L'esule di Roma

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L'esule di Roma, ossia Il proscritto (The Exile from Rome, or the Proscribed Man) is a melodramma eroico, or heroic opera, in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Domenico Gilardoni wrote the Italian libretto after Luigi Marchionni's Il proscritto romano, in its turn based on Louis-Charles Caigniez and Debotière's Androclès ou Le lion reconnaissant. It premiered on 1 January 1828 at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples.

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

Composition history

In 1827, Donizetti was hired by the Neapolitan theatrical impresario Domenico Barbaja to compose four operas in three years. Fulfilling his obligations on time and shortly after giving the New Theatre the theatrical farce Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali on 21 November 1827, he presented a new work to the Teatro San Carlo for the New Year of 1828, this time in the genre of opera seria as L'esule di Roma.

<i>Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali, also known as Viva la mamma, is a dramma giocoso, or opera, in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Domenico Gilardoni, adapted from Antonio Simeone Sografi's plays Le convenienze teatrali (1794) and Le inconvenienze teatrali (1800).

The libretto by Domenico Gilardoni was inspired by the drama of the prosecutor Luigi Marchionni, The Exiled Roman, or The Lion of the Caucasus (Naples, 1820), which in its turn was based on an opera in three acts by Louis-Charles Caigniez, Androclès reconnaissant ou le Lion (Paris, 1804), which later provided the inspiration for George Bernard Shaw's Androcles and the Lion (1912).

George Bernard Shaw Irish playwright, critic and polemicist, influential in Western theatre

George Bernard Shaw, known at his insistence simply as Bernard Shaw, was an Irish playwright, critic, polemicist and political activist. His influence on Western theatre, culture and politics extended from the 1880s to his death and beyond. He wrote more than sixty plays, including major works such as Man and Superman (1902), Pygmalion (1912) and Saint Joan (1923). With a range incorporating both contemporary satire and historical allegory, Shaw became the leading dramatist of his generation, and in 1925 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The premiere united an impressive cast such as the tenor Calvari Berardo Winter, the soprano Adelaide Torsi and the bass Luigi Lablache, and it was a triumph.

Luigi Lablache Italian opera singer

Luigi Lablache was an Italian opera singer of French and Irish ancestry. He was most noted for his comic performances, possessing a powerful and agile bass voice, a wide range, and adroit acting skills: Leporello in Don Giovanni was one of his signature roles.

Performance history

19th century

The opera was immediately taken to other Italian opera houses: La Scala in Milan with the soprano Henriette Meric-Lalande in July 1828 and again in Naples with the tenor Giovanni Battista Rubini in the winter of 1828.

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

Giovanni Battista Rubini Italian opera singer

Giovanni Battista Rubini was an Italian tenor, as famous in his time as Enrico Caruso in a later day. His ringing and expressive coloratura dexterity in the highest register of his voice, the tenorino, inspired the writing of operatic roles which today are almost impossible to cast. As a singer Rubini was the major early exponent of the Romantic style of the bel canto era of Vincenzo Bellini and Gaetano Donizetti.

After the first performances in the nineteenth century, the work was subjected to several changes: among the cuts was the scene in which Septimus was spared by a lion whose wound he had healed and who recognized him in the Circus Maximus. This was an episode from an anecdote about Androcles reported by Aulus Gellius, who had attributed it to Apion: it was replaced by a much more conventional device, Tiberius's clemency. The final scene in which Argelia rejoices in the happy outcome had also been added to respect the conventions of the time and to help Donizetti who, in accordance with the tradition of the day, wanted the work to end with an aria for the prima donna.

Circus Maximus Ancient Roman circus in Rome

The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot-racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome, Italy. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine Hills, it was the first and largest stadium in ancient Rome and its later Empire. It measured 621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width and could accommodate over 150,000 spectators. In its fully developed form, it became the model for circuses throughout the Roman Empire. The site is now a public park.

Androcles legendary figure

Androcles, is the main character of a common folktale that is included in the Aarne–Thompson classification system as type 156. The story reappeared in the Middle Ages as "The Shepherd and the Lion" and was then ascribed to Aesop's Fables. It is numbered 563 in the Perry Index and can be compared to Aesop's The Lion and the Mouse in both its general trend and in its moral of the reciprocal nature of mercy.

Aulus Gellius Latin author and grammarian

Aulus Gellius was a Latin author and grammarian, who was probably born and certainly brought up in Rome. He was educated in Athens, after which he returned to Rome. He is famous for his Attic Nights, a commonplace book, or compilation of notes on grammar, philosophy, history, antiquarianism, and other subjects, preserving fragments of the works of many authors who might otherwise be unknown today.

L'esule di Roma was the work chosen by Donizetti's birthplace of Bergamo to honor the composer in 1840: it was directed by Donizetti's childhood friend, Marco Bones, with a cast that included first class singers such as Eugenia Tadolini, Domenico Donzelli and Ignazio Marini. The work was brought to the stage in Madrid, Vienna and London and remained in the repertoire in Italy and abroad until 1869, the year when it was given last performance in the nineteenth century in Naples.

20th century and beyond

L'esule di Roma was staged for the first time in the twentieth century on 18 July 1982 at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, in a concert performance with Katia Ricciarelli, Bruce Brewer and John-Paul Bogart, on the initiative of the Donizetti Society. The first performance in modern Italy was at the Teatro Gabriel Chiabrera in Savona in October 1986 and it was recorded live.

Roles

RoleVoice typePremiere Cast, 1 January 1828
(Conductor: - )
Murena, a senator bass Luigi Lablache
Argelia, his daughter soprano Adelaide Tosi
Emilia, Argelia's younger sistersilent
Settimio, a tribune tenor Berardo Winter
Leontina, Argelia's friend mezzo-soprano Edvige Ricci
Publio, a general baritone Giovanni Campagnoli
Luciotenor Gaetano Chizzola
FulviotenorCapranica
Murena's kinsmen, friends of Publio, Argelia's slaves, soldiers, clergymen, prisoners, people

Synopsis

Place: Rome
Time: The reign of Tiberius, (14-37 AD)

Act 1

First scene

A public square surrounded by palaces, temples and monuments. The Arch of Triumph. On the right, the vestibulum of Murena's house

Scene 1

The people of Rome hails General Publius, who defeated the enemies of the Emperor Tiberius, but the senator Murena did not appear to participate the general exultation. In fact, he has promised his daughter to Publius Argelia, but when he arrives to claim her, he is forced to admit that the young girl can not be found and he can not fully conceal his concern.

Scene 2

The reason for Argelia's disappearance is revealed: The young tribune Septimus, son of one of Murena's benefactor's, that Murena condemned and exiled for political reasons, has returned secretly, risking certain death, to find Argelia, with whom he is in love (cabaletta Se ad altri il core).

Scene 3

Argelia returns love to him too, and has remained faithful (duet Al fianco mio!).

Scene 4

The two lovers' happiness is short-lived: Lucius comes with his soldiers and arrests Septimius immediately.

Scene 5

Argelia confesses that she loves Publius Septimius: Publius, nobly, promises to help him.

Scene 6

Lucio Murena announces that Septimus is back and that is expected to be judged by the Senate.

Second scene

Inside Murena's house.

Scene 7

Septimus makes one last visit to Argelia and provides written evidence of the conspiracy of which he is victim and of which his own father is the main inspiration. Argelia is terrified by the news. Murena comes in full of pain because he has just condemned Septimus to death. He implores the latter, however, not to tell his daughter about it and in return suggests that to save his honor he's ready to make him escape from Rome along with Argelia. But Septimus refuses and is ready to meet his death. Unusually, Donizetti concludes Act 1 with a remarkable trio (Ei stesso!), Instead of the usual custom; this solution will be taken up by Bellini's Norma at end of Act 1 (1831) and Verdi's Ernani of 1844.

Act 2

First scene

Inside Murena's house.

Scenes 1 and 2:

Murena sinks into madness in a very beautiful scene (aria Entra nel cirfo!, Cabaletta De Stige il flutto), which, on one hand oddly foreshadows his famous "mad scenes" - all for women - the works of the mature Donizetti, and on the other hand is echoed particularly in scenes from the masterpieces of the neoclassical theater, where a male character becomes insane by remorse, among them can mentioned the tragedies Saul (1782) by Vittorio Alfieri and Aristodemo (1786) by Vincenzo Monti. Giovanni Pacini will mention this scene in his Sappho (1840).

Second scene

In prison

Scene 3

In his cell, Septimius awaits his execution. The aria in A major S'io finora, Bell'idol mio is preceded by an instrumental passage for Oboe solo and followed by a cabaletta in the same key, goes down to the trumpet. This scene was added during the performances at La Scala, Milan on 12 July 12, 1828 for the tenor, Winter, but the original music was lost. There are two versions: one written for Rubini, who sang the role at the Teatro San Carlo in the winter of 1828 and the other for Ignazio Pasini on its revival in Bergamo, 1840.

Third scene

The garden of Murena's house.

Scnes 4 and 5

Murena has decided to denounce himself for the sake of saving Septimus. He asks from Argelia the documents that the young man has given her that proves his guilt, but she doesn't want her father to sacrifice his good name, and refuses him with tears. However, Murena's decision is irrevocable, and he goes to the emperor.

Scene 6

Outside, Argelia hears the cries of the crowd that wants to see Septimus taken to his execution. The cantabile of his cavatina Tardi, tardi il piè la volgi is introduced and emphasized quite unusually with an English horn.

Scene 7

The tempo in the middle is introduced by Publius, who announces the good news: Septimus and Murena were both pardoned. Argelia expresses her joy in the final cabaletta Ogni tormento.

Music

The main numbers of the score are Murena's first aria Ahi! Che di calma un'ombra and his duet with Publius (Act 1, scene 1), the Septimus and Argelia's duet (Act 1, scene 3), the final trio of the act 1, for which the work owes much of its popularity in the nineteenth century, the Murena's mad scene in Act 2 and the duet between Argelia and Murena, also in act 2. The music is still much affected by the opera seria influence, the classic example of which is Rossini's Semiramide of 1823, although the instrumental passages with the accompaniment of English horn or bassoon obbligato and extensive scenes altogether often make us think about Donizetti's old master, Simon Mayr, or even of Gaspare Spontini's The Vestal (1803). However, the dramatic intensity of the situations, as well as Donizetti's typical use of the flute and the attempt to remove the final prima donna's aria already announced the composer's mature works.

Recordings

YearCast
(Argelia, Settimio, Murena, Publio)
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [1]
1982 Katia Ricciarelli,
Bruce Brewer,
John-Paul Bogart,
John Gibbs
Leslie Head,
Pro Opera Orchestra and Chelsea Opera Group Chorus
(Recording of a performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London)
Cassette: Charles Handelman, Live Opera
Cat: 03309
1986Cecilia Gasdia,
Ernesto Palacio,
Simone Alaimo,
Armando Ariostini
Massimo de Bernart,
Orchestra Sinfonica di Piacenza and the chorus of the Opera Giocosa
(Recording of a performance in the Teatro Chiabrera, Savona, 14 October)
Audio CD: Bongiovanni
Cat: GB 2045/46-2

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