Una opera de Donizetti, de un solo acto, y una seleccion de numeros de otra opera de los hermanos Ricci, ambientadas ambas en una epoca parecida y que yo suelo escuchar juntas, porque un solo acto me sabe a poco. Disfrútalas, juntas o por separado.
Francesca di Foix is a melodramma giocoso or opera in one act by Gaetano Donizetti (1831) from a libretto by Domenico Gilardoni, based on Françoise de Foix by Jean-Nicolas Bouilly and Emmanuel Mercier-Dupaty.
Seldom performed today, the opera is chiefly known for having provided segments to other Donizetti operas, including Ugo, conte di Parigi, L'elisir d'amore and Gabriella di Vergy although a complete recording exists on the Opera Rara label.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 30 May 1831 |
(Conductor: - )
|The king||baritone||Antonio Tamburini|
|Edmondo||contralto||Marietta Gioia Tamburini|
|The count||bass||Giovanni Campagnoli|
|The duke||tenor||Lorenzo Bonfigli|
|Knights, bridesmaids, peasants|
- Time: The Middle Ages
- Place: France
The Count is determined to keep his beautiful wife Francesca well away from the temptations of the French court. Knowing the amorous ways of the nobility he tells them that she is unwilling to appear in public because she is extremely ugly.
Unfortunately this raises the interest of the King who despatches one of his gentlemen (the Duke) to investigate, and if he finds that the Countess is beautiful he must lure her back incognito to court.
Sure enough the Duke is able to persuade Francesco to return to Paris with him. Rather than admit his deceit her husband at first refuses to acknowledge who she is. To force his hand the King announces that a tournament is to be held and the winning knight will be given Francesca's hand in marriage.
The Count can no longer keep up his subterfuge and admits that, driven by jealousy, he lied to the King and his courtiers. After due admonishment by the King all is forgiven and the Count and Countess live happily ever after.
Federico studied at Naples as had his brother. His first big success was with La prigione di Edimburgo, one of his best serious works. He stayed with serious subjects for several years, and of these Corrado d'Altamura was a particular success. However, his last collaboration with his brother, a comedy called Crispino e la comare, was hailed as the masterpiece of both composers, so Federico devoted himself thereafter entirely to comedy.
After another success closely followed by a major flop in Vienna, Federico took an official job teaching in St Petersburg and for 16 years he wrote no operas. In 1869 he moved to Paris, and there Une folie à Rome ran for 77 nights; other French comedies of his — mainly revisions of his own and his brother's earlier works — found some success. He also contributed the Recordare Jesu in the Sequentia to the Messa per Rossini.
Although he did not have his brother's energy, Federico's scores are judged by some to be more skilfully written than Luigi's: for example, it has been said that La prigione di Edimburgo shows a sensitivity towards its subject (from Sir Walter Scott's The Heart of Midlothian) that is rare among Italian operas of the period. He died in Conegliano. His son Luigi, also called Luigino (1852-1906), was also a composer.
- Il colonello (also as La donna colonello) (with his brother Luigi Ricci) (1835)
- Monsieur de Chalumeaux (1835)
- Il disertore per amore (with his brother Luigi Ricci) (1836)
- La prigione di Edimburgo (Trieste, 18 March 1838)
- Un duello sotto Richelieu (1839)
- Luigi Rolla e Michelangelo (Florence, 30 March 1841)
- Corrado d'Altamura (La Scala, Milan, 16 November 1841)
- Vallombra (1842)
- Isabella de'Medici (1845)
- Estella di Murcia (1846)
- L'amante di richiamo (with his brother Luigi Ricci) (1846)
- Griselda (1847)
- Crispino e la comare, ossia Il medico e la morte (with his brother Luigi Ricci) (Venice San Benedetto, 28 February 1850, revised as Le docteur Crispin, 1869)
- I due ritratti (1850)
- Il marito e l'amante (1852, revised as Une fête à Venise, 1872)
- Il paniere d 'amore (1853)
- Une folie à Rome (Paris, 1869)
- La vergine di Kermo (a pastiche also containing music by Pedrotti, Cagnoni, Ponchielli, Pacini, Rossi, and Mazzucato, Cremona, 1870)
- Le docteur Rose, ou La dogaresse (1872)
- Don Quichotte (incomplete, 1876)
'LA PRIGIONE di Edimburgo, which holds a delicate balance between pathos and comedy, might well bear revival". So wrote the late Julian Budden in the recently published New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, in reference to a long-forgotten opera by the 19th century Italian composer Frederico Ricci that translates rather banally, but intriguingly for us in Scotland, as The Prisoner of Edinburgh.
What Budden has to say on these matters tends to be worth listening to. He was one of the foremost authorities on that flowery phase of virtuoso Italian showpiece opera we call bel canto - anything from Rossini to Bellini, Donizetti to Verdi. They, of course, were megastars in relation to the now-forgotten likes of the Neapolitan brothers, Frederico and Luigi Ricci, both of whom enjoyed success in their day, but never quite made it into the hall of eternal operatic fame.
Why? Thanks to Edinburgh Grand Opera (EGO) and its part-reassembly last Sunday at the Queen's Hall of Ricci's Sir Walter Scott-inspired melodramma semiseria, we can make some judgement on that. For other than a 2003 recording of selected extracts by the excellent London-based archaeologists of forgotten works, Opera Rara, this was most likely the first ever live UK performance of La Prigione di Edimburgo since its Trieste premiere in 1838.
The plot is sourced from Scott's The Heart of Midlothian - as, incidentally, is that of the slightly better-known 19th century opera, Jeanie Deans, by the Greenock-born Hamish McCunn. It deals with a case of Edinburgh baby-snatching and the psychological consequences that has on the distraught mother, Ida (wrongly charged with infanticide), and the perpetrator, Giovanna, whose ultimate act of repentance is to scale the inferno of the burning prison tower where she has hidden the baby, retrieve it, confess all, return it to its mother, and promptly die of smoke inhalation.
In La Prigione di Edimburgo, you half-expect the arrival of a latter-day Inspector Rebus to unravel the madness and deceit. As it happens, the male characters - Tom (an unlikely smuggler-turned-prison governor), the Duke of Argyle, his adviser Patrizio, and token tenor Gorgio - turn out to be musical and theatrical small-fry to the maddened outpourings of the two sopranos.
There are good and bad reasons why EGO decided to mount what they believe is the UK premiere of this opera. On the negative side, the amateur company simply doesn't have the funds these days to present the number and scale of productions it once could.
The upside is that creative solutions have had to be found to counter that, which is exactly how the decision to semi-stage Ricci's opera came about. It all started with a chance visit to a junk shop, as the EGO's music director Neil Metcalfe explains.
"Our artistic director Christina Dunwoodie (also singing the role of Giovanna) found references to the Edinburgh connection in some old books, which led to further research via Covent Garden, which in turn led us to the music publisher Peters," he says. "They own the rights for performance, and said they would be happy to make a version we could perform."
The result was well received on Sunday, in a version of the opera that was a semi-staged snapshot of its complete form. Not all the music exists in a performable state, leaving us with a string of salvageable scenes to piece together the convoluted story, the intricacies of which were explained in layman's terms by Donald Maxwell's witty and personable, if occasionally protracted, narrated links.
The staging was a skeletal one, making straightforward use of a multi-levelled Queen's Hall stage and its awful turquoise window curtains, behind which Giovanna hid the baby; while Metcalfe had to make do with a pared-down orchestra that made up for in bare-faced bravado what it lacked in physical size.
But there was nothing makeshift about many of the performances. Susan McNaught's Ida was a vocal tour de force; Christina Dunwoodie's experienced portrayal shone in her maddest moments, even if her lower register was underpowered.
Among the men, Ivor Klayman's Tom was a consummately engaging comic foil, while Peter Cannell's Duke was a reflection of the stoical music he is given. David Hamilton's Giorgio never quite hit the spot, and seemed, at the key emotive moment with Giovanna, to cop out of the climactic high notes. But what a swarthy bunch of Edinburghers the EGO chorus were: lusty, reactive and fully involved.
And what of Ricci's music? It's probably fair to say, from the extant morsels we heard, that it is worthily crafted, generally inoffensive (the rather characterless overture is a bland opener), occasionally thrilling, but subject to featureless hiatuses. The emotive extremes, almost exclusively given to the two sopranos, bring out the best and most original in the composer, and there is a hair-raising surge of electricity in the climactic ensemble that ends Act 2.
We have it on record that Ricci's opera was an instant hit at its 1830s premiere, not least for the furore surrounding the mad scene sung by its original second soprano, Rita Gabussi. But did EGO's revival suggest that a fuller production - assuming all the music is there - might work with an audience today?
"It's not Bellini; it's not Verdi," an even-keeled Neil Metcalfe told me before Sunday's performance. I'm inclined to agree, and doubt whether the sum of its variable parts would add up to a whole that is worthy of a place among opera's immortals.Decide for yourselves when Edinburgh Grand Opera repeats Sunday's presentation in two Edinburgh Fringe performances in August.
Edinburgh Grand Opera repeats its partial staging of La Prigione di Edimburgo in St Andrew's and St George's Church, Edinburgh on 19 and 21 August.