A troubled genesis Un Ballo in Maschera is arguably one of most popular opera by Giuseppe Verdi. Yet it had the most troubled genesis. Written for the San Carlo in Naples and never performed there Un Ballo in Maschera was originally composed to be staged in Naples as the last new opera written under the contract between the Teatro San Carlo and Verdi but was never performed there. The major changes imposed by the Bourbon censorship to the composer convinced Verdi to premiere it in Rome instead. Even the Papal censorship in 1859 allowed him more freedom than that of the Bourbons’. Last (missed) opportunity for a Verdi’s “King Lear” Initially, Verdi had suggested to the San Carlo management another subject: King Lear by William Shakespeare, a long-term project that this time seemed to finally have found a right opportunity. But a new problem came up. To stage King Lear 2 or 3 strong soloists were not enough: 5 at least were needed and the San Carlo couldn’t provide them. These circumstances convinced Verdi, after over 15 years, to finally abandon the project of staging a music version of King Lear. Verdi & Shakespeare Verdi was a great admirer of […]
Donizetti moves to Paris in 1834-1835 called, along with Bellini, by Rossini in his capacity as co-director of the Théâtre Italien. In 1843 the first symptoms of a brain disease that rapidly and progressively got worse to degenerate during the summer 1845. Subsequent medical treatments made the situation irreparable and in February 1846 the composer was interned in an institution for mentally ill in Paris.
The compelling power of Zandonai’s best opera Francesca da Rimini is the best known of Riccardo Zandonai’s opera, a work of musical richness and compelling dramatic power. D’Annunzio’s play, written in the years of his obsession for Wagner, has many parallels with Tristan und Isolde, as for instance the minstrel account of Isolde’s story at the beginning of the opera and the “goblet scene” in act two. The epitome of a tragic love The first act takes place in Ravenna: Francesca da Polenta, daughter of the lord of the city, is about to marry Guido Malatesta, called Gianciotto because of his deformity (he’s crippled): she’s led to believe that the groom to be is the handsome Paolo, Gianciotto’s brother. In the second act, the following winter, the Guelphs Malatesta, at war with the Ghibellines, are besieging their castle in Rimini. Francesca meets Paolo in the castle and blames him for deceiving her into marriage. Gianciotto arrives followed by their brother Malatestino, who is wounded. In act three, a few months later, Francesca is in her room reading when Paolo, back from a long journey, enters. After confessing each other their love, they go back to the reading which features the […]
Verismo composers were mainly opera composers; the new generation of composers was different, more eclectic. Franco Alfano’s two symphonies, among the most relevant Italian compositions of the first half of the 20th century as well as Zandonai’s remarkable collection of orchestral and chamber works show that their non-operatic compositions weren’t certainly occasional. Franco Alfano, as most knows, composed the music for the last 2 scenes of Turandot, Puccini’s last opera left unfinished after the composer’s death in 1924. Puccini had left sketches for the end of the opera, along with instructions to Riccardo Zandonai to finish it, yet, following Puccini’s son objections, to work on the draft and finish the opera, was instead chosen Franco Alfano. Both Alfano and Zandonai can be defined as “operatic symphonists” : they embodied a new way to define the relationship between music and drama. The drama was no longer described by the music; it was precisely the opposite: the drama provided the frame to the music. This process can be seen at its most in Zandonai’s Francesca where entire acts can be defined as symphonic poems. Since 1890 Wagner’s scores had spread widely in Italy. The scale and magnificence of the composer’s major works led […]