La scala di seta, a farsa comica in one act to a libretto by Giuseppe Foppa, was first performed at Teatro San Moisè, Venice, on 9th May 1812.
The singers in the first performances were Gaetano Del Monte (Dormont), Maria Cantarelli (Giulia), Carolina Nagher (Lucilla), Raffaele Monelli (Dorvil), Nicola Tacci (Blansac), Nicola De Grecis (Germano).
The story is taken from L’Echelle de soie, by Planard, musics by Pierre Gaveaux (1808).
Giulia’s rooms. Giulia, the ward of old Dormont, is trying impatiently to get rid of the ever-present Germano, her guardian’s servant. In spite of Dormont’s disapproval, the girl has secretly been married to Dorvil and every night she lets down a silken ladder from her balcony so he can climb up to her room, where she awaits him; just now she wants to be left alone so that her young husband, who is hiding in one of the adjoining closets, may leave her room. Just as Germano is on the point of going away Lucilla, Giulia’s cousin, comes in, and the two of them join in trying to persuade Giulia to go to her guardian’s rooms. When she is finally left alone with Dorvil, her husband tells her that he is worried about the imminent arrival of his friend Blansac, a young suitor of Giulia’s whom her guardian wishes her to marry. She reassures and comforts him and, after they have confirmed their next appointment for midnight, Dorvil lets himself out by climbing down from balcony – only just in time, for here comes the guardian to tell his ward that Blansac has arrived. The plot is thickening, and Giulia must now invent some scheme for getting rid of the inconvenient suitor; she decides to encourage Lucilla, who feels attracted to Blansac, who is himself far from insensible to the charms of the fair sex. To carry her plan into effect, Giulia asks the silly Germano to spy on Blansac and find out if he is really courting Lucilla; at first Germano grossly misunderstands Giulia, thinking that she is beginning to have tender feelings towards him, but when this mistake is cleared up he says that he is ready to help her.
As soon as Giulia has gone out, Blansac enters accompanied by a witness for the wedding ceremony, who is none other than Dorvil himself; when they are left alone together, Dorvil tries to dissuade his friend from marrying Giulia, insinuating that the young lady is not interested in him at all. Touched on a sore point, Blansac bets that in a very short time Giulia will fall at his feet and invites Dorvil to hide and witness his success in love.
Dorvil hesitantly accepts, for he is secretly anxious to put his wife’s fidelity to the test: Germano also decides to hide and spy on Blansac’s behaviour. Giulia enters, and as she wants to find out if Blansac is a truly decent man, and therefore worthy of her cousin Lucilla, the conversation takes a turn that could seem tenderly sentimental. When Germano notices that there is another person listening in to this interview, he warns Giulia and Blansac of Dorvil’s presence, thinking that in that way he will be furthering Giulia’s scheme. Everyone is embarrassed and confused, and whilst Dorvil tries to hide his jealousy, they all vent their wrath on the tactless Germano. Blansac is left alone, and when Lucilla enters he starts paying court to her, in obedience to his flirtatious nature, and leaving her extremely flattered and gratified. When Lucilla has gone off, Germano invites Blansac to join the others in the drawing room. Shortly afterwards Germano accidentally overhears Giulia bewailing her fate; amongst other things she is disappointed in Dorvil’s jealous reaction. In this way Germano learns, all unseen by Giulia, that his young mistress is planning to receive a nocturnal visitor who will climb up by a silk ladder at midnight. Germano once again gets it all wrong, and supposes that Blansac is to be the favoured visitor; confused and befuddled by the multitudinous events of the day, he mentions this to Blansac himself, who is shocked and yet very flattered by the revelation. Germano cannot keep a secret and tells Lucilla, too, about the midnight rendezvous, and she, aflame with jealousy, decides to hide and spy on the meeting. Germano shortly returns to the room and hides, as he, too, is overcome with curiosity. It is now midnight and Giulia, returning to her room, makes sure that the ladder is ready, hanging from her balcony; Dorvil climbs up, but hardly has she had time to reassure him of her fidelity when he is forced to rush into hiding when someone is heard climbing up the ladder, which Giulia has forgotten to draw up again. It is Blansac, and he too is forced to hide when Giulia’s guardian rages furiously in, having discovered the ladder hanging from the balcony. It is the guardian to whom it falls out to discover everyone, each in his own hiding place, and drag them into the light: the cat is out of the bag, and the young couple openly confess their secret marriage, whilst Blansac declares that he will be happy if he is allowed to marry Lucilla. When the guardian is shown a letter from an aunt of Giulia’s, blessing her marriage with Dorvil, nothing is left for him to do but forgive his ward and bless the union.