I think My Opera will go well
On listening again to Adelaide di Borgogna
In the spring of 1815 the impresario Domenico Barbaja invited Rossini to write an opera for the opening of the autumn season at the San Carlo, Naples: an opportunity that allowed the scarcely twenty-three year-old composer to make his mark in the capital city of Italian opera, inaugurating a fruitful creative “adventure” that would continue until 1822. In those days Naples was, in fact, one of the great European capital cities of music and opera: Mozart’s operas were frequently performed there, Spontini’s and Gluck’s were often produced as a result of the close political bonds with France, and Simone Mayr wrote many operas for Naples. Therefore Neapolitan audiences were cultured and amenable to foreign influences as well as to musical and dramatic innovations that would not have been understood elsewhere. The San Carlo, furthermore, was the largest and best equipped theatre on the peninsula and enjoyed the services of an excellent orchestra and a group of extraordinary singers. It was for this audience and with these means that the young composer from Pesaro, striving to bring about a more unified and animated kind of music drama, developed new structural procedures, unheard of till then, which led to results that not even the earliest operas of the Romantic movement could equal.
During his seven years’ activity in Naples Rossini did not want to lose touch with the rest of Italy, and so he continued to write operas for Milan, for Venice, but above all for Rome; on these occasions, however, he mainly composed comic or semiseria operas and in his serious operas followed a path directly the opposite of his “experiments” in Naples, following convention more closely. This is the policy behind Adelaide di Borgogna, Rossini’s only attempt at a serious opera among those he produced for Rome, the others being a dramma semiserio (Torvaldo e Dorliska) and three in the comico-giocoso category (Il barbiere di Siviglia, La Cenerentola and Matilde di Shabran). The opera, which opened the Carnival season of 1818 at the Teatro di Torre Argentina, Rome, was commissioned by the impresario Pietro Cartoni – who was not just simply a friend of the composer’s, who had acted as godfather to his daughter – presumably at the beginning of October 1817. In fact, on the 26th of that month, Rossini sent Cartoni a signed copy of the contract accompanied by a letter in which, showing how much he cared for his autograph full scores, he requested a modification of the clause dealing with the restitution of the original: “Dearest Friend, here is your daughter’s godfather’s contract duly signed. However you must alter the clause dealing with the original, that is, with the score; the copyist or the impresario may enjoy the monopoly of it but not keep my original, whilst, as is usual, I want it to be returned to me after the year”1.
After signing the contract Rossini could not immediately dedicate himself to the composition of the new opera: in fact, he was busy with the staging of Armida, which would be performed at the San Carlo on the 9th November following, with further performances until the 13th December, as far as 1817 is concerned2. According to a news item published in the “Giornale del Regno delle Due Sicilie” on the 5th December the composer was about to travel to Rome3, and also from two letters that he wrote to his mother from that city, the second of which is dated 19th December4, we must conclude that Rossini arrived in Rome more or less about the middle of that month. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that Adelaide di Borgogna was largely composed in Naples and in a short period of time, and that the biographer Antonio Zanolini’s assertion that Rossini got his friend Michele Carafa to help him out is trustworthy5.
The story of the opera was taken from a historical event that took place in the mediaeval period and marked the end of an independent Italian kingdom and led to the birth of the German Holy Roman Empire through the efforts of Otho I of Saxony. The year is 950. Lotario, King of Italy, dies in Turin at the age of about 30, leaving a widow, Adelaide, daughter of Rudolph of Burgundy. Berengario, Marquis of Ivrea, into whose hands the government of the kingdom had, in fact, already fallen some time before, manages to get himself elected successor, but he is widely suspected of having been the cause of that premature death; for this reason he seeks to legitimize his own position by forcing Adelaide to become a member of his family by marrying his son Adalberto, who is sharing the throne with him. Adelaide proudly resists and, openly defying Berengario, is taken prisoner by him at Como and locked up in the castle of Garda. A tradition, that has something of legend about it, has it that a presbyter named Martino, having dug out an underground passage, manages to free the fair prisoner and conduct her to Adalardo, Bishop of Reggio, who places her under the protection of Adalberto Atto, his vassal and lord of the well munitioned fortress of Canossa. Legend apart, at Canossa the unfortunate Queen finds a safe refuge from the persecution of Berengario until the definitive intervention of Otto I, King of Germany, who, in his ambitious intention of reviving the empire that had once belonged to Charlemagne, had for some time been giving his close attention to political conditions in Italy. In fact, when Canossa is besieged by Berengario’s army, Adalberto Atto appeals to Otto, incidentally proposing his own marriage to Adelaide, which would bring him the crown of the kingdom of Italy as part of her dowry. Otto then marches down into Italy and in September 951 gets as far as Pavia without meeting any resistance; here he is acclaimed as a liberator, having put Berengario and his son Adalberto to flight – they take refuge in the castle of San Marino on Mount Titano. Once he has assumed the title of “Rex Italicorum”, he sends a representative to arrange the marriage and, having obtained consent, has the Queen escorted to Pavia for the nuptial celebrations, which take place in the church of San Michele towards the end of the year 951. Later he agrees that Berengario and Adalberto should resume their reign over Italy, but transforms that independent kingdom into a vassal state that he subsequently incorporates into the Germanic Holy Roman Empire6.
In spite of his quoting the works of illustrious commentators and historians such as Liutprando da Cremona, Sigonio, Muratori and Denina, the author of the libretto makes a chronological error by placing the events in the year 947 instead of 951. A further inaccuracy, resulting probably from the superimposing of facts, is met with in the geographical setting: the fortress of Canossa, where the action takes place, is not located in the immediate neighbourhood of Lake Garda, as the libretto asserts, but to the south of Reggio Emilia. In any case these details are of scant importance to the dramatic development, whereas a more serious flaw is the fact that the librettist gave Rossini a libretto of anything but excellent composition, weak from the narrative point of view and sometimes something of a mish-mash; Giuseppe Radiciotti defined it “weak and boring”7.
The libretti printed at the time of the first performance in Rome and for the few subsequent revivals do not give the name of the author. Some of Rossini’s biographers, following a line of purely inductive reasoning, have attributed it to Giacomo Ferretti, author of the libretti of two other operas written by Rossini for Rome: La Cenerentola and Matilde di Shabran. Others, on the other hand, have hypothesized that Rossini, being in Naples, would have been able to secure the services of a local poet, despite the impresario’s obligation to supply the composer with a libretto. Leading off from this supposition, at the beginning of the last century Alberto Cametti attributed the literary text to Giovanni Federico Schmidt, comparing Adelaide di Borgogna with Eduardo e Cristina, opera centone in which Rossini re-used pieces of Adelaide di Borgogna, Mosè in Egitto, Ermione and Ricciardo e Zoraide. Cametti writes: “In April 1819 Rossini had his score Eduardo e Cristina performed at the Teatro San Benedetto, Venice; this is made up from the best numbers from his less successful operas. There are no fewer than nine numbers out of Adelaide in Eduardo. Two of these numbers keep the identical words of the libretto of Adelaide di Borgogna; the others have them slightly changed. Now the libretto of Eduardo e Cristina is by Giovanni Schmidt, also the author of Armida, the opera immediately preceeding Adelaide. It is therefore only logical to conclude that the libretto of the latter must also be by this same Schmidt, as we cannot suppose that he would have signed his name to the libretto of an opera containing whole numbers written by another poet”8. We may, however, point out some objections to this syllogism: the libretto of Eduardo e Cristina does not, in fact, openly mention Schmidt’s name, but is signed by the initials “T.S.B.”, which stand for Andrea Leone Tottola, Giovanni Federico Schmidt and Gherardo Bevilacqua Aldobrandini, seeing that it was the result of a re-elaboration on the part of Tottola and Bevilacqua of an already existing libretto entitled Odoardo e Cristina, written in 1810 by Schmidt for Stefano Pavesi; to this we should add that Eduardo e Cristina contains several transplants without any modification whatsoever not only of numbers from Adelaide di Borgogna but also from Ricciardo e Zoraide, whose libretto is by Francesco Berio di Salsa. If Cametti’s arguments, therefore, do not serve to definitively attribute the libretto to Schmidt, they are however based upon some incontrovertible facts: first of all the fact that when Rossini accepted Pietro Cartoni’s proposal, with only two months available to him, he found himself working side by side on the completion of Armida with Schmidt himself. Facts that serve to confirm the sole scanty piece of contemporary evidence as to the librettist: an article by a correspondent of the “Nuovo Osservatore Veneto”, quoted below, dated 31st December 1817, which refers en passant to the “poetry” as being the work of Schmidt9.
Adelaide di Borgogna was first performed at the “Nobil Teatro a Torre Argentina”, Rome, on Saturday evening the 27th December 1817, together with the serious ballet La morte di Ciro by the choreographer Monticini10. The singers were the soprano Elisabetta Manfredini Guarmani, the contralto Elisabetta Pinotti, the tenor Savino Monelli and the bass Antonio Ambrosi in the leading roles of Adelaide, Ottone, Adelberto and Berengario11; Anna Maria Muratori, Giovanni Puglieschi and Luisa Bottesi in the secondary ones of Eurice, Berengario’s wife, Ernesto, a lieutenant of Ottone’s, and Iroldo, Governor of Canossa. Not an exceptional company of singers, good enough however not to disappoint the audience, curious to hear this new opera by the young composer from Pesaro, fresh from his recent triumphs with La gazza ladra and Armida. Unfortunately, the show did not meet with the hoped-for success. If it is true that the sketchy quality of the libretto and the mediocrity of the singers had a significant influence on the disappointing reception accorded to the opera, newspaper writers of the day were unanimous in attributing responsibility for this exclusively to the composer. The Rome correspondent of the “Nuovo Osservatore Veneto” wrote in the issue of the 31st December, the article being reprinted in the Milanese newspaper “Corriere delle dame”, the following criticism: “Adelaide di Borgogna, to a libretto by Schmidt, lived and died on one and the same evening at the Teatro Argentina. This new score of Rossini’s was shipwrecked despite drums, big drums and marches. The singing actors, the ladies Manfredini, prima donna, and Elisabetta Pinotti, contralto (‘musico’), and the celebrated tenor Sig. Savino Monelli, for all their excellence and care, could not manage to uphold the famous composer’s reputation, whose genius seemed to have gone to sleep where this opera is concerned”12. Similarly, the Roman daily newspaper “Notizie del giorno” for 9th January declared: “If a great reputation were enough to save a new production (even when it does not catch the audience’s fancy), for sure Maestro Rossini would have had nothing to complain of. Unfortunately it is not enough, and for this reason he did not reap those laurels that have so copiously adorned his brow on other occasions in this illustrious city. It seems that his genius had gone to sleep for a while; every now and then (during the unfolding of the story) it wakes up and produces some nice idea, but more often to remind us that he also wrote L’Italiana in Algeri, La Cenerentola, etc., etc. Certainly more effect could have been made out of the presence of the three leading singers of the company”13. Despite the severity of these judgments, Adelaide di Borgogna continued just the same to hold the stage at the Teatro Argentina until it was replaced by the second opera on the season’s prospectus, Il trionfo di Emilia by Francesco Sampieri, which was produced on the 19th January 1818.
Few other productions followed upon the Roman one. In 1820 Adelaide di Borgogna was staged at the Teatro Vendramin in San Luca at Venice, and at the Teatro in Via della Pergola in Florence, but both times with scant success. In 1822 it was performed in Padova, Lugo and Lisbon. In the spring of 1825 it was produced at the Teatro Carlo Lodovico in Livorno (Leghorn), after which it disappeared from the repertory to be offered to the attention of audiences once more only in recent times. In fact, the first modern revival, a concert performance, took place in 1978 (London, Queen Elizabeth Hall); the first modern staged performance in 1984 (Martina Franca, 10th Festival of the Valle d’Itria).
Matters of textual criticism
Unfortunately, the autograph score of Adelaide di Borgogna is lost; so the reconstruction of the text has been based upon such available sources as were copied from the original, which, given the small number of revivals following the original Rome performances, are not many. The most important, although it contains only the Overture and Act One, is to be found in the Santa Cecilia Library in Rome: it consists of a manuscript copy of the full score, written in the town where the first performances of the opera took place and at a time near enough to its creation, and its derivation from the autograph is borne witness to by the presence of a conspicuous number of signs typically used by Rossini, normally not employed by copyists at that time. Three complete manuscript full scores, nearly related to each other, are very close to the Santa Cecilia score and the libretto printed in Rome by Crispino Puccinelli for the first night: one of these is preserved in the Conservatory library in Florence; another in Lucca, in the library of the Istituto Musicale “L. Boccherini”; and another in Paris, in the Bibliothèque Nationale. Of these three, the Parisian manuscript has proved to be the most authoritative because of the presence of a greater number of interpretation marks and some symbols typical of Rossini’s musical handwriting, even though Act One contains an Aria for Eurice and two short recitatives not present in other sources and not to be attributed to Rossini. Another manuscript full score, complete and equally rich in interpretation marks, but which sometimes differs from the readings of the other sources listed above, is to be found in Venice, in the archives of the Teatro La Fenice. A marked similarity in detail places this source in close relationship with three further manuscript copies: one, complete, to be found in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; another, lacking the Overture and the last number of Act Two, in the Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica in Bologna; and one in the Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen, but of Venetian origin, in which Adelaide and Berengario are provided with arias different from those found in all the other musical sources: arias, however, that cannot be attributed to Rossini.
Study of the full score and comparative analysis of the sources have brought to light some interesting textual peculiarities, which should not be overlooked if we are to arrive at an objective understanding and evaluation of the opera14. In undertaking a concise scrutiny of the various musical numbers, we must pause a while at the Overture in order to contradict the widely-spread notion that Rossini hurriedly stuck on to the beginning of Adelaide the Overture to La cambiale di matrimonio, which, in its turn, proves to be a re-working of a Sinfonia in E flat composed in 1809. All the sources reveal, though with some discrepancies, that this is not, in fact, a case of transposition pure and simple: the orchestration can be seen to have been enriched to suit the larger orchestral forces employed in Adelaide, by adding to the original instruments (flute, two oboes, two clarinets, bassoon, two horns and strings) piccolo, two trumpets, trombone, timpani and big drum; the cantabile solo in the Andante maestoso is now assigned to the oboe instead of the horn; the Allegro vivace is now amplified, both in the exposition and in the repeat, with the effect of a return to the first theme, with the addition of the piccolo when it is repeated. Fairly substantial modifications, therefore, conferring a new dress to the piece from the point of view of timbre and dynamics.
With the Introduzione (N. 1) we come upon the first of the musical numbers from Adelaide that are involved in Rossini’s complex self-borrowing operation to construct the pastiche Eduardo e Cristina. Although the sources for Adelaide might seem exhaustive for the purposes of textual reconstruction, the absence of an autograph makes it essential for us to compare them with the full score of Eduardo e Cristina, especially in such a circumstance as this, in which all three sections comprising the number – the Chorus “Misera patria oppressa”, the Trio “Lasciami: in te del padre”, and the Seguito and Stretta “Ah! crudel, non lusingarti” – all come together again, unaltered except for the words, in the Introduzione to the new opera. In the case in question, moreover, his having used such a specific musical number in the same place in the new opera without making any changes should give us pause to ponder the esteem in which the composer held his score of Adelaide.
In the Chorus, Scene and Cavatina (entrance aria) for Ottone “Salve Italia un dì regnante – Oh sacra alla virtù – Soffri la tua sventura” (N. 2), only in the introductory Chorus do we find an obvious difference between the words in the musical sources and those of the first night libretto. The explanation for this will be found in the nationalistic, risorgimento sentiments voiced in the original setting (found in the musical sources): this political content must, in fact, have provoked the interference of the papal censor who, when the opera had already been fully composed, had a text prepared from which all patriotic references had been expunged before licensing the work for public performance. It is interesting to note, when comparing the two versions, the skill with which, without altering the formal and metric structure, the Italian nation’s aspirations towards rebirth were transformed into hopes for the rescue of the unfortunate leading female character in the opera.
Salve Italia un dì regnante
Dall’Occaso ai lidi Eoi,
Genitrice degli eroi
Ogni cor s’inchina a te.
Sorgi, sorgi: al Ciel chiedesti
Un sostegno, e il Ciel lo diè.
Tornerai regina ancora
A mostrarti assisa in soglio,
Come fosti in Campidoglio
Ché di spada e di lorica
Un possente t’armerà.
Hail, Italy, whose kingdom once spread
From the West to the shores of Eoi,
Mother of heroes
Every heart bows before you.
Arise, arise: you asked Heaven
For aid, and Heaven grants it.
You will be queen once more
Showing yourself seated on your throne
As you once were on the Capitol
In your majesty of old;
For a powerful man will arm you
With the sword and cuirass.
First night libretto
Giunse a noi la voce, e il pianto
A cangiar tua sorte ingrata
O Regina, è Otton con te.
Sorgi, sorgi: al Ciel chiedesti
Un soccorso, e il Ciel lo diè.
La fortuna a te nemica
Ti strappò lo scettro e il serto.
Il tuo cor tremante e incerto
Nel suo duolo assai già fu.
Sorgi, sorgi! A te fia scudo
D’un possente la virtù.
The voice and the weeping
Of an unfortunate innocent reached us.
To change your cruel fate,
O Queen, Otho is with you.
Arise, arise: you asked Heaven
For rescue, and Heaven grants it.
Tore your crown and sceptre from you.
In its sorrow, your heart
Has been very uncertain and afraid.
Arise, arise! The truth of a warrior
Shall be your shield.
The Duet for Ottone and Adelberto “Vive Adelaide in pianto” (N. 3), which does not offer any particular textual peculiarities, is followed by the Chorus and Cavatina for Iroldo “Viva Ottone, il grande, il forte” (N. 4), concerning which the evidence of all the musical manuscript sources is one big puzzle. In fact, in this number Iroldo’s part is written in the soprano clef, whereas in the Introduzione and in all the recitatives this role is, conversely, written in the tenor clef. The libretti do not help to solve this mystery, as they merely report that the role was sung by Luisa Bottesi at the first performances in Rome, whilst in the revivals of 1820 Giuseppe Franchini sang it in Florence and Giovanni Battista Casalini in Venice. Neither does it help us to know that this number also appears in Eduardo e Cristina, seeing that in this opera all the solo part that had been allotted to Iroldo is eliminated, to be given, in a very simplified form, to the chorus tenors. Even though on the first night the part was sung by a woman (a mezzo-soprano or contralto en travesti), there is no shortage of good reasons for giving it to a tenor voice, following the guideline suggested by the vocal score published by Ricordi. It must, in fact, be pointed out that such roles as Iroldo were usually the province of the second tenor; that the mezzo-soprano or contralto en travesti was not usually employed for simple or short roles, such as Iroldo, but rather for important parts in which the vocal writing often touches the heights of florid acrobatics; that in Adelaide di Borgogna this type of vocal writing is already employed for the role of Ottone. It seems likely that the anomaly of changing a part written in the tenor clef into a part in the soprano clef might be the result of the composer’s resigning himself to a fait accompli: the presence of another seconda donna (Luisa Bottesi) rather than another second tenor in the company singing at the Teatro Argentina, whereas Rossini might have thought of giving the role to a secondo tenore when, still in Naples, he started to compose the score.
Berengario’s Aria “Se protegge amica sorte” (N. 5) is rather a modest composition, certainly not to be attributed to the hand of Rossini. It must, therefore, be the work of a collaborator, who, according to the information supplied by the biographer Zanolini, might be identified as Michele Carafa. Present in almost all of the musical sources15 and called for by the importance of the character, Berengario’s Aria cannot be cut. However, when it comes to a public performance, the possibility might be considered of replacing it by some other authentic aria, following a fairly usual performance practice of those days.
The two following numbers, which are among the most inspired in the opera, were also duly transferred to Eduardo e Cristina. Of the Chorus and Cavatina for Adelaide “O ritiro che soggiorno – Occhi miei piangeste assai” (N. 6) Rossini inserted the Chorus in the new opera, altering it however from three parts to two and maintaining the poetic text practically unchanged, and then added the first part of the Cavatina: then, instead of introducing Adelaide’s cabaletta, Rossini chose instead to take up the opening Chorus again with some slight changes and with the addition of some solo interjections by the soprano. With regard to the Duet for Adelaide and Ottone “Mi dai corona e vita” (N. 7), as a further proof of what we said above about the importance Rossini attributed to the score of Adelaide, this is given to the two main characters in the new opera also, without any modification to the musical part and with almost identical words in the cabaletta16.
The Finale to Act One (N. 8), which is divided into three sections (Chorus “Schiudi le porte, o tempio”, a Quartet “O degl’itali regnanti”, Seguito and Stretta “Quale improvviso strepito”) does not offer any particularly interesting textual peculiarities, as can also be said of the first two numbers in Act Two: Introduzione “Come l’aquila che piomba” (N. 9) and the Duet for Adelaide and Adelberto “Della tua patria ai voti” (N. 10). Where the following Aria for Eurice “Sì, sì, mi svena” (N. 11) is concerned, we should, however, pause to make some observations, starting from the fact that for the character in question the existing musical sources offer two different arias, and without consistent agreement between them. For Act One the Paris manuscript, after Berengario’s Aria (N. 5), introduces Eurice’s Aria “Vorrei distruggere del figlio i voti”, preceeded by a short connecting recitative. The words do not appear in the first-night libretto, so it may well not have been composed for the first Roman performances. It is to be found, on the other hand, in the libretto printed for the Florence revival of 1820: none the less we can exclude a direct relationship between this libretto and the Paris source, since these two versions differ considerably at various points. Instead of this Aria the Venice, Bologna and Copenhagen scores offer as an Aria for Eurice “Sì, sì, mi svena”, placed in Act Two after the Duet for Adelaide and Adelberto (N. 10); this agrees to some extent with the printed libretto for the first night: in fact, the libretto gives, at the same point in the story, a poetic text similar to that of the musical sources in its incipit and in the feelings expressed, but different in its development and in its metrical structure.
Sì, sì, mi svena
Nel tuo furore,
Giacché il mio core
Pace non ha.
Ah! che non servono
Sospiri e lacrime,
Deh compi o barbaro
Yes, yes, stab me
In your fury,
Since my heart
Finds peace no more.
Ah! sighs and tears
Are of no use,
Yes, barbarous man, accomplish
First night libretto
Sì, mi svena o figlio ingrato,
Sfoga appieno il tuo furor;.
Va, m’unisci al crudo fato
A cui danni il genitor.
Se la vita non apprezzi
Di chi vita a te donò,
È ragion che ti disprezzi
Chi finor t’innamorò.
Yes, stab me, Oh ungrateful son,
Fully sate your fury;
Go, let me share the cruel fate
To which you condemn your father.
If you do not value the life
Of him who gave you life,
It is logical that you should despise
The person whom you loved once.
In any case one cannot exclude the possibility that this Aria might have been sung on the occasion of the Rome performances, even though we must stress that in this case, as also in the case of the Aria “Vorrei distruggere del figlio i voti”, we are dealing with modest compositions indeed, certainly not to be attributed to Rossini. For this reason the vocal score published by Ricordi in 1858 does well to include neither one nor the other.
Adelberto’s Scena and Aria “Berengario è nel periglio – Grida, o natura” (N. 12) and the Quartet “Adelaide! Oh Ciel, che vedo!” (N. 13) do not present any textual questions that need to be considered here; separate mention must, however, be made of Adelaide’s Scena and Aria “Ah! vanne... Addio... – Cingi la benda candida” (N. 14), which owes its origin to no fewer than three different sources. The main source is Count Almaviva’s Aria “Cessa di più resistere” in Il barbiere di Siviglia, which, only two months after the first performance of the opera (Rome, 20th February 1816), he used again in the Cantata Le nozze di Teti, e di Peleo, where it becomes Ceres’s Aria “Ah non potrian resistere”: the first and third sections turn out to have been re-written, whilst the second, in a slow tempo, and the last, in the form of a theme with variations, are to a great extent identical with the corresponding sections of Count Almaviva’s Aria. The following year Rossini used the theme and variations again as the Finale in La Cenerentola (the famous rondò “Non più mesta accanto al foco”; whilst he transferred the first three sections of Ceres’s Aria, without any substantial changes, into the Aria for Adelaide, for which he supplied a new concluding cabaletta. I should point out that the autograph score of the Cantata, preserved in Naples, includes a ritornello of seven bars plus two completely new ones that function as links, not to be found in the sources of Adelaide and now re-inserted as a matter of convenience.
Finally, where the Chorus, Scene and Aria for Ottone “Serti intrecciar le vergini – Questi, che a me presenta – Vieni: tuo sposo e amante” (N. 15) that concludes the opera, is concerned, it must be said that we find ourselves once more dealing with a musical number of ample proportions that Rossini re-used in Eduardo e Cristina. The opening Chorus is repeated without any changes and with practically the same words; the Aria is repeated note for note, except for the cabaletta, the tune of which is slightly altered; the opening Scena, on the other hand, has been re-written.
Judgment and prejudice
The opera’s immediate disappearance from the stage, the absence of the stylistic and structural innovations that Rossini experimented with in his operas composed for Naples, the recycling of the Cambiale di matrimonio Overture, the exclusive use of recitativo secco and the probable recourse to the assistance of collaborators for the composition of some of the less important numbers were the reasons leading to the formulation of rather severe judgments on the opera. In this sense Radiciotti’s evaluation has been symbolic, faithfully and unquestioningly repeated by authoritative music historians down to our own day: “The music bears all too obvious signs of the haste and carelessness with which it was written. Adelaide is Rossini’s worst opera seria: whilst in each of the others, however poor they might be, here and there some flash of genius bursts forth, in this one alone, from the beginning to the end, nothing is to be found but banality. Slipshod in form, devoid of content, this music is also lacking in truth of expression; worse, all too often the character of the music violently contradicts the sense of the words and the dramatic situation”17. This judgment is evidently founded upon a conception widely diffused in the Romantic epoch and partly accepted by that section of Italian music historians who were inspired by Croce, who wanted music to be “a musical expression of the feeling described”18. A conception that has prejudiced the understanding of more than a few Rossini operas, which have been rehabilitated only recently through our systematically and critically re-studying Rossini’s complete works, enabling us to grasp how he, whilst wanting to comply with the urgencies of the nascent Romantic school without turning his back on the models that had always inspired him, deriving from baroque opera, deliberately set out to achieve different and sometimes opposing creative experiments. However, the stylistic dichotomy that we find between the serious operas created for Naples and those written at about the same time for other cities cannot simply be attributed to the composer’s need to please different audiences. If the Neapolitan operas are the result of his sensitivity to and willingness to embrace Romantic dramaturgy, the others, far from being a condescending response to the tastes of audiences who leaned to the old-fashioned, constitute a constant and conscious verification of aesthetic principles that he had developed consistently from his earliest years. In this way we can identify two categories: Classical and Romantic, or, to use Nietzsche’s definition, Apollonian or Dionysiac, depending on whether Rossini had chosen to give way to an idealized and detached vision of reality or the desire to go beyond his usual horizons.
Clearly delineated right from his adolescent years, the Apollonian category is distinguished by the use of traditional and well-worn formulas, all dominated by a singing style stamped with the classic bel canto, based upon the avoidance of any kind of realistic inflexion and aiming at arousing wonder by a high level of vocal virtuosity and a kind of voice production that was always smooth and unforced. He brought this to a complete definition with Semiramide (1823), passing through such significant stages as Tancredi (1813), Bianca e Falliero (1819) and this very Adelaide di Borgogna. In fact, in this score there are numerous numbers in which Rossini achieves the “metaphysical” dimension that was always the principal aim of his poetic style: perfect examples of this are all the arias written for the two principal characters, the Duet “Mi dai corona e vita” and the Quartet in the Finale to Act One. Rossini himself, moreover, expressed his faith in the opera when he decided to recycle five of its numbers in Eduardo e Cristina. We can be sure that in this operation one of the criteria he followed would have been the quality of the music, as he wanted to produce in Venice, with this “pastiche” opera, the best of his recent musical production. Arrigo Quattrocchi, in fact, has this to say on the subject: “The pieces selected for Eduardo e Cristina are, each of them, almost all of the highest quality, for invention and workmanship, including those from the unsuccessful Adelaide di Borgogna. Rossini must have been well aware that many of the numbers chosen had a built-in predisposition for success, for the brilliant turn of the melodies and the opportunity for virtuosity offered to the singers”19. In Adelaide di Borgogna, therefore, Rossini had succeeded yet again in asserting his aesthetic ideals, and so it is only reasonable to suppose that he was satisfied with his achievement. And, perhaps, it is exactly for this reason that on the 19th December 1817, only a week before the first night, he could write complacently to his mother: “La Mia Opera pare che anderà bene” - I think My Opera will go well20.
Translation by Michael Aspinall
1 Gioachino Rossini, Lettere e Documenti, I (29 February 1792 - 17 March 1822), edited by Bruno Cagli and Sergio Ragni, Pesaro, Fondazione Rossini 1992, N. 109, p. 230.
2 V. Gioachino Rossini, Armida, edited by Charles S. Brauner & Patricia B. Brauner, Pesaro, Fondazione Rossini 1997, Preface, p. XXXII.
3 V. Gioachino Rossini, Lettere e documenti, IIIa (letters to his parents, 18 February 1812 - 22 June 1830), edited by Bruno Cagli & Sergio Ragni, Pesaro, Fondazione Rossini 2004, N.102, note 1, p. 192.
4 Gioachino Rossini, Lettere e documenti, IIIa, op. cit., NN. 102 & 103, pp. 192-193.
5 “For lack of time Rossini had his intimate friend maestro Carafa collaborate with him” (Antonio Zanolini, Biografia di Gioachino Rossini, Bologna, Zanichelli 1875, p. 237, note 22).
6 For the character and the history of Adelaide v. Paolo Golinelli, Adelaide. Regina santa d’Europa, Milan, Jaca Book 2001.
7 Giuseppe Radiciotti, Gioacchino Rossini. Vita documentata, opere ed influenza su l’arte, I, Tivoli, Arti grafiche Majella di Aldo Chicca 1927, p. 312.
8 Alberto Cametti, La musica teatrale a Roma cento anni fa, “Annuario della Regia Accademia di Santa Cecilia 1917-1918”, Rome 1918, p. 20.
9 For information on the life and works of Giovanni Federico Schmidt see Marco Spada, Giovanni Schmidt librettista: biografia di un fantasma, in Gioachino Rossini 1792-1992. Il testo e la scena, edited by Paolo Fabbri, Pesaro, Fondazione Rossini 1994, pp. 465-490.
10 The ballet La morte di Ciro is also quoted under the name of Ciro e Tomiri: c.f. Cametti, op. cit., p. 26; “Corriere delle dame” of the 10th January 1818.
11 In the original libretto the part of Berengario is allotted to Gioacchino Sciarpelletti, but at the last moment this singer was replaced by Antonio Ambrosi. This is deduced from the diary of Prince Agostino Chigi Albani, who, on the 27th December, notes: “This evening the theatres opened their doors. At the Argentina the drama is Adelaide di Borgogna, music by Rossini; prima donna sig.ra Manfredini, primo soprano sig.ra Pinotti, tenor Monelli. The ballet Tomiri, composed by Monticini 1st ballerino; prima ballerina sig.ra Darcourt. None of this was really successful except for a third buffo added, named Ambrogi, who pleased rather” (Enrico Celani, Musica e musicisti in Roma (1750-1850), “Rivista Musicale Italiana”, XXII, 1915, p. 288). Antonio Ambrosi, according to what Radiciotti reports, was then part of the company at the Teatro Valle (Radiciotti, op. cit., p. 313).
12 Radiciotti, op. cit., p. 314.
13 Rossini, Lettere e documenti, IIIa, op. cit., N. 104, note 2, p. 194.
14 C.f. Alberto Zedda, La sublimazione della vocalità, in the programme of the 10th Festival della Valle d’Itria, Martina Franca 1984, pp. 24-26.
15 The exception is the Copenhagen manuscript, which offers another aria, this also not by Rossini, in which it can be seen that the literary text as found in the original libretto has been clumsily fitted to music that had originally been composed to different words.
16 The similarity between the tune of the cabaletta of this duet and the tune of the cabaletta “Voce, che tenera” to Tancredi’s entrance aria “Dolci d’amor parole”, written by Rossini for Adelaide Malanotte in place of the original Cavatina “Tu che accendi – Di tanti palpiti”, stressed by Marco Mauceri, seems dubious. In fact, the melodic figurations are different, particularly the incipit, which in Adelaide is characterized by a pregnant chromaticism; the structure of the phrase and the consequent harmonic path are also different (see Marco Mauceri, “Voce, che tenera”: una cabaletta per tutte le stagioni, in Gioachino Rossini 1792-1992. Il testo e la scena, op. cit., pp. 365-382).
17 Radiciotti, op. cit., p. 312.
18 Enrico Fubini, L’estetica musicale dal Settecento a oggi, Turin, Einaudi 1964 (new edition 1968), p. 213.
19 Arrigo Quattrocchi, La logica degli autoimprestiti: “Eduardo e Cristina”, in Gioachino Rossini 1792-1992. Il testo e la scena, cit., p. 355.
20 Rossini, Lettere e documenti, IIIa, op. cit., N. 103, p. 193.