When the diva is a mezzo Romantic opera brought at the centre of the stage sopranos, heroines of every love drama composed by Bellini to Donizetti to Puccini passing through Verdi. Mezzo-sopranos in those days played somehow the part of “Cinderella”, before the meeting with the fairy Godmother. Relegated mostly to a secondary role, they were seldom able to share the popularity and admiration granted to the leading sopranos of their time. Ebe Stignani, one of the most beautiful voices of the last century Take for example Ebe Stignani. Not many know her or who she was, yet she was one of the most beautiful voices and of the finest musicians of the last century. Ebe Stignani and Maria Callas Stignani was a main star at the Teatro Alla Scala while Maria Callas was just starting her cooperation with the Milan stage. Those were Callas’ difficult first years at La Scala, where she debuted in 1950 as a replacement to Renata Tebaldi in Aida. There was certainly a pre-established criticism if not hostility and even a lack of interest for Callas’ vocal talents, that kept growing till 1953 when, after a Norma with Stignani, the Greek soprano left Italy to return […]
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 […]
At the beginning of his carrier, Donizetti writes mainly for the small theatres in Venice. Every new work by the young maestro was welcomed and praised by the press, as an original new development of Rossini’s style. Anna Bolena and L’Elisir d’Amore both premiered in Milan on librettos by Felice Romani, finally launched Donizetti as one of the most prominent European opera composers. These two masterpieces are the first of a list of milestones written by Donizetti that mark the history of romantic Italian theatre.
The protagonists of romantic operas live love differently than those of the eighteenth-century repertoire. For them love is a complete emotional enrapture. They share this incontrollable passion with a public who generally has a more ordinary life and now, through this new music drama, can experience a total emotional involvement.