Domenico Cimarosa's commedia per musica L'infedelt fedele (Faithful Infidelity) - his fifteenth opera - occupies a unique place in the annals of opera history on account of his librettist's decision to write a text which mixed elements of opera buffa with those of opera seria. This came about in a most interesting manner.
Naples in the 18th century had two theatres for opera buffa, Teatro dei Fiorentini and Teatro Nuovo. The audiences were made up of a few members of the minor nobility and large groups of local townsfolk, native Neapolitans. The librettists catered to this audience, always including one or two Neapolitan servants who sang in the Neapolitan dialect in the plot; the principals of each story were minor nobility, caricatures of foppish and frequently silly and foolish ladies and gentlemen. The humorous stories of these operas usually centered around everyday Neapolitan life. In great contrast, the true aristocrats frequented Teatro San Bartolomeo and Teatro San Carlo where opera seria was the fashion. The texts of these operas told stories - great tragedies - of Greek mythology and sylvan legends.
When King Carlos of Naples discovered the great musical fun of opera buffa, first by visiting a production incognito, and later by asking Paisiello and Cimarosa to bring one or two of their works to the Court theatre in the palace for his personal pleasure, he decided to build yet another theatre in Naples, one in which opera buffa could play for the titled nobility. On 20 July 1779 Carlos' Teatro del Fondo (extant today as Teatro Mercadante) opened with Cimarosa's L'infedeltà fedele which had been commissioned for the occasion.
Because the king was having this theatre built so that the nobility might attend opera buffa instead of being 'restricted' to attendance at opera seria, the court librettist, Gianbattista Lorenzi, attempted, as he states in his preface to the printed libretto, to make L'infedelt fedele "serve as a middle- of-the-road kind of entertainment" with its setting - as in opera seria - in a classical Greece peopled by nymphs and shepherds, and the story itself full of the "buffooneries which are so fashionable" in opera buffa.
The only known performance outside the opera's prima in Naples was given in Dresden at the court theatre under the title Treu in der Untreue on 5 October 1782.
This edition is based on the composer's holograph score which is preserved in the library of the Conservatorio di music 'S Pietro a Majella', Naples, under the shelfmark Rari 1-3-17. As is the case with all Cimarosa's autograph material the overture to L'infedelt fedele shows signs of having been composed at breakneck speed. Every conceivable notational shortcut is taken and his placement of articulation and dynamic markings is erratic. It has been necessary, therefore, to frequently interpret the composer's intentions and even at times to impose an editorial solution where his own thoughts are not clear. Cimarosa's horn notation is often problematic and in this instance the editor has decided to adopt the conventional 18th-century practice of writing the horn parts in C, in the treble clef. In making sense of Cimarosa's score the style and notation of articulation and dynamic markings have been largely standardised throughout, and, where missing, markings have been reconstructed from parallel passages. These are indicated by the use of dotted slurs or brackets where appropriate. Obvious wrong notes have been corrected without comment; editorial emendations with no authority from the source are placed within brackets.