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 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.
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.
Elvida was first performed on 6 July 1826 at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, but it "made little impression on the audience"After three performances, the piece lay forgotten until its performances and recordings in 2004.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast,|
6 July 1826
|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|
|Chorus: Spaniards, Moors, and soldiers|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opera house and orchestra
Maria Pia Moriyon,
Cittfl di Adria Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a performance in the Teatro di Adria, October)
London Philharmonic Orchestra and Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
|CD: Opera Rara |
Cat: OR 29
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