Gioacchino Rossini



L'inganno felice

1. Scene 1: Introduction
2. Scene 2: Cosa dite! Ma cosa dite! (Tarabotto, Isabella)
3. Scene 3: Ebben, che ascondi a Tarabatto (Isabella, Tarabotto)
4. Scene 4: Qual tenero diletto (Bertrando)
5. Scene 5: Ebben, che tenta il Duca mio vivino (Bertrando, Ormondo, Batone, Tarabotto, Isabella)
6. Scene 6: Una voce m'ha colpito (Batone)
7. Scene 7: Egli resto indeciso (Isabella, Tarabotto, Bertrando)
8. Scene 8: Quel sembiante, quello sguardo (Tarabotto, Isabella, Bertrando)
9. Scene 9: Oh, l'impressione e fatta, e sembra in bene! (Tarabotto, Bertrando, Ormondo)
10. Scene 10: Tu mi conosci e sai (Ormondo)
11. Scene 11: Me la paghera tua vita (Batone, Tarabotto)
12. Scene 12: Va taluno mormorando (Batone, Tarabotto)
13. Scene 13: E deciso! (Tarabotto, Isabella)
14. Scene 14: Al piu dolce a caro oggetto (Isabella)
15. Scene 15: Son fuor di me! Il mio caso (Tarabotto, Ormondo, Bertrando)
16. Scene 16: Tacita notte amica (Batone, Isabella, Tarabotto, Ormondo, Bertrando)

L’inganno felice (The Happy Deception)

Bertrando - Tenor
Isabella - Soprano
Tarabotto - Bass
Batone - Bass
Ormondo - Bass

Among Rossini’s five farse (farces) written for Venice, L’inganno felice (The Happy Deception) is by far the least well-known and least often performed today. In Rossini’s time however the opera was presented often and hastened onto the stages of Europe those two great works Tancredi and L’Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers).

Little is known about the genesis of L’inganno felice. It was the second farsa which Rossini wrote for Antonio Cera, the impresario of the Teatro San Moisè in Venice, and the third of his operas to be staged. The success of La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract) in 1810 had persuaded Cera to offer the promising young composer another commission, this time for the more important carnival season of 1811/12. Rossini had little time in which to write it because the première of the two-act L’equivoco stravagante had been given only a few weeks earlier, in Bologna.

The première of L’inganno felice took place on 8th January 1812, with a cast of good singers including Teresa Giorgi Belloc, Luigi Raffanelli and Filippo Galli and the opera was a huge success. The day after the performance Cera wrote an enthusiastic report to Rossini’s mother: “L’inganno felice has caused a real sensation; the public was enthusiastic about it, from the overture to the end of the finale, and there were constant cries of ‘What beautiful music!’”.

At the end of the performance the young composer was called onto the stage to tumultuous applause. Cera prophesied to Anna Guidarini Rossini that, in a few years’ time, her son would be one of Italy’s jewels, Cimarosa reborn. The reviews in the Venetian newspapers were equally positive. That same evening Cera offered Rossini a contract for three further farse. The première of L’inganno felice ended the carnival season in the most beautiful way and the final (fourteenth) performance of the first run took place on 11 February.

Rossini’s collaborator, Giuseppe Foppa (1760- 1845), was one of the best-known opera librettists in Venice and specialised in writing farse. For Rossini he wrote the libretti for La scala di Seta (The Silken Ladder) and Il Signor Bruschino as well as countless texts for other composers. The claim that Foppa had based his libretto on an older work with the same title, which Giuseppe Palomba had written for Paisiello, does not stand up to scrutiny. As far as its content is concerned, Paisiello’s two-act comic opera bears no relationship to Rossini’s work.

The genre of the farsa should not be thought of as comic opera. It should be considered, rather, as a one-act device which served as a “filler” between the acts of a serious opera, though by Rossini’s time this origin had been almost completely lost. The Teatro San Moisè specialised in farse and, as a rule, would present two in a single evening. In any case, L’inganno felice is not a comic opera but a one-act semiseria (semi-serious) one. In Rossini’s output it is the precursor of Torvaldo e Dorliska and Matilde di Shabran as well as his bestknown semiseria, La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie). The term semiseria is not to be understood as “half-serious” or “half-comic” but represents the genre of bourgeois melodrama or rescue opera, whose subjectmatter can be summarised thus: that the persecuted innocent will be rescued at the last minute. This is the case with L’inganno felice which, in the loosest sense, belongs to the same material as Genoveva. The faithful wife is unjustly accused of infidelity, disowned, and finally taken back again by the husband after everything has been resolved. Rossini and his librettist Foppa returned to this theme again in the opera Sigismondo, albeit with far less success.

In its structure however L’inganno felice is in keeping with Rossini’s other farse. The opera consists of nine numbers, including the overture. The pseudo-finale (No. 4) is right in the middle of the work but as a terzetto is somewhat inconsequential, but it corresponds to the structure of La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract) and Il Signor Bruschino, while La scala di seta (The Silken Ladder) and L’occasione fa il ladro (Opportunity Makes a Thief) are written in larger forms. Typical of the semiseria is the Tarabotto and Batone duet (“Va taluno mormorando”) between the comic assistant of the persecuted innocent and the serious villain.

In his two-act semiserie Rossini broadens the situation into a terzetto (Torvaldo e Dorliska) and into larger-scale forms (Matilde di Shabran), arriving at an altogether different kind of music. Although musically speaking L’inganno felice is a pure buffo opera, in the later works the serious parts were treated in a more solemn manner, as opposed to the “prattling” style of the buffo part. La gazza ladra, on the other hand, is actually a typical semiseria, but not in its musical structure. That is because of the very unconventional libretto and the resultant larger number of characters which means that the comic assistant (Giorgio in Torvaldo e Dorlikska) is divided into two characters (Pippo and Giorgio).

The overwhelming success of L’inganno felice resulted in countless reworkings typical of the times. The 1821 production in Venice is the only documented performance which conforms almost completely to the version given at the première. Otherwise a chorus of mine-workers was frequently introduced, replacing the extras. The more or less extensive alterations to the music occurred in Lisbon in 1817. When Filippo Galli switched from the rôle of Batone to that of Tarabotto he took Batone’s arias with him, thereby resulting in further adaptations. The most important changes were those to Isabella’s aria, which was either frequently replaced or even left out. It seems likely, but not certain, that Rossini agreed to some of these changes. It is known, however, especially in the case of Isabella’s aria, that there are additions from unknown compositions.

L’inganno felice was performed again later in the year of its première at the Teatro San Moisè as well as in Bologna and in Florence. In 1813 it received more performances than L’Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers), an opera which had been successful from the very start, and further performances took place in the north of Italy. In 1814 it was overtaken by Tancredi. In 1815 L’inganno felice became the third most often performed of Rossini’s operas, with performances in eight different opera houses. In 1815 it was also given for the first time abroad (Barcelona) and the following year for the first time in Germany (Munich) and at the Court Opera in Vienna. In 1817 it was staged in nine theatres. In Germany it remained on the programme in Dresden, Munich and in Vienna and further performances took place in Lisbon, Lucca and Siena. In 1818 seven theatres put the opera on and now Germany became its main stronghold. In 1819 the number of theatres staging it rose to twelve.

In the first decade of its existence it maintained third place in the number of performances (61) of Rossini operas, behind Tancredi and L’Italiana in Algeri, but ahead of Il barbiere di Siviglia and Otello.

L’inganno felice was unable to maintain this strong position in the following decade but even so it had over a hundred performances in Italian and foreign opera houses. Of these just under a quarter took place in Germany, where the opera was frequently given under the title Die Getaüschten (The Betrayed Ones). At this time the opera even achieved a degree of literary (albeit slight) fame. In his novel Der Kongress von Verona (The Congress of Verona) Julius Mosen, albeit reluctantly, refers to this work: “Then Rossini’s opera L’inganno felice began and Crivelli, Passerini and Galli summoned up their extravagant trills in order to elicit the applause of the illustrious audience.”

In the 1830s the frequency of performances of L’inganno felice lessened considerably, but by then it had travelled overseas: to Santiago in Chile (1830), to Vera Cruz (1831), to New York (1833) and to New Orleans (1837). In 1838 it was staged in three venues but in 1839, for the first time, there were no performances anywhere. In the 1840s the opera was hardly ever performed and after that only sporadically: in 1850 at the Royal Municipal Theatre in Berlin, in Milan (1865), in Naples (1872), in Florence (1876) and in Madrid (1878).

The twentieth century paid little attention to L’inganno felice. What in the nineteenth century had been far and away Rossini’s most often-staged farsa now became the correspondingly least-often performed. This has nothing to do with its musical worth and rather more to do with the incomprehensible lack of engagement with the semiseria genre in the present age. The first revival of L’inganno felice in modern times took place in Rome in 1952/53, followed, in 1954, by Bologna, Naples (RAI, 1963/64), Palermo (1968), Buenos Aires (1969), Wexford and Birmingham (1970), Naples (RAI, 1972), Pesaro (1980), Menton (1991), Narni (1992) and, in 1994, by Verona and (again) Pesaro. In the 1990s a series of performances was given in northern Italy whereas in Germany it was performed only in 2002 in Karlsruhe and for the re-opening of the Kurtheater in Bad Wildbad in 2005.

Bernd-Rüdiger Kern
English version by David Stevens


[1] Introduction. The scene is set in a valley at the foot of a range of mountains, from one of which a road leads down to the plain. To one side are rocks suggesting the entrance to a mine, with the house of Tarabotto, leader of the miners, to one side. Opposite is a great tree, with a bench in front of it.

[2] Tarabotto appears from one of the mines, with a group of miners, who have apparently told him that the Duke is coming. He sends the men back to work and leaves as Isabella enters, holding, a bejewelled portrait of her husband who has banished her from his presence and to whom she would show her fidelity. Tarabotto returns, observing her, always sad, and seeing that the portrait she holds is of the Duke, as a younger man. Isabella, still unaware of Tarabotto’s presence, declares herself the Duke’s wife, hiding the portrait, and, when she sees Tarabotto, hiding a paper she has been holding. Tarabotto asks her what she is hiding, but he has seen the portrait and the paper.

[3] Tarabotto questions Isabella further as to why she has a portrait of the Duke. He recalls how ten years ago he had found her, half dead, by the sea and taken her back to his house, and accuses her of ingratitude. She hands him the paper and sits down, disconsolate, on the bench. Tarabotto reads the paper that declares that Isabella, believed dead, still lives, his Duchess, betrayed by Ormondo and his follower Batone, by whom she had been set in a boat and entrusted to the waves. The letter goes on to urge the Duke to come to the iron mines, where he will see honour and innocence triumph. Tarabotto questions Isabella further as to why: did Batone set her out to sea? Isabella tells him that she was told that it was on the orders of her husband. Tarabotto seems to have a plan, and they both withdraw into his house.

[4] Soldiers appear, followed by Duke Bertrando, who remembers fondly his wife, whom he now believes dead, the one whom he ought to hate, but still loves.

[5] The Duke is joined by Ormondo and Batone, and discusses the plans of a neighbouring ruler. Batone tells them they should question Tarabotto, and they call out for him. He appears and tells them that he lives there with his niece, Nisa. As the Duke and his soldiers enter the mine, Tarabotto realises the identity of the Duke’s two followers. Batone is left, feeling thirsty, and calls out for Nisa, the name by which Isabella has been known. She comes out, but hides her face, when she recognises Batone, who tries to flirt with her but is nonplussed when he sees Isabella’s face, wondering whether it is her or not. She offers to fetch Batone water, but he claims he is no longer thirsty.

[6] Batone wonders whether this can be the one that he had left a prey to the sea. In doubt, he begs her pardon.

[7] Isabella realises that Batone is undecided. She is joined by Tarabotto, who has a plan: the Duke has need of the mine-workings for a military operation and she, as his niece, should present the plan to the Duke. She must come when he calls her, and then they will see what happens from the meeting. When the Duke returns, Tarabotto asks leave for his supposed niece to present his plan, and calls for her. She approaches the Duke with her eyes cast down, but he is first struck by her voice.

[8] In surprise the Duke allows the plan that Isabella offers him to fall to the ground, to be picked up by Tarabotto. The Duke is amazed at the resemblance of the woman to his Duchess, hardly believing Tarabotto’s assertion that she is his niece, each of them with their own reactions to the encounter. The Duke asks Tarabotto if she is really his niece, and Tarabotto assures him that she is his brother’s daughter. She makes to leave, but the Duke tries to hold her back. She goes into the house, while Tarabotto, apart, observes the scene.

[9] Tarabotto realises that the necessary impression has been made, while the Duke reasons that Isabella is dead and this woman is Nisa, Tarabotto’s niece. Ormondo enters and the Duke asks him whether Isabella is really dead. He reassures the Duke, who resolves, for the moment, to keep his thoughts to himself. He goes out, and Ormondo is joined by Batone, both observed still by Tarabotto. Ormondo asks whether Batone had seen Isabella perish, and is reassured by the latter. Ormondo seeks the reason for the Duke’s questions, and Batone tells him that Tarabotto’s niece is the spitting image of Isabella. Tarabotto strains in vain to hear Ormondo’s command to Batone to abduct Isabella and bring her to him at night.

[10] Ormondo must be obeyed, on pain of death. He goes out.

[11] Batone is unhappy at the threat, which he has heard before. Tarabotto realises that something is plotted that night and resolves to worm it out of Batone. The latter seeks to ingratiate himself with Tarabotto, who now appears, claiming extraordinary sympathy for him, while each tries to outwit the other.

[12] Speaking in friendly confidence, Batone tells Tarabotto that there is a rumour that Tarabotto has no niece and each tries to discover what the other knows about the identity of Nisa and what is afoot, Tarabotto emerging with more success than Batone.

[13] Tarabotto, alone for a moment, realises that there is a plot. He is joined by Isabella and tells her he has understood everything. They bow as the Duke, Ormondo and their followers appear. The Duke has matters to discuss with Ormondo, while Isabella is in trepidation. The Duke addresses Isabella, asking why she is afraid, and she tells him she fears men. Tarabotto starts to explain, but then tells Isabella to continue. She tells him how she was betrayed.

[14] Isabella goes on to tell of her love and how it was returned, before it was stolen from her by a wicked man. She enters the house.

[15] The Duke remains absorbed in thought, while Ormondo realises he must act, as he goes. Night approaches, and the Duke is still absorbed in thought, while Tarabotto has prepared everything so that the Duke can discover matters for himself. He kneels before the Duke and reminds him that he has promised to defend his niece, Nisa. He tells him of the plot and of the need to trick the offender and promises to reveal the villain.

[16] It is night and Batone, with his armed followers, is ready to carry out his plot. Tarabotto and Isabella come out of the house and hide behind the tree. Isabella is dressed in noble but modest attire. She asks Tarabotto the reason, but he tells her not to fear. They hide. The Duke appears, with his followers, and conceals himself in the entrance to the mine. Ormondo enters, with a single follower, at whose appearance the Duke and Tarabotto exclaim. He approaches the house, from which Batone appears, and asks him if the girl has been abducted. Batone tells him that she has disappeared, but Ormondo does not believe it and goes into the house himself. At this point the Duke steps forward and challenges Batone, who is terrified but promises to obey the Duke, who returns to his hiding-place to watch what happens. Ormondo comes out, declaring the woman not there, and Batone asks why she is to be abducted. Ormondo tells him that she is Isabella, who had once rejected his advances and who must die before she reveals to the Duke his treachery. At this point the Duke comes forward, accusing the traitor and, in desolation, asking where his wife is. Isabella emerges, before he can harm himself, and draws from her bosom the portrait of the Duke, who now recognises her. Tarabotto explains how he had found her on the shore, half dead, and how he had kept her clothes and now unmasked the villain. Isabella pardons her husband and they embrace, to Tarabotto’s approval. Batone explains how he had been coerced, on pain of death, and kneels to seek pardon, which is granted him by Isabella, and all ends in happiness, the guilty punished and the innocent triumphant.

Keith Anderson


1. Overture
2. Act I: Introduzione
3. Act I: Recitativo
4. Act I: Coro e Cavatina
5. Act I: Recitativo
6. Act I: Recitativo e cavatina
7. Act I: Recitativo
8. Act I: Recitativo e Aria
9. Act I: Recitativo e Aria
10. Act I: Recitativo
11. Act I: Recitativo e Duetto
12. Act I: Recitativo e Duetto
13. Act I: Coro
14. Act I: Recitativo
15. Act I: Recitativo instrumentale e Finale
16. Act I: Finale primo
17. Act II: Recitativo
18. Act II: Recitativo
19. Act II: Aria
20. Act II: Recitativo
21. Act II: Aria
22. Act II: Scena
23. Act II: Cavatina
24. Act II: Recitativo
25. Act II: Recitativo
26. Act II: Duetto
27. Act II: Recitativo
28. Act II: Aria
29. Act II -
30. Act II -
31. Act II: Recitativo
32. Act II: Duetto
33. Act II: Recitativo
34. Act II: Aria
35. Act II: Gran Scena
36. Act II: Coro
37. Act II: Recitativo
38. Act II: Rondo
39. Act II: Recitativo
40. Act II: Secondo finale

Born in Pesaro in 1792, the son of musician parents, Gioachino Antonio Rossini was early familiar with the life of the theatre. His musical gifts led him to instrumental and vocal study in Bologna. There he also learned composition and notably the art of counterpoint, his models being Haydn and Mozart. With this rigorous technical basis he preserved in his work clarity in writing and precision in orchestration.

Rossini had his first great success with La pietra del paragone at La Scala, Milan, in 1812. There followed a prolific period in which he composed in little more than a year Seven operas, principally comedies in which he already showed his developing talent and character, works including La scala di seta and Il Signor Bruschino. The following year Tancredi was first performed at La Fenice in Venice. The work definitively established the composer, who was still not yet twenty-one and made his name known outside Italy.

Subsequently Rossini's style developed, while remaining profoundly original, adapting itself to the places where he worked, and he contributed to the aesthetic changes of the period, notably in the genre of opera. From 1815 to 1823 he was official Court composer to the theatre in Naples, renouncing in some of his serious operas neo-classical heroism in favour of the growing romantic climate, as in Otello and La donna del lago.

At the same time he also reformed opera buffa, giving the singers longer arias, developing vocal virtuosity and word-setting, as in L'italiana en Algeri and Il turco in Italia. His speed in composing was legendary and if he often transferred passages from one work to another, his work was never less careful, even painstaking. Of this Il barbiere di siviglia and La cenerentola, both composed in less than a month, are evidence.

From 1822 political difficulties in his Own country and his growing reputation led Rossini gradually to leave Italy for the great capitals of Europe, Vienna, London and finally Paris, where his arrival in 1824 opened a very lively debate among composers and the public. Adapting his style to the French language and tradition, he composed his last opera in a romantic style very different from his other works, marking the beginning of French grand opera with his Guillaume Tell in 1828.

In 1830, worn out by years of intense work and affected by the political and aesthetic changes of the period, Rossini retired to Italy. For twenty-five years he hardly composed at all, with the exception of the Stabat mater, performed after various vicissitudes in 1842. At the end of his life, with his second wife Olympe Pelissier, first in Italy and then again in Paris, he found again the energy to compose what he called the sins of his old age, Peches de vieillesse, and a masterpiece, the Petite Messe solennelle of 1863. He died on 13th November 1868 at his house at Passy. The wit and light-hearted spirit of many of his last works suggest the return of a certain serenity in the evening of his life.

Tancredi and the Music of Rossini

The success of Rossini's comic operas has gone some way to obscure his importance as a composer of serious operas. After having known great success, his works quickly fell into oblivion, even in his life-time. In a period when the art of music had undergone profound changes, in particular with the birth of romantic opera, his La gazza ladra (The Thieving Magpie), revived at the end of his life, seemed, as one contemporary critic remarked, like a former mistress, now seen forty years later. This shows how much the spirit of the period differed from Rossini's style of composition and explains partly why his serious operas have practically disappeared from the repertoire.

With Tancredi, a work that Stendhal already considered Rossini's masterpiece, the composer found new solutions to some problems that had then arisen in Italian opera. In the first years of the nineteenth century, in fact, the adaptation of new subjects in the libretti introduced new characters and dramatic situations, demanding other means of expression and dramatic action than those of existing traditions in opera seria.

The innovation in Tancredi is, therefore, not only in the tragic finale, exceptional in the tradition of the period, composed for the performance of the opera in Ferrara, but also in the new manner of realising the synthesis between the needs of lyrical expression and the necessities of the dramatic action. Rossini achieved this, in spite of the generally still traditional form of Tancredi (the juxtaposition of numbers interrupted by recitatives), thanks to a skilful inter cutting of arias, alternating meditative passages and more dynamic sections, to a particular treatment of the recitatives and to his use of the expressive resources of the orchestra. These procedures are illustrated not only in the arias for solo voice but also in the duets, or in important ensembles such as that at the end of the first act. In Tancredi Rossini shows perfect mastery of the balance between dramatic, lyrical and musical elements.

Connne Polycarpe
(English version by Keith Anderson)


Interview with Alberto Zedda, who analyses the nature of Rossini's music and explains the interpretation of an opera such as Tancredi.

The Classicism of Rossini

Unlike romantic opera, built on a realistic conception of the art, the music of Rossini tends to idealise feelings, hence the lack of concern with historical or narrative probability, the scorn for psychological detail and introspection dear to romantic art. Seeking to free the essential and non-anecdotal character from emotions, Rossini uses notes as a poet uses words, to reach the truth behind their immediate sense. With him the primacy accorded to the melody has not the same importance as with romantic composers like Bellini and Verdi. His musical vocabulary is simple, with no great introspective melodies nor long developments of a theme. The Rossini phrase is constructed from micro-cells (some bars of a very short melody), often instrumental in character, repeated several times in an almost obsessive way so far as to suggest, in the same movement, an impression of immobility, as, for example, in the 'Calumny' aria in Il barbiere di Siviglia. These rhythmic repetitions, far from being the result of mere chance, follow a very rigorous arrangement. This formal construction, short melodic fragments, repetitions, simple and lively rhythms, balanced structure, quite simple harmony, often reduced to the alternation of tonic and dominant, make Rossini a composer who is classical in form and he was so considered by his contemporaries.

The Ambivalence of Rossini's Music

For all these reasons, the works of Rossini seem generally easy to approach, but to appreciate his dramatic operas this first level of listening is not enough. In these works, as the notes do not in themselves carry expression, the message is much more hidden than in operas such as La traviata or Madama Butterfly. Generally with Rossini the same composition can as well express a profound emotion as its contrary.

Freedom and Responsibility of the Interpreter

In these conditions, how can the composer attain truth as well, if not better than in more realistic works? He demands, in fact, the active cooperation of the interpreter and even of the audience. More than its words or content, it is the affetto (that is the general emotional ambience) that characterizes the Rossini aria. This conception goes back to Baroque tradition and arises from the aesthetic of the marvellous, of astonishment and of surprise. The vocal writing of Rossini relies on the virtuosity of the singer, which must be exceptional, all directed to this affetto.

This is why Rossini allows freedom to the interpreter to modify the musical text in repeated passages. In introducing cadenzas and variations, he allows the singer to bring out the power of expression required by the dramatic situation and gives him the possibility of using his voice to the best advantage of his tessitura and capacity.

Observations collected by Corinne Polycarpe,
with the assistance of Gerard Loubinoux
(English version by Keith Anderson)


The action takes place at Syracuse in the year A.D. 1005

Overture [1]

Act I

Introduzione [2]. The scene is a gallery in the palace of Argirio, leader of the senate. With him is Isaura and her attendants, with Argirio's knights. Two attendants enter carrying a silver bowl with white scarves. Other knights arrive and each group exchanges red or blue scarves for white. The knights now celebrate the end of factional discord under their respective leaders Argirio and Orbazzano (Pace, onore, fede amore - Peace, honour, faith, love), both groups now united. Argirio declares that Syracuse will be safe now the two factions are reconciled (Se amista verace, e pura - If you keep in your heart true friendship).

Recitativo [3]. Argirio appoints Orbazzano as leader against the Moors (Ed ecco, o prodi Cavalier, l'eroe - And here, brave knights, is the hero who will lead you in my place). Orbazzano, however, warns them against treachery from within, in particular from the exiled Tancredi, to the dismay of Isaura. Argirio summons his daughter Amenaide.

Coro e Cavatina [4]. Amenaide enters with her attendants, as those present sing of the triumph of harmony and love (Pill dolci e placide spirano l'aure - Sweeter and calmer breathe the winds on so fair a day). She joins their pleasure (Come dolce all'alma mia - How sweet is the sound of your voices to my soul), while privately expressing anxiety about the absence of her beloved Tancredi, whom she has secretly invited to return to her (E tu quando fornerai al fuo ben, mio dolce amor - And you, when will you return to your beloved, my sweet love).

Recitativo [5]. Argirio tells Amenaide that he has promised her hand in marriage to Orbazzano (E gia deciso, o figlia - It is already decided, daughter). Orbazzano tells her of his love for her and of her father's promise of her hand in marriage (Amenaide, d'immenso amore io t'amo - Amenaide, my love for you is great). He demands immediate marriage, but she begs for delay until the next day. As the company leaves, Isaura, alone, laments the predicament of Amenaide, who is already pledged to Tancredi (Amenaide sventurata! - Unhappy Amenaide, what a dreadful day for you).

Recitativo e cavatina [6]. The scene changes to the pleasant garden of the palace. The garden adjoins the shore and the sea and a ship approaches, from which first Roggiero and then Tancredi and his followers disembark. He has not received Amenaide's message, but is resolved to defend his native city against the enemy and to see again his beloved Amenaide. He greets his native land (Oh pafria! dolce, e ingrata patria! - O my country, dear, thankless country). His thoughts turn to Amenaide (Tu che accendi questo core - You who set aflame this heart), begging her forgiveness for the pain he has caused her (Di tanti palpiti, di tante pene - After such beating of the heart, such torment); now he will at last see her again.

Recitativo [7]. He sends the loyal knight Roggiero with a message to Amenaide (D'Amenaide ecco il soggiorno - Here is the house of Amenaide, go faithful Roggiero), and tells his knights to spread the word that an unknown warrior has arrived to offer his services to the city, while he himself anxiously awaits Roggiero's return. Argirio and Amenaide enter the garden, while Tancredi withdraws, but remains within hearing. Argirio tells his knights to bid his friends attend the wedding of his daughter at midday (Andate, al gran tempi' invitate gli amici - Go, invite our friends to the great temple), demanding her obedience. As the knights leave, Amenaide asks for a delay in her marriage, but Argirio tells her that Syracuse is in danger: the enemy leader, Solamir, who has asked her hand in marriage, has surrounded the city and there is danger from within with the rumoured return of Tancredi, seeking revenge: the senate has condemned any such traitor to death, meanwhile she must marry Orbazzano, who will lead the Syracusans against the Moors.

Recitativo e Aria [8]. Argirio tells Amenaide that the senate has condemned every traitor to death (Della patria ogni nemico danna a morte il Senato – The senate has condemned to death every enemy of the country) [9] and she must remember that she is his daughter (Pensa, pensa che sei mia figlia - Think, think that you are my daughter).

Recitativo [10]. Argirio goes out, and Amenaide regrets her action in summoning Tancredi, to his imminent danger (Che feci! incauta! - What have I done! Thoughtless woman!). Tancredi now reveals himself, to her dismay.

Recitativo e Duetto [11]. Amenaide tells Tancredi that he must make his escape, (Oh qual scegliesti terribil ora! - Oh what a terrible moment you have chosen!), responding coldly to his protestations of love, [12] for the very air he breathes holds peril (L'aura che intorno spiri - The air you breathe brings mortal danger). They both lament the situation in which they find themselves, with the necessity of parting.

Coro [13]. The following scene is set in a public square, near the city walls and leading to a magnificent Gothic cathedral. In the square there are ancient monuments, and here the people gather to see the wedding. The nobles summon love and pleasure (Amori scendete, scendete a piaceri - Arise love, arise joy!) and to a march warriors and knights make their entry, taking their due places (Alla gloria, al trionfo, agli allori - March forward to glory, triumph and the laurel crown).

Recitativo [14]. Argirio addresses the assembly, assuring them that this marriage will reconcile the feuding factions of Syracuse (Amici, Cavalieri, al Tempio! - Friends, knights, to the temple). Tancredi, in disguise, offers himself to Argirio, promising loyalty and honour (Fede e onore - Loyalty and honour is my device), as he looks at Amenaide, who he thinks has betrayed him by accepting marriage to Orbazzano. Amenaide now refuses to obey her father, even if disobedience cost her life. Tancredi is overjoyed at what he hears but Orbazzano, who now enters, is angry at what he has overheard and at evidence of Amenaide's disloyalty.

Recitativo istrumentale e Finale [15]. Orbazzano shows the letter Amenaide had written to Tancredi, which has fallen into his hands, imagining that this is a letter to Solamir, her supposed secret lover, bidding him enter and capture the city (Il suo infernal delitto - Her damnable treachery, written in her own hand): her treachery must be rewarded with death. Argirio reads the letter and he and Tancredi express their dismay.

Finale primo [16]. Amenaide is distressed at the false accusation (Ciel! che feci! fier cimento! - Heavens, what have I done! Unhappy that I am!). Those present greet the revelation with horror (Qual orrore! - What horror!). Amenaide turns to her father (Padre amato - Beloved father), who disowns her, and then to Tancredi (Ma! tu almeno - But you at least) and is now repudiated by him too. Orbazzano can now have his revenge. Of all present only Isaura remains faithful. Amenaide is dragged off to prison, as all lament the turn events have taken (Quale infausta arrenda giarna! - What an unlucky and terrible day!).

Act II

Recitativo [17]. The first scene of the second act is set in a gallery in the castle of Argirio. There is a writing-table and a richly decorated chair. Orbazzano is angry at Amenaide's contempt for him and her apparent treachery (Vedesti? L'indegna! - You have seen? The unworthy woman!): Isaura pities Amenaide's fate at the command of her own father, while among the knights there is a mixture of the two emotions. Isaura reminds Argirio that Amenaide is his own daughter (E tua figlia! - She is your daughter), but he disowns her.

Recitativo [18]. Argirio is in distress at events (Oh Dio! Crudel! qual name cara e fatal - Oh God! Cruel! You remind me of that name both dear and fatal).

Aria [19]. Argirio yields reluctantly to Orbazzano's demands and condemns Amenaide to death (Ah! segnar invano io tento - Vainly do I try to sign her death warrant), as some plead for mercy and others appeal to his patriotism.

Recitativo [20]. Argirio and the others go out, leaving Isaura and Orbazzano. She reproaches him for his cruelty (Trionfa, esulta, barbaro! - Triumph and exult, barbarous man!).

Aria [21]. As Orbazzano leaves, Isaura invokes divine aid for Amenaide (Tu che i miseri conforti - Thou who comfortest the wretched, beloved hope, give her patience in her suffering).

Scena [22]. The scene changes to a prison, with guards at the gates. Amenaide is in chains. She laments her fate (Di mia vita infelice - This then is the end of my unhappy life), dying for Tancredi, who nevertheless thinks her disloyal.

Cavatina [23]. Yet to die for love is not a cruel fate (No, che il morir non e - No, to die is not so cruel, if I die for love), for one day Tancredi will realise the truth.

Recitativo [24]. Orbazzano, with guards and knights, comes to seek justice (Di gia l'ora e trascorsa - The hour has already passed). Orbazzano asks if there is anyone who dares to defend her and at this point Tancredi intervenes, resolved to save Amenaide, although he believes her guilty (Fermate! Io l'accusata donna difendo - Stop! I will defend the accused lady). He throws down his gauntlet before Orbazzano, who accepts the challenge. Amenaide urges him to prove her innocence, but this he does not believe: he has come, instead, to punish her.

Recitativo [25]. Argirio embraces the unknown knight, seeking to know his identity (Ah si! pace, contento - Ah yes! Peace and joy are far from my heart).

Duetto [26]. Argirio seeks to learn the identity of his daughter's champion (Ah! se de'mali miei - Ah! If you pity my misfortune, tell me who you are). The trumpets sound and Tancredi leaves for the contest, with the blessing of Argirio. [8] Recitativo. Amenaide, learning from Isaura the turn events have taken, prays for divine protection for her champion (Gran Dio! Deh! tu proteggi - Great God! protect my champion), begging that Tancredi may return to her and recognise her innocence.

Aria [27]. Amenaide prays for help (Giusto Dio che umile adoro - Just God, whom I humbly worship). News comes of Tancredi's victory, to the delight of Amenaide and her supporters.

[28] In the main square townspeople gather and knights and soldiers march in, with Tancredi in a triumphal chariot, escorted by his men, and the arms of Orbazzano displayed as trophies. The people rejoice (Plaudite, a popoli - Applaud, people, the victor).

[29] Tancredi, however, sweet as victory is, has resolved to leave Syracuse to die in some distant country (Caro, e a me sacro e questo suolo - Dear and sacred to me is this land).

Recitativo [30]. Amenaide approaches him (Tu a me la vita generoso serbasti - You have generously saved my life), but he still doubts her loyalty, believing that she is unfaithful to him.

Duetto [31]. Tancredi will not hear her (Lasciami: non t'ascolto - Let me go: I will not listen to you) but she urges him, in that case, to kill her. As they go out, Tancredi prevents Roggiero from following him.

Recitativo [32]. Roggiero will not abandon his leader, but now having learned from Isaura that Amenaide's innocence can be proved (S'avverassero pure i detti suoi! - If her words were only true), seeing some hope for Tancredi.

Aria [33]. The news is more than welcome, as Roggiero reflects, for if Amenaide is innocent Tancredi can live in peace, the torch of love shining once more (Torni alfin ridente e bella - May the torch of love return shining, smiling and fair).

Gran Scena [34]. The scene is now a mountain range, with ravines and waterfalls forming the Fountain of Arethusa: Etna can be seen in the distance, while the sun in the West is reflected from the sea. There is a cavern, before which Tancredi grieves over his sad destiny (Dove son io? - Where am I? Through what horrors does my despair lead me!), never forgetting the one who betrayed him (Ah! che scordar non so - Oh that I could forget!).

Coro [35]. Syracusan knights come in search of their champion against Solamir (Regna il terror nella citta - Terror reigns in the city).

Recitativo [36]. Argirio, Amenaide, knights and soldiers now find their hero, whose identity Amenaide has revealed (Ecco, amici, Tancredi - Here, friends, is Tancredi). Tancredi, however, while willing to fight and die for Syracuse, still does not believe Amenaide's innocence.

Rondo [37]. Tancredi now seeks death in combat (Perche turbar la calma – Why trouble the peace of my heart, child of sorrow). He is urged to battle (Vieni al campo - Come to the field).

Recitativo [38]. Isaura and Amenaide now await the issue of the battle (Quanti tormenti in un sol giorno! - How many torments in one single day!). Shouts of triumph are heard and Argirio returns with Tancredi, who has killed Solamir, the latter, dying, having justified the innocence of Amenaide.

Secondo finale [39]. The lovers are re-united (Fra quai soavi palpiti – Gently beats my heart) and Argirio and Amenaide express their joy, shared with Tancredi (Si grande e il mio contento - So great is my joy), and, with Isaura, they celebrate the final happiness of Amenaide and Tancredi in a scene of general rejoicing.

L’Italiana in Algeri

1. Sinfonia
2. Act I Scene 1: Introduzione: Serenate il mesto ciglio - Cavatina e Stretta dell'Introduzione: Delle donne l'arroganza (Chorus, Elvira, Zulma, Haly, Mustafa)
3. Act I Scene 1: Recitativo: Ritiratevi tutti (Mustafa, Zulma, Elvira, Haly)
4. Act I Scene 3: Cavatina: Languir per una bella (Lindoro)
5. Act I Scene 3: Recitativo e Duetto: Ah, quando fia (Lindoro, Mustafa)
6. Act I Scene 3: Duetto: Se inclinassi a prender moglie (Lindoro, Mustafa)
7. Act I Scene 4: Coro: Quanta roba! Quanti schiavi! - Cavatina: Cruda sorte! Amor tiranno! (Chorus, Isabella)
8. Act I Scene 4: Recitativo: Gia ci siam. Tanto fa (Isabella, Taddeo, Haly)
9. Act I Scene 5: Recitativo: Ah! Isabella … siam giunti a mal partito (Taddeo, Isabella)
10. Act I Scene 5: Duetto: Ai capricci della sorte (Isabella, Taddeo)
11. Act I Scene 6: Recitativo: E ricusar potresti (Zulma, Lindoro, Elvira) - Scene 7: Ascoltami, Italiano (Mustafa, Lindoro) - Scene 8: Dunque degg'io lasciarvi (Elvira, Mustafa, Haly)
12. Act I Scene 8: Aria: Gia d'insolito ardore nel petto (Mustafa)
13. Act I Scene 9: Recitativo: Vi dico il ver (Zulma, Elvira, Lindoro)
14. Act I Scene 10: Coro nel Finale I: Viva, viva il flagel delle donne (Chorus, Haly, Mustafa)
15. Act I Scene 11: Duettino nel Finale I: Oh! Che muso, che figura! (Isabella, Mustafa)
16. Act I Scene 12: Quartettino nel Finale I: Vo' star con mia nipote (Taddeo, Haly, Mustafa, Isabella)
17. Act I Scene 13: Settimino: Pria di dividerci - Seguito e Stretta: Va sossopra il mio cervello (Zulma, Elvira, Lindoro, Isabella, Mustafa, Taddeo, Haly, Chorus)
18. Act II Scene 1: Introduzione: Uno stupido, uno stolto (Chorus, Elvira, Zulma, Haly)
19. Act II Scene 2: Recitativo: Amiche, andate a dire all'Italiana (Mustafa, Zulma, Elvira)
20. Act II Scene 3: Recitativo: Qual disdetta e la mia! Onor e patria (Isabella, Lindoro)
21. Act II Scene 3: Cavatina: Oh, come il cor di giubilo (Lindoro)
22. Act II Scene 4: Recitativo: Ah! Se da solo a sola (Mustafa, Taddeo)
23. Act II Scene 4: Coro: Viva il grande Kaimakan (Chorus)
24. Act II Scene 4: Recitativo: Kaimakan! Io non capisco niente (Taddeo, Mustafa)
25. Act II Scene 4: Aria: Ho un gran peso sulla testa (Taddeo, Chorus)
26. Act II Scene 5: Recitativo: Dunque a momenti (Isabella, Lindoro, Elvira, Zulma)
27. Act II Scene 5: Cavatina: Per lui che adoro (Isabella, Mustafa, Taddeo, Lindoro)
28. Act II Scene 6: Recitativo: Io non resisto piu: questa Isabella (Mustafa, Taddeo, Lindoro)
29. Act II Scene 6: Quintetto: Ti presento di mia man (Mustafa, Isabella, Taddeo, Lindoro, Elvira)
30. Act II Scene 7: Recitativo: Con tutta la sua boria (Haly)
31. Act II Scene 7: Aria: Le femmine d'Italia (Haly)
32. Act II Scene 8: Recitativo: E tu speri di togliere (Taddeo, Lindoro, Mustafa)
33. Act II Scene 10: Recitativo: Orsu: la tua nipote con chi crede (Mustafa, Lindoro, Taddeo)
34. Act II Scene 10: Terzetto: Pappataci! Che mai sento! (Mustafa, Lindoro, Taddeo)
35. Act II Scene 11: Recitativo: Tutti i nostri Italiani (Taddeo, Lindoro)
36. Act II Scene 11: Coro: Pronti abbiamo e ferri e mani (Chorus)
37. Act II Scene 11: Recitativo: Amici, in ogni evento (Isabella, Taddeo)
38. Act II Scene 11: Scena ed Aria: Pensa alla patria, e intrepido (Isabella, Chorus)
39. Act II Scene 12: Recitativo: Che bel core ha costei! (Taddeo, Mustafa)
40. Act II Scene 13: Finale II: Dei pappataci s'avanza il coro (Lindoro, Chorus, Taddeo, Mustafa) 41. Act II Scene 14: Quartetto nel Finale II: Non sei tu che il grado eletto (Isabella, Mustafa, Chorus, Lindoro, Taddeo)
42. Act II Scene 15: Seguito: Son l'aure seconde, son placide l'onde (Chorus, Lindoro, Isabella, Taddeo, Mustafa)
43. Act II Scene 16: Stretta del Finale II: Mio signore (Haly, Elvira, Zulma, Mustafa, Isabella, Lindoro, Taddeo, Chorus)

Dramma giocoso in two acts by Angelo Anelli

Mustafà, Bey or Dey of Algiers – Bass
Elvira, his wife – Soprano
Zulma, Elvira’s slave and confidante – Mezzo-soprano
Haly, captain of the Algerian Corsairs – Bass
Lindoro, a young Italian, favourite of Mustafà – Tenor
Isabella, an Italian lady – Contralto
Taddeo, her companion – Bass

When the 21-year-old Gioachino Rossini wrote his L’Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) for Venice in 1813 he had already made his début as an opera composer two and a half years earlier, yet this was his tenth opera—a quarter of all the operas which he was to write up to 1829. The majority of these creative pyrotechnics were inspired by the fun-loving lagoon city of Venice, where Rossini made his operatic début with the small farsa La cambiale di matrimonio (The Bill of Marriage). With his next farsa, L’inganno felice (The Happy Deception), also written for the same house, the Teatro San Moisè, Rossini gained such huge popularity that the impresario there immediately signed him up to write three further one-act operas. So straightaway Rossini returned to Venice, even though by then he was fêted elsewhere: he had received commissions from Bologna and Ferrara but it was in Milan that he achieved overnight fame when his opera La pietra del paragone (The Touchstone) triumphed at La Scala. Next came an important commission from the Teatro la Fenice to write his first serious opera Tancredi, which was another triumph for the young man. Rossini experienced what it meant to have success, to be celebrated, from being the poor son of a town trumpeter to becoming a personality much in demand—a feeling of optimism took hold of him, which allowed him to forget his initial feelings of angst. Out of this eruption of high spirits was born L’Italiana in Algeri, the acme of deliriousness, of unparalleled euphoria.

Along with Venice’s small theatres, which included the aforementioned Teatro San Moisè, and the large La Fenice, there was also another local theatre, the San Benedetto, which was used by various theatre troupes. For the 1813 spring season the Philharmonic Dilettantes, led by the impresario Giovanni Gallo, organized a short season ‘For the Good of the Poor’ for which Rossini’s La pietra del paragone and a newly-composed opera by Carlo Coccia, to a libretto by Gaetano Rossi, were advertised. In the cast were two renowned singers, the contralto Maria Marcolini and the bass Filippo Galli, who a few months earlier had triumphed in Rossini’s Pietra in Milan, so it was no wonder that this hit was now introduced to the Venetians.

The première of La pietra del paragone took place on 19 April but the Venetians, perhaps a little prejudiced against something imported from Milan, reacted to it guardedly and criticized it for its extravagant orchestration; ten days later the opera was replaced by Stefano Pavesi’s Ser Marcantonio. Eventually, from the 8 to 20 March, the first act of Pavesi’s opera and the second act of Rossini’s opera were performed in tandem, an indication that neither work was completely convincing and that the impresario wanted to keep the public onside with this pastiche until Coccia’s new opera was ready. But it was a long time coming. At this point Gallo, as has always been assumed up to now, had implored Rossini to write a new opera immediately, in order to bridge the gap caused by the delay of the Coccia opera. This work, to a libretto by Giuseppe Foppa (instead of the advertised Gaetano Rossi), and with the title of La donna selvaggia (The Wild Woman), finally reached the stage on 26 June 1813.

The Rossini scholar Paolo Fabbri has advanced another theory: ‘It was the composer who had recklessly offered, on account of having made such a poor impression, to redeem himself.’ In fact there is little evidence to suggest that the impresario felt inclined, in an already difficult season, to put on a second new opera, a much more difficult undertaking than to fall back on an existing work which was already in the singers’ repertoire. What is sure is that Rossini changed his original plans and by 8 May was already at work on the new opera, as his father, who was waiting for him at the little town of Adria in the Veneto region, learnt in a letter from him: ‘I am taking advantage of Giuseppe Bedolo’s return to Adria, to tell you of my good health and that of Mama and at the same time to ask you to call on Malanotte and to tell her that I am writing an opera for the Teatro San Benedetto and that, as a result, I shall not have the pleasure of your company in Adria.’

The ease with which Rossini set to work suggests that the initiative for writing this opera, completely free of plagiarism, came from the composer himself: he probably found in the libretto to L’Italiana in Algeri written by Angelo Anelli, whom he had met in Milan, a congenial model. So there was no need to have a new libretto written in an impossibly short time-scale as a last-minute replacement, but on the contrary, a good excuse at last to be able to set to music a libretto of quality. Two years later, when he was on the look-out for a suitable libretto for his début in Rome, Rossini requested from Anelli a libretto with words which would exactly fit the character of the Italiana: ‘I’m writing this carnival for Rome and what I would like from you is a humorous libretto full of spectacle, do you understand? [...] If you already have to hand an old libretto, then simply adapt it, so long as it’s funny.’ ‘Last, but not least, what I would ask of you is for something outlandish in your ideas for the subject, the metres and the action etc.’ One could assume from this that Rossini was aware of the opera that had already been written to this text, by Luigi Mosca, the score of which was in the archive of La Scala’s copyist Giovanni Ricordi, and which he was probably able to study. To a certain extent also the urge to measure himself against his colleagues would probably have played a part.

A comparison of the two versions of the libretto clearly shows that countless changes had to be made to the new setting. Although the structure of the opera has not been inherently changed, emphases have been shifted, above all in relation to the principal character of Isabella. So that she can effectively begin the second scene (the hijacked ship on the beach at Algiers) an aria for Taddeo has had to be dropped, in order to complement Isabella’s performance of the cavatina with a forceful cabaletta. A second aria for Lindoro would have merely delayed the first finale and was therefore cut. In the second act Isabella would have sung a love-duet with Lindoro but it was deemed superfluous, so it was replaced by a new aria for Lindoro, so that the prima donna could come into her own with an additional aria in the next-but-one number. So now Isabella has three arias, instead of two, while Lindoro’s two arias are better distributed. Mustafà retains his numbers but his appearance in the introduction, as well as his aria, are completely new, in order to invest the Bey with a macho character, which is contrasted all the more with his downfall. In the two big ensemble numbers, the finale of Act 1 and the Act 2 quintet, some passages have been added or altered, which give due weight to the ensembles. All these adjustments can plainly be put down to Rossini’s musical and dramatic requirements, and they show very clearly how disinclined he was to set just any text at the drop of a hat, even “a washing-list” (as the anecdote has it). For him the structure of the opera and the inner meaning of the individual characters had, above all, to be right.

The opinion is often put forward that Rossini had cut the duet between Isabella and Lindoro because of his aversion to love-duets, but there are enough examples of these in Rossini’s oeuvre to confound this view. Here in L’Italiana the love-duet disrupted the flow of the opera, on the one hand within the action, since the love between Lindoro and Isabella is not central to the opera, meaning that it is never called into question (her little misunderstanding is cleared up in a short recitative), while a duet would only have held up the action without creating a new situation; on the other hand, in the musical loading of the solos (above all Isabella’s) both singers already have to sing duets with Mustafà and Taddeo.

Much importance has been, and still is, attached to Isabella’s patriotic rondo, and Rossini himself acknowledged this when, half a century later, he tried to counter his reputation as a reactionary, while pointing out that he had set these verses passionately and successfully while he was still in his artistic youth. With hindsight such an interpretation was an easy one to make. In the year 1813 the “spirited” setting could hardly be attributable to political-patriotic reasons. These verses already existed word for word in 1808 and had in 1813 at most a political significance in this respect, when it was good form, with Venice being under French influence, to allow patriotic sentiment to arise (‘Napoleon had just this minute rekindled patriotism’ Stendhal said). Fundamentally Rossini was not a political person, and if he succeeded musically in furnishing the text with patriotic fervour, so this should be attributed to his genius in putting into an appropriate form human emotions and feelings to which patriotism also belongs.

Not to be forgotten is the erotic component, which permeates the libretto. While in the Mosca version of the opera Isabella ended her aria with the innocuous verse: ‘La malizia del mio sesso | di costor trionferà’(‘The astuteness of my sex will win the day’) in Rossini there is added a rondo, in which the performer can let loose the full range of her flirtatiousness and which ends with verses which are more than ambiguous: ‘Tutti la bramano | tutti la chiedono | da vaga femmina | felicità’ (‘All desire her, all clamour for her, bliss from femininity’). No translation can do justice to this blatant lewdness, in which the expression vaga femmina can mean not only a pretty woman but also a precise anatomical term. So it is no wonder that, already in the following year (1814 in Milan), this final verse should be replaced by: ‘Ma un volto amabile | li fa cascar’ (‘But they all fall for a pretty face’), and that perhaps the replacement of the aria had to do with other pieces, as we shall see further below.

The performer should sing these salacious verses on the stage as though she had just thought of them herself: even if the famous pictures of Maria Marcolini show only a little of her sex appeal, she was doubtless a performer who did not suppress her erotic charisma and she certainly turned on the charm when she was on stage (and probably off it too). Stendhal even suggests that she was Rossini’s lover. She was specially fond of appearing in travesty rôles, so at least one disguise scene had to be featured. Rossini had already got to know “Marietta”, who was twelve years older than he, during his student days in Bologna, where they appeared together in public concerts. Already in his second opera, L’equivoco stravagante (The Curious Misunderstanding), there was a part for Marcolini, in which she played not only a girl who was suspected of being disguised as a eunuch, but who was also dressed as a soldier escaping from prison. And after this far too risqué opera was shut down by the police after three performances Rossini was allowed to write a new scene for Marietta in the proper trouser-rôle of Quinto Fabio by Domenico Puccini in which she appeared on horseback, a rôle whose interpretative possibilities she specially relished. A few months later Rossini wrote Ciro in Babilonia (Cyrus in Babylon) for Ferrara, with Marcolini in the title-rôle of the virile conqueror Ciro, which also contained a prison scene typical of opera seria, with some of the cast in chains. The next collaboration, La pietra del paragone, marked Rossini’s début at La Scala. Maria Marcolini appeared in the rôle of the beautiful countess and eventually as a dandified officer who rendered the women on stage (and the men in the audience) weak at the knees. Their final collaboration was Sigismondo, once again with Rossini’s patroness in the trouser title-rôle. As we shall see, the rôle of Isabella was to be Marietta’s most feminine Rossini rôle in which this time, actually playing the part of a woman, she twists the men round her little finger.

It took Rossini barely a month to write L’Italiana in Algeri, an astonishingly short time, even allowing for the fact that the recitative, Haly’s aria and probably Lindoro’s second aria were composed by an assistant; it is remarkable then that this masterpiece — perhaps as opposed to Il barbiere di Siviglia — does not feature self-borrowings from earlier operas (and would not also provide such a service for later ones.)

L’Italiana in Algeri reached the stage of the Teatro San Benedetto on 22 May 1813 and two days later the local paper carried a rave review of it. Along with the aforementioned Maria Marcolini as Isabella the cast included Filippo Galli as Mustafà, Serafino Gentili (Lindoro), Paolo Rosich (Taddeo), Luttgart Annibaldi (Elvira), Annunziata Berni Chelli (Zulma) and Giuseppe Spirito (Haly). Owing to the indisposition of Marcolini the second performance did not take place until 29 May, after which it ran for the whole of June. Already after the second performance of the opera the critic of the Giornale dipartimentale dell’Adriatico wrote prophetically: “On Sunday evening the blossoming genius of this clever maestro was acclaimed, with programmes being thrown into the air and a standing ovation; and Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri, on account of its genius and artistry, will be counted everywhere among the finest of operas.” Rossini himself was also well aware of this and many times he supervised new productions of the opera on other stages.

So he personally oversaw the performances of it in Milan in the spring of 1814; in between two commissions for La Scala, Aureliano in Palmira (Aurelianus in Palmira) for the 1813/1814 carnival and Il Turco in Italia (The Turk in Italy) for the summer of 1814, he rehearsed L’Italiana in the newly-opened Teatro Rè, where he had already presented Tancredi. It was here that he inserted two new arias for Isabella; the first, ‘Cruda sorte!’, received a new orchestral introduction, while the second, ‘Per lui che adoro’, in the second act, underwent a significant change: the accompanying solo instrument, which in Venice had been entrusted to the cellist Valentino Bertoia, was now replaced by a flute. But Rossini made the biggest change to the rôle of Lindoro in the second act; his brief aria ‘Oh come il cor di giubilo’ was replaced by the substantial and more virtuoso cavatinaConcedi, amor pietoso’ (No. 9a). Perhaps Rossini wanted to replace the aria (which was probably not written by him) with a number which he had written, or perhaps Serafino Gentili, who again was singing the role of Lindoro asked for an aria which would bring him greater attention.

On 12 August 1815 the Corriere delle Dame asserted that: “L’Italiana in Algeri is probably Maestro Rossini’s masterpiece and is perhaps the only one among his operas which, because of its real beauty, is admired in all the important theatres in Italy.” L’Italiana continued on its triumphant path and was the first of Rossini’s operas to reach Germany, where it was performed in Munich in 1816. Even today it is the embodiment of Rossini’s most boisterous buffo style, and it caused Stendhal to sum it up with the felicitous words as: “...organized, total lunacy.”

Reto Müller
English translation by David Stevens


[1] No. 1: Sinfonia

Act I

[2] The scene is set in a hall adjoining the quarters of the Bey of Algiers, Mustapha, and of his wife, Elvira. In the centre is a sofa on which Elvira is reclining, attended by her maid, Zulma, and a chorus of eunuchs. The latter try to comfort Elvira, whose husband has tired of her. Zulma adds her own pleas, as women are made to obey. The voice of Haly, Captain of the Algerian corsairs, is heard announcing the approach of the Bey, who enters, complaining of the arrogance of women and of the trouble they cause. He is determined to put an end to the vexation Elvira gives him. Zulma urges her mistress to speak up bravely, while the eunuchs have their own misgivings. Elvira approaches Mustapha, who angrily dismisses her, at a loss how to deal with her. In the following ensemble he tells of his own changing humours, when he sees other girls, while the others comment on his anger.

[3] Mustapha dismisses all except Haly, whom he orders to bring him his Italian slave, continuing to complain of his dilemma with Elvira; he could give her to the Italian as a wife. Haly objects that the man is not a Turk, but Mustapha sees no objection there, after all he is the one who makes the laws. He goes on to explain his boredom with the women of his harem and his desire for an Italian woman; Haly must find such a woman for him within six days, on pain of death. Mustapha enters his apartment and Haly leaves.

[4] Mustapha’s Italian slave, Lindoro, enters, singing of his beloved, separated from him by the ocean, always faithful to him.

[5] Lindoro longs to return home to Italy. He is joined by Mustapha, who tells Lindoro he is to marry. Lindoro hesitates, doubting the possibility of marriage without love, but Mustapha suggests that surely money sometimes enters into it. Lindoro is bound to agree, up to a point, but Mustapha offers to show him his bride, a fair face, heart and the rest, posing a problem to Lindoro.

[6] Lindoro suggests that marriage must be a matter for prior consideration. Mustapha, in reply, assures him that his choice has everything Lindoro could want, riches, beauty and love. Lindoro wants honesty, a quality Mustapha assures him she has; fine eyes, which she has; black hair, fine complexion, all of which she has. Lindoro is in difficulties, loyal to his beloved, while Mustapha urges him to accept the girl he is offering him.

[7] The scene changes to the seashore. In the distance a ship wrecked in the diminishing storm can be seen, with people trying to escape. The corsairs’ ship draws near, and Haly, with other corsairs, approaches by land. The corsairs see the possibility of plunder from the sinking ship, and of women. This, Haly thinks, will be lucky for Mustapha. Among those disembarking is Isabella, just the thing for Mustapha. Isabella laments her fate, praying for help, but resolving to stand firm against the corsairs, using every female wile.

[8] Isabella repeats her resolve to stand firm. The corsairs have seized her travelling companion, Taddeo, who cries out for help. Isabella tells the men that he is her uncle and that they are both Italians, to the delight of Haly, who can now satisfy the Bey, as he leaves with the good news.

[9] Taddeo fears their fate, but Isabella is resolute. Taddeo tells her that he knows that she has sailed in the hope of finding her beloved Lindoro, but he fears his own possible fate.

[10] Isabella can bear misfortune but not jealousy. Taddeo is fearful for the future. Isabella thinks a Turk better than a rascal and is impatient with Taddeo and his pretensions. On reflection, however, she realises that she needs protection, and Taddeo that he needs her help. The quarrel is ended, for whatever reason, and they resolve to continue posing as niece and uncle.

[11] The scene is the hall of the opening. Zulma is amazed that Lindoro has refused Elvira, who, for her part, knows the kind of thing to expect from a husband.Zulma reminds them that the Bey’s word is law and tells them to be quiet, as Mustapha is approaching. Mustapha enters, promising to let Lindoro go back to Italy, as long as he takes Elvira with him, and willing to give him money. He tells Lindoro to hurry to arrange matters with the captain of the Italian ship moored nearby, and he leaves to do so. Mustapha tells Elvira that Italy will suit her very well. Haly enters with the news that a beautiful Italian girl has been found for his master, who, in turn, is delighted, and orders the women of the harem to be brought out to witness his triumph. Elvira must go at once, and can take Zulma with her, if she wants.

[12] Mustapha anticipates the pleasure to come, breaking off to urge Elvira and Zulma away and to tell Haly to bring the Italian beauty to him, showing her all respect. He goes out, accompanied by Haly and his attendants.

[13] Elvira admits to Zulma that, in spite of everything, she loves Mustapha. They are joined by Lindoro with news that the ship is ready to sail. He asks Elvira how she can still love Mustapha and promises her that in Italy she shall have all the husbands and lovers she wants.

[14] The scene is set in a magnificent hall, with a sofa for the Bey and at the back a balcony, on which stand the women of the harem. Mustapha is seated on the sofa, surrounded by the eunuchs, who sing in praise of the Bey, tamer of women. Haly tells Mustapha that the Italian girl is outside.

[15] Isabella is brought in, remarking to herself on the ugliness of the Bey and confident that she can deal with him. He, on the other hand, is delighted with her, but resolved to hide his feelings, which he barely succeeds in doing. Isabella addresses him, seeking his protection. Aside, Mustapha is captivated and Isabella is even surer of herself.

[16] Taddeo makes his way in, pushing Haly aside and introducing himself as Isabella’s uncle, but seeing that the Bey is won over by Isabella’s beauty. The Bey orders his execution but relents when Isabella tells him that Taddeo is her uncle, as the latter continues to tremble in fear at his possible fate. Mustapha is in love, and Isabella flatters him by declaring that he knows how to love.

[17] Elvira, Zulma and Lindoro come to bid farewell to the Bey. Isabella is amazed to see her Lindoro and he too can hardly believe his eyes. Mustapha is mystified by what is happening, as the two stand in wonderment. Isabella demands to know the identity of the woman with Lindoro, explained by Mustapha as his former wife, before he met Isabella. Isabella deplores his barbarity and demands that Elvira be allowed to stay and the man can be her slave. The situation is complicated and the act ends in general consternation.

Act II

[18] The scene is set in the small hall of Act I. Elvira and Zulma are there, with Haly and the eunuchs. These last comment on Mustapha’s folly. Elvira comments on Isabella’s cunning, tricking Mustapha.

[19] Elvira discusses the situation with Haly and Zulma, the latter suggesting that Mustapha will soon be glad to come back to Elvira again. As Mustapha approaches, Haly tells her to agree with the Bey and play for time. Mustapha asks the two women to tell the Italian girl that he will take coffee with her. Mustapha has information through the Italian slave and will have his way; he proposes to use Taddeo to serve his purpose.

[20] Isabella laments her misfortune, to find Lindoro, but with another. Lindoro approaches her, pleading, but she is angry at his proposed match with Elvira. Lindoro tries to explain the situation, and she suggests that they both make their escape together; for the moment they must part.

[21] Lindoro is delighted to have found his Isabella and to have been able to calm her anger at his supposed liaison with Elvira.

[22] Lindoro goes, and Mustapha enters, followed by Taddeo, then Haly and two Moors carrying a turban and a Turkish costume and sabre, accompanied by a chorus of eunuchs. Mustapha would like to be alone with the Italian girl. Taddeo begs the Bey for mercy, seeing himself followed by what seem to be the implements of imminent execution. Mustapha explains that the attendants bear the symbols of Taddeo’s appointment as Grand Kaimakam.

[23] Haly dresses Taddeo in Turkish robes and puts the turban on his head, while Mustapha fastens on him a scabbard. The eunuchs sing praise of the Grand Kaimakam, with the strength of a lion and the cunning of a serpent.

[24] Taddeo does not understand the meaning of this honour, but Mustapha assures him that he is now the Bey’s lieutenant. Taddeo, at a loss, admits to Mustapha that he is a fool and can barely read, but is told that his task is to make Isabella love him.

[25] Taddeo finds the turban too heavy on his head and the clothes troublesome; he would rather refuse this honour, but seeing Mustapha’s anger, agrees to remain Kaimakan, a decision applauded by the eunuchs, who sing his praises. Taddeo offers thanks and promises to approach Isabella, while worried by the situation in which he finds himself.

[26] The scene changes to a fine ground-floor apartment, with a loggia opening towards the sea. Isabella is dressing in Turkish costume, with Zulma and Elvira. Isabella orders her slave, Lindoro, to bring coffee for three, but Elvira suggests that the Bey wants to see Isabella alone. Isabella is shocked at Elvira’s apparent complaisance and advises her to learn from her how wives should handle their husbands. She tells Elvira to go to one side and watch.

[27] Isabella, attended by her female slaves, continues dressing, making herself more beautiful for her lover, and observed by Mustapha, Taddeo and Lindoro. She adds that Mustapha does not know what kind of woman she is. The men, apart, comment on the scene, finding Isabella irresistible, while she has every intention of tricking the Bey. Her dressing completed, she goes out and her slaves retire.

[28] Mustapha tells Lindoro to fetch Isabella to him, and, as he goes, Lindoro resolves to speak to her alone. Mustapha tells Taddeo to find Isabella, and when he demurs, tells him that that is his duty. Lindoro returns to announce that Isabella will be with him in a moment. The Bey tells Taddeo that he must leave them together when he gives the sign by sneezing.

[29] Isabella enters and Mustapha presents to her Taddeo, now a Kaimakam, a sign of his respect for her. She finds this just the thing for a man that looks like that and openly thanks the Bey. Taddeo tells Isabella the reason for his promotion and Lindoro tells Mustapha to see how Taddeo fulfils his duty. She addresses Mustapha as her dear one and Mustapha duly sneezes, a signal he has to repeat several times, while Taddeo refuses to go, to the amusement of Lindoro and Isabella. Two Moors bring coffee and Isabella welcomes in Elvira, invited, she says, by her husband. Mustapha is furious, threatening revenge, as the others tell him to console his wife.

[30] In a smaller room Haly is pleased enough at the Bey’s discomfiture.

[31] Haly finds Italian women supreme in cunning and in making men love them.

[32] Haly goes out, and Taddeo and Lindoro enter. Lindoro tells Taddeo that Isabella will need his help in order to escape. Taddeo reveals his identity, not as Isabella’s uncle but as her suitor; he had heard tell of a certain Lindoro, but is now sure of her affection. Lindoro, his identity still unknown to Taddeo, tells him to watch how he deals with Mustapha.

[33] They are joined by Mustapha, who tells Taddeo that he must clarify matters with his niece. Lindoro tells the Bey that Isabella is really in love with him, and, as Mustapha makes to go to her, adds that she will receive him with due ceremony as her Pappataci.

[34] Mustapha is delighted at the supposed honour, which Lindoro explains is an old Italian title. Taddeo adds that this is the counterpart of his honour as Kaimakam. They tell Mustapha of the preliminary duties, drinking, sleeping and eating, a plan that he finds delightful.

[35] In a magnificent apartment Lindoro and Taddeo discuss Isabella’s plan to release all the Italian captives, one group dressed as Pappataci and the others to join them on the ship. They see Isabella and her entourage approaching.

[36] The Italian slaves are ready for their freedom.

[37] Isabella tells the men to stay together, for soon their danger will be over. Now Taddeo and Lindoro must be guided by a woman.

[38] Isabella tells them to think of their country and be brave. She rebukes Taddeo for laughing and bids Lindoro have courage; loves makes her bolder, and soon they shall see their own country again.

[39] Taddeo is delighted at the success of Isabella’s plan, which he thinks has been for his benefit. Mustapha asks him where his niece is, and Taddeo claims that she is busy preparing to receive him into the order of the Pappataci, a reply that delights Mustapha.

[40] Lindoro enters, accompanied by Pappataci, ready for the ceremony. The Pappataci call on the horns to sound and Lindoro and Taddeo laugh at the scene, while Mustapha is delighted at the honour done him. The Pappataci remove Mustapha’s turban and robe and proudly dress him in a wig and the dress of a Pappataci.

[41] Isabella makes her entrance, summoning the one chosen to be a Pappataci to make the necessary promises, a duty that Mustapha willingly accepts, to general applause. Lindoro gives Taddeo a sheet of paper to read out and to be repeated by Mustapha. He must see and not see, hear and not hear, eat and drink and not mind what people say, and swear to this. Mustapha swears and is declared a Pappataci. The duties he must follow continue and, after Taddeo’s example, he sets to eating and drinking and being silent, as he has sworn.

[42] A ship appears, by the loggia, manned by sailors and European slaves. The sailors prepare to weigh anchor. Isabella tells Lindoro that it is time to go, but Taddeo, hearing the name Lindoro, realises that he has been gulled, while Mustapha, as a Pappataci, eats on and keeps silent. Taddeo decides to escape with Lindoro and Isabella.

[43] Elvira, with Zulma and Haly, ask Mustapha whether he cannot see what is going on, but the new Pappataci goes on eating and paying no attention. They think he is mad, while Isabella, Lindoro and Taddeo are delighted at their success. Now at last Mustapha realises that he has been duped, and calls for his Turks, eunuchs and Moors, who by now are all drunk. He understands his folly and will have no more of Italian girls, begging Elvira to forgive him. Isabella, Lindoro and Taddeo embark, ready to sail, bidden farewell by Elvira and the others. The moral, as the Italian girl has shown, must be that women will have their way.

Keith Anderson

Il Turco in Italia

1. Overture
2. Act I No. 1: Introduction with Chorus: Nostra patria e il mondo intero (Chorus, Zaida, Albazar, Poeta)
3. Act I No. 1: Recitative: Ah! se di questi Zingari l'arrivo (Poeta)
4. Act I No. 2: Cavatina: Vado in traccia d’una zingara (Geronio, Zaida e Zingare)
5. Act I No. 2: Recitative: Brava! Intesi ogni cosa (Poeta, Zaida, Albazar)
6. Act I No. 3a: Cavatina: Non si da follia maggiore (Fiorilla)
7. Act I No. 3b: Chorus, Cavatina and Duet: Voga, voga, a terra, a terra (Chorus, Fiorilla, Selim)
8. Act I No. 3b: Recitative: Della Zingara amante (Poeta, Narciso, Geronio)
9. Act I No. 4: Trio: Un marito scimunito, una moglie capricciosa (Poeta, Geronio, Narciso)
10. Act I No. 4: Recitative: Ola, tosto il caffe
11. Act I No. 5: Quartet: Siete Turchi: non vi credo (Fiorilla, Selim, Geronio, Narciso)
12. Act I No. 5: Recitative: Sono arrivato tardi (Poeta, Geronio, Fiorilla)
13. Act I No. 6: Duet: Per piacere alla signora (Geronio, Fiorilla)
14. Act I No. 6: Recitative: Sono arrivato tardi (Geronio, Fiorilla)
15. Act I No. 7: Finale I: Gran maraviglie (Chorus, Zaida, Selim, Poeta, Narciso, Fiorilla, Geronio)
16. Act II No. 7: Recitative: Via... cosa serve (Poeta, Geronio, Selim)
17. Act II No. 8: Duet: D’un bell’uso di Turchia (Selim, Geronio)
18. Act II No. 8: Recitative: Credea che questa scena (Poeta)
19. Act II No. 9: Chorus and Cavatina: Non v’e piacer perfetto (Chorus, Fiorilla)
20. Act II No. 9: Recitative: Che Turca impertinente (Fiorilla, Zaida, Selim)
21. Act II No. 10: Duet: Credete alle femmine (Selim, Fiorilla)
22. Act II No. 10: Recitative: Fermate! (Poeta, Narciso, Geronio)
23. Act II No. 11: Recitative and Aria: Intesi: ah tutto intesi... Tu seconda il mio disegno (Narciso)
24. Act II No. 11: Recitative: O che fatica (Poeta, Albazar)
25. Act II No. 12: Aria: Ah sarebbe troppo dolce (Albazar)
26. Act II No. 13: Chorus and Recitative: Amor la danza mova (Chorus, Fiorilla, Narciso, Selim, Zaida, Geronio)
27. Act II No. 14: Quintet: Oh guardate che accidente (Geronio, Narciso, Fiorilla, Selim, Zaida)
28. Act II No. 14: Recitative: Benedetta la festa (Albazar, Poeta, Geronio, Fiorilla)
29. Act II No. 15: Recitative and Aria: I vostri cenci vi mando... Squallida veste e bruna (Fiorilla, Chorus)
30. Act II No. 15: Recitative: Si, mi e forza partir (Fiorilla, Poeta, Geronio)
31. Act II No. 16: Finale II: Son la vite sul campo appassita (Tutti)

In 1788 the German composer Franz Seydelmann, since 1772 employed at the court in Dresden, made a setting of an Italian libretto by Caterino Mazzolà, Il turco in Italia, following his earlier successful exploration of exoticism in the same librettist’s chinoiserie Il mostro ossia Da gratitudine amore. Mazzolà, who had known both Casanova and Lorenzo Da Ponte in Venice, was appointed court poet in Dresden in 1780, where he was joined for a time by Da Ponte. He collaborated with Salieri in Vienna and in 1791 briefly served there, perhaps meeting Mozart, who may have been influenced in Die Zauberflöte by Mazzolà’s earlier masonic libretto Osiride. It was, in any case, Mazzolà who adapted Metastasio's libretto of La clemenza di Tito for Mozart, a work staged in Prague in September 1791. Constanze Mozart saw Seydelmann's version of Il Turco in Italia in Vienna in 1789, while her husband was away on his journey to Potsdam, and the libretto was in 1794 used by Mozart's pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr. For Rossini and Milan in 1814 the original libretto was adapted by Felice Romani, who worked for La Scala, Milan, for many years, writing some eighty libretti, generally much praised for their clarity and absence of padding.

The new opera, however, was not particularly well received in Milan, where audiences saw in it only the reverse situation to that in L'Italiana in Algeri. There were, nevertheless, twelve performances, and in 1821 it was revived in Milan, and there were performances in London, and, in the same decade, in New York, where it was given by Manuel Garcia and his company, the stimulus for Da Ponte, in the same city, to embark on further operatic ventures, and in 1827 in Edinburgh. Revivals of the opera in the twentieth century, after neglect of nearly a hundred years, allowed Maria Callas to give a spirited portrayal of the flighty Fiorilla, and the work, without Callas, formed an apt part of the thematic Turkish year at the Edinburgh Festival of 1957, with the visit there of the Piccola Scala.

In Il Turco in Italia Rossini makes considerable use of ensembles of one kind or another, inserting arias, particularly in the second act, for the benefit of the singers. These include a tenor aria for Albazar in the second act that is not by Rossini. Following common practice the recitatives would also have been entrusted to another composer, and it is thought that Geronio's Cavatina and the end of the opera may be the work of the La Scala maestro al cembalo Vincenzo Lavigna, a protégé of Paisiello, whom he idolized, and Verdi's counterpoint teacher. In the witty libretto the poet Prosdocimo serves, like Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte, as a cynical observer of folly, while the flighty Fiorilla grows in character as the plot develops. The final comedy of disguises again suggests Mozart and Da Ponte in their final collaboration.

Keith Anderson

Il barbiere di Siviglia

1. Sinfonia
2. Act I No. 1: Introduzione: Piano, pianissimo
3. Act I: Cavatina: Ecco, ridente in cielo
4. Act I: Seguito dell' Introduzione: Ehi, Fiorello
5. Act I: Recitativo: Gente indiscreta!
6. Act I No. 2: Cavatina: Largo al factotum della citta
7. Act I: Recitativo: Ah, ah! che bella vita!
8. Act I: Recitativo Povera disgraziata!
9. Act I No. 3: Canzone: Se il mio nome saper voi bramate
10. Act I: Recitativo: Oh cielo!
11. Act I No. 4: Duetto: All'idea di quel metallo
12. Act I: Recitativo: Ev - viva il mio Padrone!
13. Act I No. 5: Cavatina: Una voce poco fa
14. Act I: Recitativo: Si, si, la vincero 15. Act I: Recitativo: Oh buon di, signorina!
16. Act I: Recitativo: Ah, disgraziato Figaro!
17. Act I: Recitativo: Ah! Barbiere d'inferno
18. Act I No. 6: Aria: La calunnia e un venticello
19. Act I: Recitativo: Ah! che ne dite
20. Act I: Recitativo: Ma bravi! ma benone!
21. Act I No. 7: Duetto: Dunque io son ...
22. Act I: Recitativo: Ora mi sento meglio
23. Act I No. 8: Aria: A un dottor della mia sorte
24. Act I: Recitativo: Brontola quanto vuoi
25. Act I: Recitativo: Finora in questa camera
26. Act I No. 9: Finale I: Ehi, di casa! ... buona gente!
27. Act I: Seguito del Finale I: Che cosa accadde
28. Act I: Seguito del Finale I: Fredda ed immobile
29. Act I: Stretta del Finale I: Ma, signor ...
30. Act II: Recitativo: Ma vedi mio destino!
31. Act II No. 10: Duetto: Pace e gioia sia con voi
32. Act II: Recitativo: Insomma, mio signore
33. Act II: Recitativo: Venite, signorina
34. Act II No. 11: Aria: Contro un cor che accende amore
35. Act II: Recitativo: Bella voce! Bravissima!
36. Act II No. 12: Arietta: Quando mi sei vicina
37. Act II: Recitativo: Bravo, signor barbiere
38. Act II No. 13: Quintetto: Don Basilio!
39. Act II: Seguito del Quintetto: Buona sera, mio signore
40. Act II: Seguito del Quintetto: Stringi, bravissimo
41. Act II: Recitativo: Ah! disgraziato me! ...
42. Act II No. 14: Aria: Il vecchiotto cerca moglie
43. Act II: Recitativo: Dunque voi Don Alonso
44. Act II: Recitativo: Per forza o per amore
45. Act II No. 15: Temporale
46. Act II: Recitativo: Alfine, eccoci qua
47. Act II No. 16: Terzetto: Ah! qual colpo inaspettato!
48. Act II: Recitativo: Ah disgraziati noi!
49. Act II No. 17: Recitativo strumentato: Il conte! ah che mai sento! ...
50. Act II: Aria: Cessa di piu resistere
51. Act II: Recitativo: Insomma, io no tutti i torti! ...
52. Act II No. 18: Finaletto Il: Di si felice innesto serbiam memoria eterna

Until recently Rossini was regarded as essentially a composer of comic operas, and above all of The Barber of Seville. Already for Beethoven, if we must believe the account of Rossini's visit to him in Vienna in 1822, the names of Rossini and The Barber were inseparable and in his opinion Rossini should have continued in that vein. For the five previous years, however, Rossini had distanced himself from this. In fact from the period when he had been in Naples working for the Royal San Carlo Theatre, which did not welcome operas of an inferior kind, Rossini had only written serious operas, and, incidentally, works full of stylistic and formal originality. His comic and semiserious operas, on the other hand, had been written for houses outside Naples, beginning with Rome, where his semiserious opera Torvaldo e Dorliska was staged in 1815 at the Teatro Valle, and his two final Italian comic operas, Il barbiere di Siviglia, in 1816 at the Teatro Argentina, and La Cenerentola in 1817, again at the Teatro Valle.

Rossini's contract with Duke Francesco Sforza-Cesarini was signed on 15th December 1815. By its terms he undertook to provide a comic opera for the coming carnival of 1816. After vainly approaching lacopo Ferretti for a libretto, he turned to Cesare Sterbini, the librettist of Torvaldo, who was asked to base his work on the well known comedy of Beaumarchais, Le barbier de Seville (1775), already the subject of a number of musical treatments, among them that of Petrosellini for Paisiello (1782) .Both librettist and composer realised the necessity of distancing themselves from the work of Petrosellini, to avoid giving the impression that they were competing with the much admired Paisiello and above all to adapt the piece to modern taste, with its conventions, very different from those of the version of Petrosellini and Paisiello. The necessity of such an adaptation was ignored, however, by Francesco Morlacchi, who was able calmly to write new music for the Petrosellini text for performance in Dresden in 1816. These exigencies were explicitly revealed in the libretto printed for the first performance of Rossini's opera on 20th February , 1816, with Gertrude Ighetti Giorgi, Emanuele Garcia, Luigi Zamboni, Bartolomeo Botticelli and Zenobio Vitarelli. The title-page read: Almaviva / o sia / L'inutile precauzione / commedia / del signor Beaumarchais / Di nuovo interamente versificata, e / ridotta al uso dell'odierno teatro / Musicale Italiano (Almaviva or The Useless Precaution, Comedy by Signor Beaumarchais, newly put into verse and adapted for the modern Italian musical theatre). The printed Notice to the Public continued:

The comedy of M. Beaumarchais entitled II barbiere di Siviglia o sia L'inutile precauzione is presented in Rome adapted as a comic drama under the title Almaviva o sia L'inutile precauzione, with the object of fully convincing the public of the feelings of respect and veneration entertained by the composer of the music of the present drama for the famous Paisiello, who has already treated this subject under its original title. Invited to undertake the same difficult task, Maestro Gioachino Rossini, in order not to incur the charge of impudent rivalry with the immortal composer who has preceded him, has expressly requested that II Barbiere di Siviglia should be newly put into verse and that the musical numbers should be differently arranged, in view of the changes in modern dramatic taste that have taken place since the period in which the famous Paisiello wrote his music.

Another difference in the arrangement of the present drama and that of the French comedy arose because of the necessity of introducing into the same story choruses, so much a part of modern practice and indispensable to achieve the required musical effect in a theatre of considerable size. For this reason the understanding of the public is requested for the composer of the new drama, who, without these pressing considerations, would not have dared to introduce the smallest change in the French play already sanctified by the applause of theatre audiences throughout Europe.

The librettist and composer originally planned the musical numbers as follows:

Act I
-Serenade and Cavatina with Choruses and Introduction
-Figaro's Cavatina
-Tenor's Cavatina
-Another (Cavatina) for the Prima Donna
-Duet: (Prima) Donna and Figaro -scene
-Figaro tells her of the Count's love
-Grand Duet for the Count and Figaro
-Aria for Vitarelli (later Don Basilio)
-Aria of the Tutor with Pertichino
-Grand Finale

Act II
-Tenor disguised as a music-master gives a lesson to the (Prima) Donna
-then the aria of the same in the same scene
-Second Donna Aria
-Quartet: Figaro ready to shave the Tutor, while the Count flirts with the Donna. The Tutor believes himself ill and takes his leave
-Terzetto: Figaro, Donna and Tenor
-Tenor Grand Aria

Comparing this scheme with the final result, it is easy to understand the changes in the plan of work. It is worth noticing the adjustments brought about to improve the dramatic continuity, the insertion of the storm and of the character of Don Basilio to provide action in the Quartet, without recourse to the instruction "di scena". This characteristic, together with the abundance of ensemble numbers, half the total, is eloquent testimony to the desire of Sterbini and Rossini to bring the greatest possible dynamism to the piece itself. The structural size of such numbers and the turns they give the plot are an even more precise indication of the measure of the changes that had taken place since the time of Paisiello. The Dionysiac possibilities of Rossini's music are revealed and were explicitly pointed out in a contemporary commentary on the opera. In 1830 Carlo Ritorni asked, with reference to the entry of Figaro: "But what is this aria? It is a song by a barber about his own life, sung in the street, on his way home". He went on to point out that Figaro's appearance on the stage is so noisy and in contrast to the preceding simple canzonetta, sung only with the accompaniment of the guitar, that it suggests the arrival, with his band, of the regiment of the Count's friend, the colonel... and when the barber talks again of his shop and what happens there, to the noisy accompaniment of the orchestra, it seems certain that musicians, dancers and others are entering, producing a lively and very considerable disturbance. The music went beyond the simple task of imitating nature and illustrating the text, introducing an element of intoxicated exuberance that overturns reason and overleaps in one bound the limitations imposed by class.


[1] As usual in Italian opera of the period, there is an instrumental introduction or Sinfonia before the curtain rises, customarily without connection with the stage action to follow. In this case Rossini used again a Sinfonia that he had written in 1813 for an opera seria, Aureliano in Palmira, and had already transferred in 1815 to another opera seria, Elisabetta, regina d'lnghilterra. This, according to custom, consists of a short slow introduction, here an Andante sostenuto in E major, followed by the main part of the movement, an Allegro, which starts in E minor but ends in E major. The Andante presents a short tripartite division, frequent in similar Rossini instrumental pieces. A cantabile episode of a clearly delineated rhythmic, melodic and harmonic kind, is preceded and followed by a dramatic section. The Allegro follows a plan typical of Rossini:


A first subject, here in E minor, is stated twice by the first violins, accompanied only by the strings. A tutti for full orchestra leads to D major, the dominant of the relative major of E minor, G major, and a second subject, in G major, is entrusted principally to the wind, introduced by the oboe and completed by the flute and repeated at once by horn and flute.


A crescendo in G major, in which the full orchestra gradually joins, returns, in a brief linking passage, to E minor.


The first subject is repeated, with the second subject in E major played by clarinet and flute and then by bassoon and flute. A crescendo in E major, in which the whole orchestra gradually joins, is followed by an E major conclusion for the full orchestra.

Act 1

The curtain rises on a square in Seville. The house of Don Bartolo faces onto the square. Day is breaking.

No.1 Introduction [2] Fiorello, servant of Count Almaviva, brings in a group of musicians, imploring them to be quiet (Piano pianissimo). He is immediately joined by the Count, who assures himself that all is in place. He has arranged a serenade for the beautiful girl that he had met before at the Prado in Madrid. Falling in love at first sight, he has followed her to Seville and there has courted her without success. Because the girl lives in the house of Don Bartolo, he thinks she is his daughter. [3] Accompanied by the musicians he has hired, the Count sings a song (the Cavatina Ecco ridente in cielo). The girl, however, gives no sign of life. [4] Disappointed, the Count prepares to dismiss the musicians, telling Fiorello to pay them (Ehi, Fiorello? Mio signore). Their noisy gratitude annoys the Count, who is afraid that they will wake the whole neighbourhood (Mille grazie, mio signore).

Recitative [5] Once these noisy musicians have gone (Gente indiscreta), the Count sends Fiorello away but stays in the square, hoping to see the girl when she comes out onto the balcony and to be able to speak to her. Someone is heard approaching, heralded by his singing, audible from a distance.

No.2 Cavatina [6] It is the barber-surgeon Figaro on the way to his shop, singing a song in celebration of himself and his thousands of activities (La ran la lera).

Recitative [7] While Figaro continues to sing his own praises (Ah, ah! che bella vita), the Count draws near, believing that he recognizes him. Figaro too recognizes the Count and bows in deference, but the latter stops him, since he is in Seville incognito. He then tells Figaro the reason for his presence there: Figaro can give him information, since he has access to the house, being of service to Don Bartolo in a number of ways. Figaro tells him that the girl is not the daughter of Don Bartolo, but only his ward.

While the two of them are talking, the girl, Rosina, appears on the balcony of Don Bartolo's house, looking to see if her lover is there as usual: she wants to send him a love-letter. The Count appears, but at the same time the voice of the crusty old Don Bartolo is heard within, asking the reason for the note that Rosina is holding. Rosina invents an excuse, saying that it is the words of a fashionable aria, from the opera Vain Precaution (Inutil Precauzione), and she lets it fall, pretending to do so by accident. While Don Bartolo rushes into the street to find and recover it, Rosina signals to the Count to take it. Furious, Don Bartolo tells her to go back into the house, threatening to treat her with even greater severity.

[8] The Count pities her enforced seclusion (Povera disgraziata!), but Figaro urges him to read the note. Rosina asks him to reveal his identity and intentions, as soon as her tyrannical guardian leaves the house, and declares that she is disposed to free herself from her present situation. Figaro tells the Count that Don Bartolo is an old miser and grumbler who has it in mind to marry Rosina in order to take her money. While the two of them are talking, Don Bartolo comes out of the house with the intention of arranging the marriage that evening. Figaro exhorts the Count to take advantage of the situation to declare himself to Rosina.

No.3 Canzone [9] The Count complies in a simple canzonetta (Se ii mio nome saper voi bramate), in which he says he is called Lindoro and is not rich but in love: he does not actually want Rosina to love him for his titles and riches. Rosina prepares to reply, when she is obliged to break off and withdraw from the window.

Recitative [10] At this point the Count is bursting with impatience (Oh cielo!) and asks Figaro to help him, promising him in return a handsome reward.

No.4 Duetto [11] At the thought of a reward, Figaro begins to devise a stratagem to bring the two lovers together (All'idea di quel metallo). First he suggests that the Count pretend that he is an officer of a regiment about to arrive in the city and that he is to be billeted on Don Bartolo. If he then pretends to be drunk, he is less likely to awaken the suspicions of the old man. Before going, Figaro tells the Count the address of his shop (Numero quindici, a mano manca).

Recitative [12] The scene ends with Fiorello complaining of his lot, standing waiting now for two hours for his master (Ev-viva il mio Padrone!).

The scene is inside the house of Don Bartolo.

No.5 Cavatina [13] In her room Rosina is writing a letter to Lindoro and gives vocal expression to her thoughts of love, at the same time revealing herself as a girl of some spirit (Una voce poco fa - lo sono docile, son rispettosa).

Recitative [14] Rosina does not know to whom she can give her letter for Lindoro (Si, si, la vincerb). [15] Figaro joins her (Oh buon dl, signorina!) and tells her that he can help her, but Don Bartolo arrives and Figaro has to hide. [16] Her guardian inveighs against Figaro (Ah, disgraziato Figaro!), who has upset all the servants through his prescribed cures, giving Berta sneezing powder and Ambrogio a soporific. [17] Soon Don Basilio, Rosina's music-master, arrives, interrupting Don Bartolo (Ah! Barbiere d'inferno...), and tells him that Count Almaviva has come to Seville. Don Bartolo knows of his love for Rosina and means to speed up his own marriage. Don Basilio helps him by spreading false stories about the Count.

No.6 Aria [18] Don Basilio expounds the terrible and destructive power of slander (La calunnia e un venticello).

Recitative [19] The two men withdraw to discuss matters (Ah! che ne dite?) and prepare the marriage contract, [20] but Figaro, in hiding, has heard everything (Ma bravi! ma benone!) and immediately tells Rosina. Pretending to be his cousin, he tells her of Lindoro and his love for her.

No.7 Duetto [21] Rosina feigns ingenuous surprise, but in fact she had understood everything very well and had already written herself the note that Figaro seeks (Dunque io son... tu non m'inganni). The latter realises that he has nothing to teach her.

Recitative [22] Figaro leaves with the message for Lindoro and Don Bartolo returns to question Rosina. He suspects that the real purpose of his visit was to send messages to the two young men and he seeks to prove definitely that Rosina has just written a note.

No.8 Aria [23] Don Bartolo tells Rosina he is no fool and that if she does not own up he will see she is kept locked in (A un dottor della mia sorte - Signorina, un'altra volta).

Recitative [24] Rosina, however, is not intimidated (Brontola quanto vuoi), leaving her maid Berta to complain [25] that she never has a moment's peace (Finora in questa camera). There is the sound of knocking at the door.

No.9 Finale I [26] The Count, dressed as an officer and pretending to be drunk, demands the lodging allotted to him (Quintetto: Ehi di casa, buona gente). Don Bartolo confronts him, trying to refuse him. In the midst of this Rosina comes in and at once recognizes Lindoro, while he, profiting from the confusion, tries to pass her a note. Partly through his increasingly heated argument with the Count and his growing suspicions of his maladroit attempts to pass a message to Rosina, Don Bartolo is at the end of his tether. Rosina saves the situation by hiding the note and substituting a harmless laundry-list. Don Bartolo is in consternation at the mistake he believes to have been made and Rosina stresses her complaints against his continuing suspicions. [27] Figaro arrives declaring that such a clamour has brought half the inhabitants of the city into the square outside (Alto la! Che cosa accadde) .Don Bartolo and the Count continue to quarrel, while Figaro, in an aside, urges the latter to prudence. At this point the police appear at the door (Fermi tutti, niun si muova). Those present surround the police officer, giving him their own version of events. They are convinced of the guilt of the intruder and are about to arrest him, but the Count privately reveals his true identity and instead of being taken to prison is treated with respect. [28] Don Bartolo is frightened (Largo: Freddo ed immobile) and [29] does not know what to do or think (Ma signor). There is general confusion (Mi par d'esser con la testa).

Act II

The scene is a room in the house of Don Bartolo.

Recitative [30] Don Bartolo is wondering about the intrusion that has just taken place (Ma vedi il mio destino!), suspecting that the mysterious officer might be an emissary of Count Almaviva. There is a noise at the door.

No.10 Duetto [31] It is the Count again, this time disguised as a music-master, bowing low in unctuous greeting (Pace e gioia sia con voi).

Recitative [32] The Count says that he is Don Alonso and is taking the place of Don Basilio, who is ill and he is to replace him for Rosina's lesson. He has incidentally intercepted a note from Count Almaviva to Rosina and wants to give it personally to Don Bartolo to ingratiate himself with him. [!] Don Bartolo goes to call Rosina for her lesson (Venite, signorina).

No. 11 Aria The girl, who has immediately recognized Lindoro, knows how to profit from the situation. [34] While singing a rondo (Contro un cor che accende amore - Cara immagine ridente), she takes the opportunity of communicating, sot to voce, her real feelings (Ah Lindoro, mio tesoro).

Recitative [35] The Count praises Rosina's voice (Bella voce! Bravissima!), but Don Bartolo is irritated by these modern arias and demands something simple from his own generation.

No.12 Arietta [36] As an example he sings an older song (Quando mi sei vicina).

[37] Figaro comes in, imitating Don Bartolo, to the latter's annoyance (Bravo, signor barbiere). Don Bartolo says that he does not want to be shaved, but Figaro insists. When he gives him the keys to fetch the necessary towels, Figaro takes the key of the door that gives onto Rosina's balcony.

No. 13 Quintetto [38] Don Basilio unexpectedly appears, to general surprise and embarrassment (Don Basilio! Cosa veggo?). With a little luck and the help of money given him secretly by the Count, [39] Don Basilio finally takes his leave (Buona sera, mio signore) and Figaro can start shaving Don Bartolo (Orsu, signor Don Bartolo). [40] While they are occupied (Stringi, bravissimo), Lindoro communicates to Rosina his intention of coming at night to take her away. Don Bartolo, however, overhears and inveighs against them all (Bricconi, birbanti).

Recitative [41] Left alone, Don Bartolo reflects on all this performance (Ah! disgraziato me!) and sends for Don Basilio. The old servant Berta complains about the situation in the house.

No. 14 Aria [42] He who wants a wife, she who wants a husband, all of them are mad (II vecchiotto cerca moglie). Herself, Berta would not be insensible to love, but no-one wants her any more.


[43] On the arrival of Don Basilio everything is made clear (Dunque voi Don Alonso). Not only was Don Alonso an impostor, but he must have been the Count in person. Don Bartolo decides to send immediately for the notary for the marriage contract. At this point Don Bartolo has an idea. [44] (Per forza o per amore) Profiting from the fact that Rosina does not know that Lindoro is in reality Count Almaviva, he makes her believe that Figaro is doing Count Almaviva's dirty work. Rosina is indignant and reveals to Don Bartolo their whole plan of flight. The police are summoned to arrest Figaro and the Count as thieves.

No. 15 Storm [45]

Recitative [46] While the storm rages, thanks to the key he has taken, Figaro and the Count enter Don Bartolo's house by means of a ladder up to Rosina's balcony (Alfine, eccoci qua). Rosina receives them with abuse, and at this point the Count reveals his true identity.

No. 16 Terzetto [47] Rosina is amazed (Ah qual colpo inaspettato), the Count is ecstatic and Figaro delighted at his success, but urges the two lovers to leave. Suddenly he realises that someone is about to come into the room and tells them to make their escape by the same ladder by which the two of them had made their entry (Zitti zitti, piano piano).

Recitative [48] The three of them quickly realise, however, that the ladder has gone (Ah, disgraziati noi! come si fa?). Don Basilio and the notary come in and Figaro and the Count force the latter to draw up a marriage contract between the Count and Rosina, and the former to act as witness. When Don Bartolo arrives with the police, everything has already been settled.

No.17 Scena and Aria [49] To general amazement at what has happened and at the presence of the Count (II Conte! ah, che mai sento!), [50] Almaviva invites Don Bartolo to accept the situation, Rosina finally to be happy and everyone to respect their union (Cessa di pill resistere - E tu infelice vittima - Ah il pill lieto, il pill felice).

Recitative [51] Disappointed, Don Bartolo regrets what has happened but then resigns himself to forgive them (Insomma io ho tutti i torti!).

No.18 Finaletto II

[52] At the invitation of Figaro, all join in general rejoicing (Di si felice innesto).

Notes and Synopsis by Professor Paolo Fabbri
(English translation by Keith Anderson)

La Cenerentola

1. Overture
2. Act I Scene 1: Introduction - No, no, no: non v'e (Clorinda, Tisbe, Cenerentola, Alidoro, Chorus)
3. Act I Scene 1: Recitative - Date lor mezzo scudo (Clorinda, Cenerentola, Alidoro, Tisbe)
4. Act I Scene 1: Cavatina - Miei rampolli femmini (Magnifico)
5. Act I Scene 1: Recitative - Sappiate che fra poco (Clorinda, Tisbe, Magnifico)
6. Act I Scene 1: Scena and Duet - Tutto e deserto (Ramiro, Cenerentola)
7. Act I Scene 1: Recitative - Non so che dir (Ramiro, Magnifico)
8. Act I Scene 1: Chorus - Scegli la sposa / Cavatina: Come un’ape ne’giorni d’aprile (Chorus, Dandini, Clorinda, Tisbe, Magnifico, Ramiro)
9. Act I Scene 1: Recitative - Allegrissimamante (Dandini, Clorinda, Magnifico, Ramiro, Tisbe)
10. Act I Scene 1: Recitative and Quintet - Signor, una parola (Cenerentola, Ramiro, Dandini, Magnifico, Alidoro)
11. Act I Scene 1: Recitative - Si, tutto cangera (Alidoro, Cenerentola)
12. Act I Scene 1: Aria - La del ciel nel’arcano profondo (Alidoro)
13. Act I Scene 2: Recitative - Ma bravo! Ma bravo! (Dandini, Magnifico, Ramiro, Clorinda, Tisbe)
14. Act I Scene 3: Chorus - Conciossiacosacche (Chorus, Magnifico)
15. Act I Scene 3: Duet and Finale - Zitto, zitto, piano, piano (Ramiro, Dandini, Clorinda, Tisbe)
16. Act I Scene 3: Chorus - Venga, inoltri (Chorus, Ramiro, Dandini, Alidoro, Clorinda, Tisbe, Cenerentola)
17. Act I Scene 3: Recitative - Signora Altezza, in tavola (Magnifico, Clorinda, Tisbe, Cenerentola, Ramiro, Dandini, Alidoro)
18. Act I Scene 3: Tutti - Mi par d’essere sognando (Chorus)
19. Act II Scene 1: Chorus - Ah! Della bella incognita (Chorus) (composed by L. Agolini)
20. Act II Scene 1: Recitative - Mi par che quei birbanti (Magnifico, Tisbe, Clorinda)
21. Act II Scene 1: Aria - Sia qualunque delle figlie (Magnifico)
22. Act II Scene 1: Recitative - Ah! questa bella incognita (Tisbe, Clorinda, Ramiro, Dandini, Cenerentola, Alidoro)
23. Act II Scene 1: Recitative - E allor... se non ti spaccio - Si, ritrovarla io giuro (Ramiro, Chorus)
24. Act II Scene 1: Recitative - La notte e omai vicina (Alidoro, Dandini, Magnifico)
25. Act II Scene 1: Duet - Un segreto d’importanza (Dandini, Magnifico)
26. Act II Scene 1: Recitative - Mi seconda il destino (Alidoro)
27. Act II Scene 2: Canzone - Una volta c’era un re (Cenerentola) / Recitative - Quanto sei caro! (Cenerentola, Clorinda, Magnifico, Tisbe)
28. Act II Scene 2: The Storm
29. Act II Scene 2: Recitative - Scusate, amici (Dandini, Magnifico, Ramiro, Clorinda, Cenerentola)
30. Act II Scene 2: Sextet - Siete voi! (Ramiro, Cenerentola, Magnifico, Clorinda, Tisbe, Dandini)
31. Act II Scene 2: Recitative - Dunque noi siam burlate (Tisbe, Clorinda, Alidoro)
32. Act II Scene 2: Recitative - La pillola e un po dura (Alidoro, Tisbe)
33. Act II Scene 3: Chorus - Della Fortuna instabile (Chorus, Tutti)

On 29th February 1816 Rossini signed a contract with the Teatro Valle which obliged him from October of the same year to be in Rome and there to provide the music for a new libretto, the work to have its première on 26th December. Rossini was first able to come to Rome in the middle of December, as the première of Otello had been postponed. At the same time the choice fell on the fairy story of Cinderella, for which Jacopo Ferretti’s libretto, based on Charles-Guillaume Etienne’s Cendrillon, provided the foundation. Within a few days Rossini composed one of his finest operas, taking the overture from La gazzetta (Naples 1816) and part of the final aria Nacqui all’affanno from the aria Cessa di più resistere written for the opera Il barbiere di Siviglia (1816). The leading performers at the première were Geltrude Righetti Giorgi as Cenerentola, Giacomo Guglielmi as Don Ramiro, Andrea Verni as Don Magnifico, and Giuseppe De Begnis as Dandini. The bass at his disposal for the rôle of Alidoro did not meet Rossini’s demands, and he therefore let his collaborator Luca Agolini have the aria Vasto teatro è il mondo. At the new performance in 1820 this aria was replaced by Rossini’s Là del ciel nel’arcano profondo, since he could now count on the eminent singer Gioachino Moncada as Alidoro; this aria is also sung here in the present version. In addition to Vasto teatro è il mondo Agolini also wrote the recitative of the chorus at the beginning of the second act, as well as Clorinda’s aria Sventurata! Me credea, which we have omitted.

La Cenerentola:
Interplay of Intelligence and Fantasy

We do not know why Gioachino Rossini was tempted to tackle the most classical, most popular of fairy stories, Cinderella. From a composer who normally shunned realistic actions and rhetorical sentiment in his search for an ideal beauty, suspended somewhere outside the banality of everyday existence, we might have expected a poetic reading of the story, interwoven with abstract fantasies and enlivened by the play of imagination. What could have been more appropriate, therefore, than a story about fairies, elves, Prince Charmings and angelic creatures, struggling with the forces of evil in pursuit of the ultimate triumph of good? Here at last was a subject that would free the composer from the need to explore psychological interpretations, something that was foreign to his nature, and avoided the dangers associated with situations that were ill suited to the aristocratic reserve of his muse. Instead, when Rossini received the libretto by Jacopo Ferretti based on Etienne’s Cendrillon, he took the opposite course. He replaces the fairy godmother of the story with a knowing and wise tutor; he transforms the tender protagonist into a victim bullied by two stupid half-sisters and a wicked, arrogant father; he changes the routine figure of the tenor lover into a lover capable of real passion and outbursts of generosity; he complicates the simplicity of the story by introducing a character, Dandini, who instead of limiting himself to the old device of disguises, ventures into meta-theatrical situations, delving into the labyrinth of the subconscious. This preference for a realistic interpretation of the fairy tale, spurning the opportunity to undulge his propensity for the abstract, is yet again evidence of Rossini’s intelligence, something which never ceases to surprise.

Rossini realised that, with his kind of limpid, sun-lit music, from which the subtle contrasts of chiaroscuro are absent, it would be difficult to project in an imaginary world of fantasy the evanescent figures of the fairy story. So he uses day-to-day actions and real characters in order to achieve the miracle of transforming the topoi of the buffo genre into the absolutes of poetry. It is not by accident that in L’italiana in Algeri the climax of an entertainment of elegant refinement is reached in the comic ceremonies of the Pappataci. To this intuitive instinct Rossini here adds the calculated disorder of madness, mixing without restraint dramatic elements that seem irreconcilable.

The hysteria of Clorinda and Tisbe, a symmetrical and stylized representation of robotic vacuity, contrasts with the sad humanity of Cenerentola; she and Ninetta in La gazza ladra are the truest and most moving characters of all Rossini’s works. In the edgy figuration of Allegri, Concertati and Strette Clorinda and Tisbe find perfect mechanisms for the frenzied expression of their stupidity, while Cenerentola is sympathetically characterized through sincere and moving music of a kind rare in Rossini’s operas. Her path to happiness is marked by a vocal progress beginning with the ingenuous simplicity of the exit canzonetta Una volta c’era un re, a subconscious and consolatory anticipation of her own life story; passing through the gentle, dreamlike music of the duet with Ramiro, Un soave non so che, where the woman in her awakes; through the dramatic pages of the quintet Signore, una parola, where a conscious rebel is born; through the proud affirmation of Sprezzo quei don, where true nobility of feeling is expressed; through the generous plea of Ah, Signor, where the feeling of infinite goodness emerges, finally culminating in the truly regal Rondo Nacqui all’affanno. The sweetness of so many of Cenerentola’s melodic phrases sits perfectly alongside pure bel canto vocalism, enriching the latter with pathos, and achieving an ideal balance between dazzling, headlong virtuosity and singing which vibrates with the intensity of it sentiments.

Cenerentola is, from beginning to end, a character of opera seria who stands out precisely because she is contrasted with characters of the opposite type. Also belonging to opera seria are the characters with whom she establishes a positive rapport: Prince Ramiro, who will reveal to her the magic of love, and the worthy Alidoro, who directs his pupil Ramiro to the right choice of wife. The duet between Cenerentola and Ramiro constitutes a remarkable prototype of those wonderful fateful meetings in which love is suddenly born, that are the principal element of lyric opera. As often happens in Rossini’s love duets, the two young people do not speak directly to each other or touch each other, but the spark released is so strong as to make Cenerentola drop the dishes she is holding. Then Ramiro and Cenerentola sing independently of their own emotions with a tenderness, an intensity and restraint that leave no doubt as to the cause of their beating hearts. Cenerentola, guided by her feelings, plays the cards of a female seduction that is more credible and more convincingly articulated than that of Rosina, skilfully alternating frailty and haughtiness, tenderness and pride, sadness and happiness.

In the present recording Alidoro sings an extended aria of great difficulty, Là del ciel nell’arcano profondo, that Rossini wrote for a performance of Cenerentola in December 1820 at the Teatro Apollo in Rome. At the première in January 1817 at the Teatro Valle Alidoro had a much more modest aria, Vasto teatro è il mondo, written by Luca Agolini, Rossini’s collaborator in the opera as well as the composer of the unaccompanied recitatives. Rossini had probably refrained from composing the more taxing aria because the singer available to him could not guarantee a level of performance in line with the importance of the occasion. When he was able to count on the excellent Gioachino Moncada in the repeat performances of 1820, Rossini wrote for the Alidoro a tripartite aria, preceded by a long accompanied recitative that calls for superior bel canto technique and a fine high register, difficult to reconcile with the rest of the rôle, conceived for a real bass. Rossini had Luca Agolini write two other numbers of less weight: the knights’ chorus Ah! Della bella incognita that opens the second act in an appropriately dramatic manner, and an aria for Clorinda, Sventurata! mi credea, here omitted so as not to affect the symmetry of the rôle with that of Tisbe. Cenerentola does not succeed in establishing a dialogue with her step-sisters Clorinda and Tisbe, blocked at the outset by their indifference and contempt, nor does she find any return of affection from her father, although she seeks it desperately up to the final bars of the opera, when she invites him to share her triumph. With Dandini the contact remains deferential and polite, yet distant and formal. The impossibility of communication is rendered by Rossini with an inspired device: when Cenerentola, after her appearance at the palace, turns with accents of great nobility to the supposed prince, Dandini finds no better way of answering than by repeating in caricature the same vocal figurations and identical repeats. This is an irresistible comic invention to imitate an aristocratic tone that is alien to him, but it is also the admission of an existential emptiness, the monologue of a person who does not exist. Don Magnifico too is a character from opera buffa, but of a different code from that which marks Clorinda and Tisbe: his gargantuan boasting, plebeian exuberance, selfishness and the maliciousness of decadent nobility put him in the category of comique significatif, indicating a type to be found again in the songs of Spaccanapoli, far removed from the abstract and mechanical world of the comique absolu, in which Cenerentola’s step-sisters drift around.

This mixture of styles, this cohabitation of characters who belong to planets far removed from each other, rather than giving rise to an unconvincing patchwork of heterogeneous ideas, has created a masterwork of exceptionally expressive tension and coherent organic unity. The variety of emotions forced Rossini into a giddy whirl of musical inventiveness, stimulating to the maximum a creativity which rebelled against the normal paths which logic would have dictated, resulting in flashes of originality, unexpected developments, and surprises that open up the rules of melodramatic dramaturgy.

No one is surprised that the search for the ideal bride, solemnly proclaimed in the kingdom, should be limited, with a contemptuous challenge to good sense, to a girl possessing every goodness and virtue and two step-sisters who are sinks of vice. Nor is it surprising that Cenerentola enters the competition, the only feminine presence, in a kingdom inhabited solely by men, an absurdity certainly brought about by the absence of a female chorus at the commissioning theatre, but accepted by Rossini without demur, happy to challenge yet again the rules of common sense.

It is difficult to classify this opera. To reject the usual category of opera comica and to place it in the genre of opera semiseria is just juggling with words. The description dramma giocoso assigned to it by Ferretti, and the classification Mozart and Da Ponte adopted for Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte, is nearer the mark. La Cenerentola is, however, a key opera for investigating and focussing on the principal characteristics, the expressive potentiality of Rossini’s music, and his unique capacity to adapt to the most disparate situations without ever sounding the wrong note and without ever losing the significant force of the work. It is one of the few operas that we are always ready to listen to, as each time it is able to recreate the wonder and freshness of its perfect symmetry, one of the few where Rossini did not have recourse to selfborrowing, to his usual parodies. The literary text, considered without the transfiguring help of the music, is manifestly the fruit of clever work, but it is lacking in higher inspiration. As support for Rossini’s theatrical work, however, it shows itself to be ideally suited to the inspired course of his musical invention, intelligently and happily devised to making the sparks fly that light up so many parts of the opera. In the second act sextet Questo è un nodo avviluppato, for example, the music preserves the onomatopoeic character of the words, so that the ‘intreccio’ (plot) of this ‘nodo avviluppato’ (tangled knot) ‘sviluppa’ (disentangles) and ‘inviluppa’ (tangles up), ‘sgruppa’ (unties) and ‘raggruppa’ (ties up again) in an amusing tongue-twister that seems never ending. The uniformity of the cadenced movement that proceeds with the unconcern of a steam-roller to overwhelm every musical rule and to create an effect of hypnotic suspension, is brought to life again with the entry in canon of the voices and the sudden flashes of rapid fourths that leap up and down, entrusted in turn to different characters. Then the inexorable drumming resumes up to the closing cadences, accentuated by the customary crescendo and electrified by a richer use of instrumental inventiveness. There is a fine example of how Rossini succeeds in obtaining the effect of immobility, of a total arrest of events, paradoxically by recourse to movement. The contradiction is achieved by enclosing the musical discourse in a framework of strict symmetry, where the forward propulsion is cancelled out by turning in on itself, as happens with the uniform motion of a spinning-top. This results in an accumulative weight of emotion that creates in the listener an indescribable tension that usually explodes into liberating applause – a provocation that demands the iconoclastic genius of Rossini and gives pleasure to the listener, invited consciously to take part in this game of intelligence and of fantasy.

Alberto Zedda
English version by Keith Anderson and Peter Bromley