Caterina Cornaro (opera)

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Caterina Cornaro ossia La Regina di Cipro (Caterina Cornaro or The Queen of Cyprus) is a tragedia lirica , or opera, in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Giacomo Sacchèro wrote the Italian libretto after Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges' libretto for Halévy's La reine de Chypre (1841). It is based on the life of Caterina Cornaro (1454 - 1510), Queen of Cyprus from 1474 to 1489. It premiered at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples on 12 January 1844.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

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, together with Sardinian, is by most measures the closest language to Vulgar Latin 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 plays a significant role in various sectors. Italian is also spoken by large expatriate communities in the Americas and Australia. In spite of not existing any Italian community in their respective national territories and of not being spoken at any level, Italian is included de jure, but not de facto, between the recognized minority languages of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Romania. Many speakers of Italian are native bilinguals of both standardized Italian and other regional languages.


Composition history

Following the success of Linda di Chamounix , Caterina Cornaro was commissioned by Bartolomeo Merelli, impresario of the Kaertnerthortheater in Vienna, and was partly composed in 1842, just before Don Pasquale , and completed during the following summer. The Viennese realised that the same subject had been set to music the preceding year by Franz Lachner and the debut was cancelled. Donizetti dedicated himself instead to Maria di Rohan , presented at the Theater am Kärntnertor in June 1843, and searched for a suitable theatre for Caterina. Two months after the triumph of Dom Sébastien in Paris, Caterina was booed at the San Carlo in Naples. The composer, who had been unable to be present at rehearsals or to oversee the orchestration, had clearly predicted the opera's failure, in a January 1844 communication to his brother-in-law:

<i>Linda di Chamounix</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti and Gaetano Rossi

Linda di Chamounix is an operatic melodramma semiserio in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Gaetano Rossi. It premiered in Vienna, at the Kärntnertortheater, on 19 May 1842.

Bartolomeo Merelli Italian impresario and librettist

Bartolomeo Merelli was an Italian impresario and librettist, best known as the manager of the La Scala Milan opera house between 1829 and 1850, and for his support for the young Giuseppe Verdi.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital and largest city of Austria, and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

I am anxiously awaiting news of the fiasco of Caterina Cornaro in Naples. La Goldberg as a primadonna is my first disaster without knowing it. I wrote for a soprano, they give me a mezzo! God knows if Coletti, if Fraschini intend their roles as I intend them. God knows what a catastrophe censorship has brought.

In the winter of 1844-45, Donizetti devoted himself to a revision which provided a different ending. The new version was presented in Parma in February 1845, with Marianna Barbieri-Nini in the title role. It was the last of Donizetti's operas to have its première during his lifetime.

Parma Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Parma is a city in the northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna famous for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto (ham), cheese and surrounding countryside. It is home to the University of Parma, one of the oldest universities in the world. Parma is divided into two parts by the stream of the same name. The district on the far side of the river is Oltretorrente. Parma's Etruscan name was adapted by Romans to describe the round shield called Parma.

Marianna Barbieri-Nini singer

Marianna Barbieri-Nini was an Italian operatic soprano who had an active career in Italy's major opera houses from 1840 through 1856. She also made appearances at the Liceu in Barcelona, the Teatro Real in Madrid, Her Majesty's Theatre in London, and at theatres in Paris. She possessed a powerful voice with coloratura facility and was known for her highly dramatic singing and acting. She was especially admired in the title roles of Gaetano Donizetti's Anna Bolena and Gioachino Rossini's Semiramide. She was also successful in the operas of Giuseppe Verdi, notably creating roles in the world premieres of three of his works.

Performance history

A contemporary revival took place at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples in 1972, with Leyla Gencer, Renato Bruson and Giacomo Aragall. Gencer sang a concert version the following year at Carnegie Hall, New York. In the same year, Montserrat Caballé sang Caterina in Paris at the Salle Pleyel and followed it with concert performances in London, [1] Barcelona and Nice, some of which have been preserved on record.

Leyla Gencer Turkish soprano

Ayşe Leyla Gencer was a Turkish operatic soprano.

Renato Bruson Italian opera singer

Renato Bruson is an Italian operatic baritone. Bruson is widely considered one of the most important Verdi baritones of the late 20th and early 21st century. He was born in Granze near Padua, Italy.

Jaume Aragall i Garriga, better known as Giacomo Aragall, is a Spanish operatic tenor.

Winton Dean has noted how the tenor role in Caterina Cornaro is marginalized compared to the conventions of Italian opera of the day. Dean also commented on the particularly menacing quality of the assassins' chorus in the opera. [2]


RoleVoice typePremiere Cast, 12 January 1844
(Conductor: Antonio Farelli) [3]
Caterina Cornaro soprano Fanny Goldberg
Matilde, Caterina's friend mezzo-soprano Anna Salvetti
Gerardo tenor Gaetano Fraschini
Lusignano, King of Cyprus baritone Filippo Coletti
Mocenigo, ambassador of Venice bass Nicola Benevento
Andrea Cornaro, Caterina's fatherbass Marco Arati
Strozzi, head of the Sgherritenor Anafesto Rossi
A knight of the Kingtenor Domenico Ceci


Place: Venice and Cyprus
Time: 1472

The wedding of Caterina, daughter of Andrea Cornaro, to a young Frenchman, Gerardo, is postponed when Mocenigo brings word that Lusignano, King of Cyprus, wishes to marry her. After much intrigue, involving Lusignano being slowly poisoned by Mocenigo, Gerardo joins the Knights of the Cross to help Lusignano defend Cyprus against the Venetians. Lusignano is mortally wounded; as he dies he entrusts his people to Caterina's care. Gerardo then returns to Rhodes. (In the revised finale for the Parma production, Lusignano informs Caterina that Gerardo has been killed in battle.)

Rhodes Island and Municipality in South Aegean, Greece

Rhodes is the largest of the Dodecanese islands of Greece and is also the island group's historical capital. Administratively the island forms a separate municipality within the Rhodes regional unit, which is part of the South Aegean administrative region. The principal town of the island and seat of the municipality is Rhodes. The city of Rhodes had 50,636 inhabitants in 2011. It is located northeast of Crete, southeast of Athens and just off the Anatolian coast of Turkey. Rhodes' nickname is The island of the Knights, named after the Knights of Saint John of Jerusalem, who once conquered the land.


(Caterina Cornaro, Gerardo, Lusignano,
Andrea Cornaro)
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [4]
1972 Leyla Gencer,
Giacomo Aragall,
Renato Bruson,
Luigi Risani
Carlo Felice Cillario,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro San Carlo
(Recording of a performance at The Teatro San Carlo, Naples, 28 May)
Audio CD: Myto
Cat: MCD 921.53
1972 Montserrat Caballé,
José Carreras,
Lorenzo Saccomani,
Enrique Serra
Carlo Felice Cillario,
London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a concert performance at The Royal Festival Hall, 10 July)
Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Cat: OPD-1266
1973 Leyla Gencer,
Giuseppe Campora,
Giuseppe Taddei,
Samuel Ramey
Alfredo Silipigni,
Orchestra and Chorus of the New Jersey Opera
(Recording of a concert performance at Carnegie Hall, New York, 15 April)
Audio CD: On Stage
Cat: 4701
1973 Margherita Rinaldi,
Ottavio Garaventa,
Licinio Montefusco,
Guido Mazzini
Elio Boncompagni,
Orchestra and Chorus of RAI Turin

(Recorded RAI studios, Turin, 30 August)

Audio CD: Bongiovanni
Cat: BG 2410/11-2
1973 Montserrat Caballé,
Giacomo Aragall,
Ryan Edwards,
Claude Méloni
Gian-Franco Masini,
Orchestre Lyrique & Chorale Lyrique de l'O.R.T.F.
(Recording of a concert performance, Paris, Salle Pleyel, 25 November)
Audio CD: Rodophe,
Cat: RPC 32474-32475;
Cat: PX 505.2
1995Denia Mazzola,
Pietro Ballo,
Stefano Antonucci,
Marzio Giossi
Gianandrea Gavazzeni,
"I Pomeriggi Musicali" di Milano and Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo Chorus
(Recording of a performance in the Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo, 21 Sept)
Audio CD: Agora Musica
Cat: AG 046.2
1998 Julia Migenes,
Alan Oke,
Jeffrey Carl,
Glenville Hargreaves
Richard Bonynge,
British Youth Opera Orchestra and the Vasari Singers
(Recording of a concert performance, Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 28 June)
Audio CD: Hellenic Centre
Cat: 001/002
2013 Carmen Giannattasio,
Colin Lee,
Troy Cook,
Graeme Broadbent
David Parry,
BBC Singers and the BBC Symphony Orchestra
(studio recording, BBC Maida Vale studios, London. Recorded 2011. Released 2013)
Audio CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORC 48

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  1. Dean, Winton, "Music in London: Caterina Cornaro" (September 1972). The Musical Times, 113 (1555): pp. 881, 883.
  2. Dean, Winton, "Donizetti's Serious Operas" (1973-1974). Proceedings of the Royal Musical Association, 100: pp. 123-141.
  3. Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "Caterina Cornaro, 12 January 1844" . L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  4. Source for recording information: