Considered by many to be the first example of opera buffa, Pergolesi’s short opera La serva padrona (The Servant as Mistress) employs stock characters from commedia dell'arte in a farcical plot.
Uberto has raised the young Serpina as his servant, and now laments her insubordination. She will not listen to his instructions, refuses to do simple things like make him chocolate at dinnertime, and when Uberto tries to go out Serpina prevents him from leaving. They argue constantly about trivial matters. Serpina has something else on her mind, and with the help of the silent servant, Vespone, tricks Uberto into marrying her. In a fashion that will be repeated subsequently in many of the great opera buffa, Uberto inexplicably falls in love with her at that moment and the couple are overjoyed at their engagement.
With a cast of only two singers and one actor, and a running time of around 50 minutes, _La serva padrona _is the perfect show for a small company, or a touring production. The quick comedy in the recitatives is an excellent precursor to any of Mozart’s comic operas, and the simple, heartwarming plot has made La serva padrona much more popular with audiences than the work is was intended to accompany, the more serious Il prigioniero superbo.