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Betly, ossia La capanna svizzera ("Betly, or The Swiss Chalet") is a dramma giocoso in two acts (originally one) by the Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti. The composer wrote the Italian libretto after Eugène Scribe and Anne-Honoré-Joseph Duveyrier de Mélésville's libretto for Adolphe Adam's opéra comique Le chalet , in its turn based on Goethe's Singspiel Jery und Bätely (1779). [1] [2]

Dramma giocoso is a genre of opera common in the mid-18th century. The term is a contraction of dramma giocoso per musica and describes the opera's libretto (text). The genre developed in the Neapolitan opera tradition, mainly through the work of the playwright Carlo Goldoni in Venice. A dramma giocoso characteristically used a grand buffo scene as a dramatic climax at the end of an act. Goldoni's texts always consisted of two long acts with extended finales, followed by a short third act. Composers Baldassare Galuppi, Niccolò Piccinni, and Joseph Haydn set Goldoni's texts to music.

Gaetano Donizetti 19th-century Italian opera composer

Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti was an Italian composer. Along with Gioachino Rossini and Vincenzo Bellini, Donizetti was a leading composer of the bel canto opera style during the first half of the nineteenth century. Donizetti's close association with the bel canto style was undoubtedly an influence on other composers such as Giuseppe Verdi.

Italian language Romance language

Italian is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian descended from the Vulgar Latin of the Roman Empire and, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to it of the Romance languages. Italian is an official language in Italy, Switzerland, San Marino and Vatican City. It has an official minority status in western Istria. It formerly had official status in Albania, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro (Kotor) and Greece, and is generally understood in Corsica and Savoie. It also used to be an official language in the former Italian East Africa and Italian North Africa, where it still plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. Italian is included under the languages covered by the European Charter for Regional or Minority languages in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in Romania, although Italian is neither a co-official nor a regional or a traditional language in these countries, where Italians do not represent a historical minority. In the case of Romania, Italian is listed by the Government along 10 other languages which supposedly receive a "general protection", but not between those which should be granted an "advanced or enhanced" one. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both Italian and other regional languages.


Performance history

The opera premiered at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples on 24 August 1836. [3] [4] [5] [6] The initial performance was not well-received due to the vocal decline of Giuseppe Fioravanti, the performer of the baritone role. However, the revision prepared by Donizetti for subsequent performances was a marked success. [7] This success prompted the composer to expand the opera from one act to two acts. The two-act version of Betly was first presented on 29 September 1837 at the Teatro del Fondo, Naples. [3] [5] Other Italian cities, where performances of the opera were given, include: [8] Palermo in 1837, [9] Florence in 1838, [10] Bologna in 1845, [11] Venice in 1851, [12] and Messina in 1859. [13] The opera was also performed in Lisbon in 1837, [14] in Madrid in 1842, [15] [16] and in Barcelona in 1844. [17] It was transformed into a Spanish zarzuela Propósito de mujer by Emilio Álvarez in 1864 [18] and presented the same year in Madrid. [19]

Teatro Nuovo (Naples) theater in Naples

The Teatro Nuovo is a theatre located on Via Montecalvario in the Quartieri Spagnoli district of Naples. The original theatre was an opera house designed by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro. Completed in 1724, it was also known as the Teatro Nuovo sopra Toledo and the Teatro Nuovo de Montecalvario. The theatre specialised in the opera buffa genre and saw the world premieres of hundreds of operas in its heyday. These included fifteen of Cimarosa's operas and seven of Donizetti's. The present theatre is the third to have been erected on the site following its destruction by fire in 1861 and again in 1935.

Naples Comune in Campania, Italy

Naples is the regional capital of Campania and the third-largest municipality in Italy after Rome and Milan. In 2017, around 967,069 people lived within the city's administrative limits while its province-level municipality has a population of 3,115,320 residents. Its continuously built-up metropolitan area is the second or third largest metropolitan area in Italy and one of the most densely populated cities in Europe.

Giuseppe Fioravanti was an Italian opera singer active during the first half of the 19th century. Although one of the most important and popular basso buffos of his generation, there is only a relatively small amount of information available about his life. He had a highly fruitful partnership with the Teatro Nuovo in Naples and is best known today for creating roles in the world premieres of numerous operas by Gaetano Donizetti.

The first American performance of the complete opera took place on 25 October 1861 in Philadelphia, [9] followed by the one on 28 October 1861 in New York; [20] fragments of the opera were heard in concerts already in 1840s. [21] One notable performance in London was on 9 January 1838, with Frederick Lablache singing the baritone role; [9] [22] the English adaptation of Betly was presented there for the first time in 1841. [23]

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2018 census-estimated population of 1,584,138. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital of and largest city in England and the United Kingdom, with the largest municipal population in the European Union. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

The French adaptation, prepared by Hippolyte-Julien-Joseph Lucas after the death of the composer, with additional music written by Adolphe Adam, [24] [25] premiered in Paris in 1853, [4] but had little success. [24] [25] [26]

Hippolyte-Julien-Joseph Lucas French writer

Hippolyte-Julien-Joseph Lucas was a French writer and critic whose literary output was largely centered on theatre and opera.

Paris Capital of France

Paris is the capital and most populous city of France, with an area of 105 square kilometres and an official estimated population of 2,140,526 residents as of 1 January 2019. Since the 17th century, Paris has been one of Europe's major centres of finance, diplomacy, commerce, fashion, science, as well as the arts. The City of Paris is the centre and seat of government of the Île-de-France, or Paris Region, which has an estimated official 2019 population of 12,213,364, or about 18 percent of the population of France. The Paris Region had a GDP of €709 billion in 2017. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit Worldwide Cost of Living Survey in 2018, Paris was the second most expensive city in the world, after Singapore, and ahead of Zürich, Hong Kong, Oslo and Geneva. Another source ranked Paris as most expensive, on a par with Singapore and Hong Kong, in 2018. The city is a major railway, highway, and air-transport hub served by two international airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Paris-Orly. Opened in 1900, the city's subway system, the Paris Métro, serves 5.23 million passengers daily, and is the second busiest metro system in Europe after Moscow Metro. Gare du Nord is the 24th busiest railway station in the world, but the first located outside Japan, with 262 million passengers in 2015.

The German premiere of Betly was in Berlin in 2015 in a semi-staged performance by Berliner Operngruppe. [27]

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with its capital, Potsdam. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

The Berliner Operngruppe is a German opera society with its own chorus and orchestra, based in Berlin, with the mission to revive rarely played Italian operas in Berlin. Since 2013 the semi-staged performances take place in Konzerthaus Berlin am Gendarmenmarkt.

The opera was staged sporadically in the 20th and 21st centuries: in Bergamo in 1948, [3] 1968, [3] [28] 1993, [29] and 2014; [30] [31] [32] [33] in Fermo in 1988; [34] in Lugo in 1990; [35] in Lugano in 1933; [14] in London in 1954 [36] and 1995; [37] and in Berlin in 2015.

Bergamo Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Bergamo is a city in the alpine Lombardy region of northern Italy, approximately 40 km (25 mi) northeast of Milan, and approximately 30 km (19 mi) from Switzerland, the alpine lakes Como and Iseo, and 70 km (43 mi) from Garda and Maggiore. The Bergamo Alps begin immediately north of the city.

Fermo Comune in Marche, Italy

Fermo[ˈfermo]listen  is a town and comune of the Marche, Italy, in the Province of Fermo.

Lugo, Emilia-Romagna Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Lugo is a town and comune in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna, in the province of Ravenna.


RoleVoice typePremiere Cast, 24 August 1836
(Conductor: - )
Daniele, young landowner tenor Lorenzo Salvi
Max, Swiss sergeant baritone Giuseppe Fioravanti
Betly, Max's sister soprano Adelaide Toldi
Swiss peasants and soldiers


The synopsis below refers to the two-act version of the opera following the Casa Ricordi edition of its libretto current in the 20th century.

Time: 18th century
Place: Appenzell, Switzerland

Daniele Birman, a young Swiss landowner, is in love with Betly, a beautiful and independent girl, who, however, doesn't return his feelings. As the opera begins, the inhabitants of Appenzell have prepared for a joke a fake love letter from Betly to Daniele, accepting his marriage proposal. The young man is elated and invites the villagers to his wedding celebrations. Soon after, Betly arrives and discovers the situation. Even though she momentarily feels pity for Daniele, she dashes his hopes and resolutely rejects his pleas for marriage.

Sad Daniele stumbles upon a troop of Swiss soldiers under the command of Sergeant Max Starner, and out of desperation tries to enlist in the army. Daniele confides in Max, not realizing he is Betly's brother gone from the Canton of Appenzell for fifteen years, to whom he has recently sent a letter informing of his intention to marry Betly, and whose encouragement he has received. Max decides to teach his sister a lesson and secure a happy ending for Daniele. To that end, he orders his soldiers to turn Betly's house upside down. The soldiers eagerly obey and demand food and alcohol from Betly. Max conceals his identity from the sister, and frightens her into believing that if after fifteen days he and his troop depart satisfied, she will have to house the entire regiment.

Betly begs Daniele to stay with her for a day, in order to keep the unruly soldiers at bay. Overjoyed Daniele agrees, while Betly starts to feel sympathy for him. Max pretends to be drunk and makes false advances on Betly, who calls upon Daniele's help. After an argument Max challenges Daniele to a duel at midnight, which the latter accepts. For Max the duel is just a vehicle to bring Daniele and Betly together. To calm down anxious Betly, Daniele tells her that the sergeant has apologized, then swears eternal love to her and says he is leaving to join the army. At this moment Max reappears and pretends he will fight with Daniele. Betly, by now feeling a genuine affection for Daniele, attempts to prevent the duel and to save Daniele from being killed. Max says he may well show clemency if he knew Daniele were married. Upon hearing this, Betly gathers her courage and claims Daniele is in fact her husband, and father of the family, for that matter. As a proof of her words, Max first forces Betly and Daniele to embrace each other, and next demands the marriage contract to be shown. Betly finds and signs the document, that was already signed by a deceived Daniele in preparation for his "wedding". She gives the contract to Max and secretly tells Daniele that this is a ruse: in order to be valid, the document must also be signed by her brother Max. Once Max has the papers in his hands, he quickly signs them and reveals his identity. Betly proclaims her love for Daniele and the story happily concludes.


The information below refers to the two-act version of the opera as appearing in an older edition by Casa Ricordi current in the 20th century. [38] Further stages of Donizetti's reworking of the opera are reflected in a newer critical edition by the same publisher. [39] Given Donizetti's readiness to adapt to external conditions and a particular choice of singers by adding, subtracting or modifying musical numbers, it is impossible to talk of a definitive version of Betly beyond a general classification into the one-act and two-act versions. [40]

Act 1

Act 2


Donizetti's work on Betly fell on difficult years in his life, marked by the loss of his parents, daughter, and wife, and troubles due to the opera mismanagement in Naples. Nevertheless, the opera attests to the composer's creative powers. [41]

With its rustic setting, a baritone soldier, and an independent and beautiful soprano, initially resisting courtship by a good-natured tenor, the plot of Betly bears an obvious resemblance to Donizetti's earlier work, L'elisir d'amore . [1] [31] [33] Characters in the opera are depicted with mastery and vivacity, [34] the music is tuneful, [31] [33] and the orchestration refined. [34] The universal confusion at the end of Act 1, with Betly confronting Max and his soldiers, resembles the one typical of Rossini's operas. [42] The "Swiss" character of the work is highlighted by employing a yodel-type figure in Betly's cavatina In questo semplice, modesto asilo. [1] [31] The latter aria was appreciated by musical critics of the 19th century for its charm and freshness, and was a popular choice as a concert piece. [25] [26] [43] [44] Betly also features an amusing instance of a musical joke: sleepy Daniele contributes notated yawns to Betly's concluding cadenza in their duet Dolce instante inaspettato. [45] Furthermore, the duet of Daniele and Max Ah! Mi sprona la gloria presents a subtle parody of "heroic" duets of tenors and baritones, of which Donizetti himself wrote several. [34]

The principal differences between the one-act and two-act versions of the opera are the addition of an overture, replacement of spoken dialogues with recitatives set to music, [30] addition and expansion of musical numbers, [30] [42] and transposition of the soprano role down a semitone. [30]


Betly's cavatina In questo semplice, modesto asilo has been recorded by three leading Bel canto repertory exponents of the 20th century, Dame Joan Sutherland, [46] Montserrat Caballé [47] and Margherita Carosio. [48]

There are two full-length recordings of the opera:

Betly, Daniele, Max
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [49]
1949Angelica Tuccari,
Giuseppe Gentile,
Nestore Catalani
Giuseppe Morelli,
Orchestra e Coro della Società del Quartetto di Roma
LP record: Period Records,
Cat: SPL 585
1990 Susanna Rigacci,
Maurizio Comencini,
Roberto Scaltriti
Bruno Rigacci,
Orchestra Sinfonica dell'Emilia Romagna "Arturo Toscanini" and Chorus of Teatro Rossini di Lugo
Audio CD: Bongiovanni,
Cat: GB 2091/92-2

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  47. OCLC   4827107
  48. OCLC   276896034
  49. Recordings on and