Elvida

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Elvida is a melodramma or opera in one act by Gaetano Donizetti. Giovanni Schmidt wrote the Italian libretto. The opera was written as a pièce d'occasion for the birthday of Queen Maria of the Two Sicilies. The choice of subject matter was no doubt intended as an elegant acknowledgement of the Queen's Spanish ancestry. Donizetti received little financial reward for the work and, as a result, put the minimum of effort into its composition.

Melodramma is a 17th-century Italian term for a text to be set as an opera, or the opera itself. In the 19th-century, it was used in a much narrower sense by English writers to discuss developments in the early Italian libretto, e.g., Rigoletto and Un ballo in maschera. Characteristic are the influence of French bourgeois drama, female instead of male protagonists, and the practice of opening the action with a chorus.

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.

Contents

Elvida was first performed on 6 July 1826 at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, but it "made little impression on the audience" [1] After three performances, the piece lay forgotten until its performances and recordings in 2004.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere cast,
6 July 1826
(Conductor: –)
Elvida, a Castilian noblewoman soprano Henriette Méric-Lalande
Alfonso, a Castilian prince tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini
Amur, a Moorish chieftain bass Luigi Lablache
Zeidar, Amur's son contralto Brigitta Lorenzani  (it )
Chorus: Spaniards, Moors, and soldiers

Synopsis

Place: A fortified town in the Emirate of Granada.
Time: The late fifteenth century.

Scene 1

During the struggle for control of southern Spain, Elvida, a noble Castilian lady, has been captured by the Moors. For two months she has been held prisoner by Amur in one of the last remaining Moorish strongholds. However, Spanish troops led by Elvida’s fiancé, Alfonso, are now advancing on the town.

Kingdom of Castile Medieval state in the Iberian Peninsula

The Kingdom of Castile was a large and powerful state located on the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages. Its name comes from the host of castles constructed in the region. It began in the 9th century as the County of Castile, an eastern frontier lordship of the Kingdom of León. During the 10th century its counts increased their autonomy, but it was not until 1065 that it was separated from León and became a kingdom in its own right. Between 1072 and 1157 it was again united with León, and after 1230 this union became permanent. Throughout this period the Castilian kings made extensive conquests in southern Iberia at the expense of the Islamic principalities. Castile and León, with their southern acquisitions, came to be known collectively as the Crown of Castile, a term that also came to encompass overseas expansion.

Moors medieval Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta

The term "Moors" refers primarily to the Muslim inhabitants of the Maghreb, the Iberian Peninsula, Sicily, and Malta during the Middle Ages. The Moors initially were the indigenous Maghrebine Berbers. The name was later also applied to Arabs.

Amur wants to have Elvida put to death, rather than allow her to be saved by Alfonso’s troops. However, Amur’s son, Zeidar, has fallen in love with their beautiful captive and begs his father to give her up to the approaching Spanish, if only to save the town from destruction. Zeidar pleads with Elvida to marry him, but she contemptuously rejects both his advances and his father’s threats. The Moors murdered her father, and Elvida longs for retribution. She is led away to a hidden dungeon.

The Castilian army is now at the gates of the town, Amur recognizes that further resistance is hopeless, but knowing that Moorish reinforcements are close at hand, he is determined to make his escape through a secret passage, taking Zeidar with him.

Scene 2

Alfonso enters in triumph at the head of his troops. Although he is disappointed that Amur and Zeidar have apparently escaped, he is more concerned for the safety of Elvida. One of Amur’s slaves offers to lead him to the cavern where Elvida is being held captive.

Scene 3

Amur intends to use Elvida as a hostage to aid his escape with Zeidar. The two men enter the cavern in which she is imprisoned and try to force her to come with them. Elvida is defiant, and before they can drag her away, Spanish troops burst in. Amur draws his dagger with the intention of killing Elvida, but Zeidar seizes his arm and the troops are able to overpower him.

Amur curses his son for his betrayal, and at that moment word arrives that the Moorish reinforcements have been routed. In a magnanimous gesture Alfonso grants Zeidar his freedom and agrees to spare Amur’s life. There is general rejoicing as Alfonso announces his marriage to Elvida will take place on the following morning.

Recordings

YearCast
(Amur, Zeidar,
Elvida, Alfonso)
Conductor,
Opera house and orchestra
Label [2]
2004Massimiliano Fichera,
Maria Pia Moriyon,
Cristina Pastorello,
Daniele Gaspari
Franco Piva,
Cittfl di Adria Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a performance in the Teatro di Adria, October)
CD: Bongiovanni
Cat: 2370-2
2004Pietro Spagnoli,
Jennifer Larmore,
Annick Massis,
Bruce Ford
Antonello Allemandi,
London Philharmonic Orchestra and Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
CD: Opera Rara
Cat: OR 29

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References

Notes

  1. Osborne 1994, pp. 162—63
  2. Source for recording information: Recording(s) of Elvida on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk

Cited sources

Charles Thomas Osborne was an Australian journalist, theatre and opera critic, poet and novelist. He was the assistant editor of The London Magazine from 1958 until 1966, literature director of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1971 until 1986, and chief theatre critic of Daily Telegraph (London) from 1986 to 1991.

International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Other sources

William Ashbrook was an American musicologist, writer, journalist, and academic. He was perhaps best noted as a historian, researcher and popularizer of the works of Italian opera composer Gaetano Donizetti.

Stanley John Sadie was an influential and prolific British musicologist, music critic, and editor. He was editor of the sixth edition of the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (1980), which was published as the first edition of The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

International Music Score Library Project project for the creation of a virtual library of public domain music scores

The International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP), also known as the Petrucci Music Library after publisher Ottaviano Petrucci, is a subscription-based project for the creation of a virtual library of public-domain music scores. Since its launch on February 16, 2006, over 370,000 scores and 42,000 recordings for over 110,000 works by over 14,000 composers have been uploaded. Based on the wiki principle, the project uses MediaWiki software. Since June 6, 2010, the IMSLP has also included public domain and licensed recordings in its scope, to allow for study by ear.