrò qual sommo incanto”). On her part, Giulia wishes to provoke Blansac in order to see whether he might be a good husband for Lucilla. Germano is spying upon the scene and he realises that Dorvil, too, is hiding nearby watching, so he tells Giulia (n. 4: quartet “Sì che unito a cara sposa”). In the general confusion, Dorvil tries to contain his jealousy with irony, while everyone blames Germano for his insolence and lack of discretion.
Blansac is left alone and he begins to court Lucilla, who is most susceptible to his attentions (n. 5: aria “Sento talor nell’anima”).
Germano then overhears Giulia complaining of Dorvil spying on her and he learns that, at midnight, the girl is to receive a man to whom she will lower a ladder from her balcony.Giulia fears that Dormont will discover the liaison with Dorvil (n. 6: recitative and aria “Il mio ben sospiro e chiamo”). Germano, who is half-drunk and feeling drowsy, mistakenly believes that his young mistress is expecting Blansac (n. 7: aria “Amore dolcemente”). He tells Blansac to wait under Giulia’s balcony at midnight. Although surprised, he is impatient to keep the appointment. However, Germano also informs Lucilla of the appointment, who, annoyed, hides, as does Germano, to spy upon the rendezvous.
At midnight, thinking herself alone and unobserved, Giulia lowers the silken ladder to allow Dorvil into her chamber (n. 8: finale “Dorme ognuno in queste soglie”). The girl is only just in time to reassure her husband of her faithfulness when Blansac reaches the balcony. Dorvil immediately hides and shakes in anger on hearing his friend playing court to Giulia. The girl is amazed and tells Blansac that she had not at all been expecting him. The situation comes to a head when, woken by the noise,Dormont appears. Now Blansac hides, too. Dormont has by now guessed that there must be a man in his ward’s chamber, but what he does not expect is to find Giulia not with one man but with three and a woman. One by one they all come out: Lucilla, then Blansac, Germano and finally Dorvil. Giulia asks to be forgiven and confesses that she is married to Dorvil: the wedding took place with the written consent of her aunt and so is now willingly accepted by Dormont.With Blansac stating his wish to marry Lucilla, a happy ending is guaranteed for all.