|About this Recording
8.660401-02 - ROSSINI, G.: Adelaide di Borgogna [Opera] (Sadovnikova, Gritskova, Poznań Camerata Bach Choir, Virtuosi Brunensis, Acocella)
Gioachino Rossini (1792–1868)
Ottone, Emperor of Germany – Margarita Gritskova, Mezzo-soprano
Camerata Bach Choir, Poznań • Chorus-master: Ania Michalak
Recorded live at the Trinkhalle, Bad Wildbad, Germany, 19th, 23th and 25th July 2014 for the XXVI ROSSINI IN WILDBAD Festival (Artistic director: Jochen Schönleber)
Critical edition by Florian Bauer for ROSSINI IN WILDBAD © 2014
A political and private belcanto-opera
On 26th October 1817 Rossini sent from Naples to Rome a signed contract engaging him to write an inaugural opera for the 1817/1818 carnival at the Teatro Argentina. In the covering letter to the impresario Pietro Cartoni Rossini drew attention to a clause in the contract, stipulated by the composer himself, that he wished to take back his autograph score after one year. Cartoni was the same impresario who had been the director of the Teatro Valle in the years prior to this and for whom Rossini had already written Torvaldo e Dorliska and La Cenerentola. Rossini enjoyed a friendly, even familiar, relationship with him and was even godfather to Cartoni’s daughter Sofia. This had not prevented Cartoni—“who, of all the impresarios in Rome, seems to have been one of the most enterprising and most awkward” (Martina Grempler)—from getting the police to compel the dilatory composer to leave Naples at the end of 1816 and then to incarcerate him in his house until he had completed Cenerentola, as the composer and violinist Louis Spohr recorded in his diary. In fact, it must have been a bitter pill for the impresario to swallow that he could only schedule the opera, which was a triumph, as the second production of the carnival season, not the first as planned, and consequently had to miss out on many lucrative performance days.
Since he now had to open at the Teatro Argentina with a new opera for the 1817/1818 season, Rossini took pains to ensure that he would write to schedule.
On this occasion he was able to write his first serious opera for Rome and although Romans liked to indulge in comic operas during carnival time, here too it was opera seria which was considered more prestigious.
Rossini had already had a libretto written in Naples and—immediately after the première of Armida (on 9th November 1817)—he started work there on the composition, drawing on the help of his colleague Michele Carafa. He used the time after his arrival in Rome, on 5th December, to complete the opera and for the rehearsals, in order to be able to be on time for the opera to go onto the stage on 27th December 1817. The published libretto did not bear the librettist’s name, but one of the singers taking part informed a friend of hers that “The title of the opera is Adelaide di Borgogna by the poet Smits.” Giovanni Schmidt, who had previously provided Rossini with the libretto for Armida, dealt with an episode from early medieval Italian history with some accuracy.
Adelaide (Adelaide of Burgundy) has been held under siege in the fortress of Canossa by the besieger Berengario, who is accused of the murder of her husband, King Lotario. Adelberto, Berengario’s son, who wants to marry Adelaide, both for love but above all because of his father’s political scheming to legitimise the reign over Italy, is rejected by her. Iroldo, the governor of Canossa, has secretly asked Ottone (Otto the Great) for help. When the German emperor and his army march into Lombardy he is invited to Canossa by Berengario and Adelberto. While Ottone is reinforcing Adelaide’s rights he falls in love with her but as he leads her to the altar he is attacked by his “hosts”, but manages to escape. In the end Ottone defeats the usurpers, is able to marry Adelaide and from then on to share with her his German empire which has been extended into Italy.
Generally speaking it is confirmed through historical scholarship that these events took place in 951, the year of Otto’s first Italian campaign, whereas Schmidt’s “Canosso” (in other words Canossa in Reggio Emilia) is on Lake Garda and the events take place as early as 947.
Many recitatives which the librettist had made ready were either not set or were cut even before the première; they were denoted as omissions in the libretto through “virgolette” (inverted commas). In part they show the librettist’s desire to confer on his historical characters the image of politically skilful and rational figures and in deference to this conception they were allowed to stay in the published libretto. But evidently Rossini wanted to keep the secco recitatives, which were still customary in Rome, as short as possible, in favour of musical numbers. One casualty of the pruning was the rôle of Iroldo, whose significance is marginalised. In some places the text, as set to music, departs from the printed libretto for reasons of censorship: the sections celebrating the ancient unity of Italy were unwelcome in the light of the re-awakening of nationalistic fervour in the Papal States.
A newspaper review mentioned the “three main rôles in the cast”—those of Adelaide, Ottone and Adelberto, which were written for the renowned singers Elisabetta Manfredini-Guarmani, Elisabetta Pinotti and Savino Monelli.
In spite of the dramaturgical importance of the bass rôle of Berengario as the true “villain”, musically it is not a leading part, something which is also confirmed in the cast list in the libretto, since the rôle was assigned to the unknown Gioacchino Sciarpelletti. Count Chigi, who meticulously documented performances of opera in Rome, entered in his diary however the name of the more famous Antonio Ambrosi, who had probably taken on the rôle at the last minute. But the minor rôle of the governor of Canossa also raises questions. According to the libretto of the première Iroldo was sung by Luisa Bottesi, so it must have been a trouser rôle. The musical sources notate the voice part in the introduction and in the recitatives in the tenor clef but only in No. 4 in the soprano clef.
At the centre of the opera are the solo arias and duets of the “primadonna soprano” in the title-rôle of Adelaide and the “primadonna contralto” in the trouser rôle of Ottone. Ottone has his first aria (No. 2) soon after the introduction, while Adelaide’s cavatina (No. 6) and their duet (No. 7) are placed immediately before the first finale. In the second act the conclusion of the opera is formed by successive arias of both primadonnas: Adelaide’s scena and aria (No. 14, including parts of Almaviva’s Rondo “Cessa di più resistere” from Il barbiere di Siviglia, which Rossini had already reused in the cantata Le nozze di Teti e di Peleo and in La Cenerentola) and Ottone’s scena and aria with chorus which form the finale (No. 15).
Furthermore each one also has a duet with his/ her adversary Adelberto: Ottone in the first act (No. 3) and Adelaide in the second (No. 10). In addition to these appearances the importance of the tenor rôle is underlined in the great scena and aria (No. 12) in which Adelberto vacillates between love of his parents and his love for Adelaide. Alongside this vocal hierarchy the bass rôle of Berengario must be ascribed to the minor parts and accordingly he has just a one-part aria (No. 5), which probably originated from Carafa. The same applies to Iroldo, whose appearance is confined to one stand-out moment from the chorus (No. 4). The rôle of Eurice is also not without problems, since the source of two surviving arias (Nos. 5bis and 11) is not clear. In this recording No. 11 is omitted and Eurice sings only the ‘inauthentic’ alternative aria No. 5bis—i.e. one not inserted under Rossini’s supervision—which turns up occasionally in both old and new performance practice.
As always in Rossini, apart from the introduction, itself in several parts (No. 1) and the first finale (No. 8), there is also a large ensemble number, in this case a quartet (No. 13). A chorus (No. 9) opens the second act and the whole opera is preceded by an overture which Rossini had already written as a concert overture during his student days and which he used in his stage debut opera La cambiale di matriminio. For the bigger orchestra available in Rome, however, he augmented the scoring and the instrumentation. Adelaide di Borgogna is full of beautiful music which does the composer proud. At the same time he favours lyrical moments and as a consequence emphasises private feelings over the political and warlike aspects of the subject-matter. Adelaide is perhaps the last truly “Apollonian” opera by Rossini, in which he presents the sublimation of bel canto in its pure form.
“My opera has gone really well; I can be happy” Rossini wrote laconically to his mother after the première of Adelaide di Borgogna. His restrained reaction masked a rather lukewarm reception of the work by the press which, in the light of the “well-known abilities” of the three first-rate singers, was laid at the door of the composer “whose genius seems to have fallen asleep in this opera.” Following the run of performances immediately after the première at the Teatro Argentina the work enjoyed little currency. Until 1825, by when it had vanished completely from the stage, only five productions were recorded—in Venice and Florence (1820), Padua/Lugo and Lisbon (1822) as well as in Leghorn (1825). After a year had elapsed Rossini did get back his score and in 1819 incorporated a few of the main numbers from it into his successful opera Eduardo e Cristina. There is every indication that he also had the score with him in London in 1824 in order to compile the commissioned, but never completed, opera Ugo, re d’Italia – likewise an episode from early medieval Italian history, in which, apart from the eponymous hero Hugo, are to be found his son Lotario and his young wife Adelaide of Burgundy. This work, as well as the Adelaide autograph score, must be considered lost.
The regard that Rossini had for his opera, through the recycling of countless numbers from it, justifies a reinvolvement with it, as well as the fact that it deals with a not insignificant event from early Italian-German history in a historically truthful manner. Unfortunately, following the first modern-day concert revival in London in 1978 there have been too few further performances. Following a staged performance in 1984 in Martina Franca there were sporadic concert performances (Paris 1988, Liège 1992, Edinburgh 2005 and Pesaro 2006). A second staged production was given at the 2011 Rossini Opera Festival but it is only with the production recorded here in 2014 at Rossini in Wildbad that Adelaide di Borgogna, at one time the wife of Otto the Great, also found her way to Germany in her musical embodiment by Rossini.
The inner courtyard of the fortress of Canossa.
2 To the laments of the people Berengario triumphantly enters the fortress of Canossa which could not withstand his siege. Considering the might of the oppressor the governor Iroldo sees no more hope for queen Adelaide. 3 Adelaide rejects Adelberto’s marriage request and accuses him and his father Berengario of treachery. She is hoping for help from Ottone, while Adelberto and Berengario pretend that they have no fear of him. 4 The two men threaten vengeance in the face of Adelaide’s stubbornness, and the people call on her to think of her own personal wellbeing. 5 Berengario tries to allay Adelberto’s concerns about the advance of Ottone’s troops. Eurice rushes in and tells her husband and son that Ottone has already reached Lake Garda. Because of Ottone’s superior numbers Berengario wishes to confront him not with arms but with guile.
An encampment outside Canossa overlooking Lake Garda.
6 The German soldiers extol the ancient virtues of Italy, which they wish to help restore to its one-time greatness. 7 Ottone is moved by the fate of Italy and of Adelaide and pledges to avenge the murder of her husband Lotario. He feels that the happiness of both of them is close at hand. 8 Ernesto reports that Adelberto, as Berengario’s messenger, would like to speak with Ottone, but Ottone suspects a trick. Adelberto is admitted and offers Ottone peace. Ottone also wants peace, but only by handing back the country to the rightful regent; he wants to see Adelaide and to dispense justice. 9 Adelberto warns Ottone of Adelaide’s duplicity. He wants arms to be laid down and offers Ottone hospitality in Canossa; Ottone agrees to the suggestion. Privately each despises his adversary whom he would rather confront with force than with dissimulation.
The entrance hall in the fortress.
10 Berengario reports that his son has been successful and will return immediately to Canossa with Ottone. Eurice is full of doubt but Berengario has faith in his plan. He asks his wife to play along. 11 Iroldo and the people acclaim Ottone as the defender of Adelaide. 12 Berengario emphasizes to Ottone that he will not find himself in enemy territory. Ottone demands to see Adelaide and is deeply moved by the sight of her. She tells him that her one and only sin is her desire for revenge for the murder of the king and the humiliation incurred. She asks for Ottone’s sympathy. He announces to her and the people that they should regard her as his bride. Iroldo and the people look forward to peaceful times and the forthcoming marriage. 13 Adelberto is alarmed at Berengario’s inaction but the latter defends his strategy of pretending to offer Ottone security and to wait for reinforcements. He reckons that, with the kindness of fate, Ottone will soon be rendered harmless. 14 Eurice is torn between love for her son and lust for power. The fulfilment of Adelberto’s hopes for Adelaide’s hand would divest her of her royal crown. Her desire for power has robbed her of her peace.
Adelaide’s private rooms in the fortress.
15 Adelaide’s ladies-in-waiting rejoice at their mistress’s impending happiness. 16 Adelaide has wept enough but now she counts on her liberator, whose picture she carries in her heart. 17 Joyfully Iroldo announces the arrival of Ottone and the forthcoming marriage. Ottone asks Adelaide for her hand, not because of the promised wedding arrangement but out of love. Adelaide bestows on him her hand and her heart. 18 The strategic purpose behind the marriage tie gives way to the vows of love between Ottone and Adelaide.
Square in Canossa.
19 The people rejoice at the forthcoming marriage ceremony. Berengario and Adelberto are privately delighted at the change of plan. 20 To the general rejoicing of the people Ottone and Adelaide affirm their union; Berengario and Adelberto feign indifference. 21 As the bridal pair proceeds to the church a sudden noise of weapons rises up. Adelberto recognises the sound as that of the requested reinforcements and he and Berengario grab their swords. Ernesto, who has rushed in with a few German soldiers, urges the betrayed Ottone, who has also grabbed his sword, to flee; the horrified Adelaide is seized by Berengario’s soldiers. The scene ends in a general tumult of battle.
1 The soldiers of Berengario and Adelberto exult at their successful ambush and at Ottone’s flight. 2 Adelberto informs his mother of the victory over the Germans, who were caught unawares. As soon as Berengario returns he, Adelberto, will marry Adelaide, whom he wants to put out of her misery. Eurice wishes him much success. In the light of Ottone’s defeat Adelberto offers Adelaide the throne through their celebration of marriage. She rejects this as an affront. 3 Adelberto tries to convince Adelaide that his wish is also that of the fatherland but she accuses him of cowardly deception; Adelberto is taken aback. Then terrified soldiers report that Ottone has surprisingly gained the upper hand and that Berengario has been taken prisoner. Adelaide reveals her joy, but Adelberto reasserts that she will never be the bride of another, even if he were to lose the throne; he has her led off. 4 Iroldo would sacrifice himself if his death could save the queen.
The entrance hall.
Eurice implores her son to consent to the exchange of prisoners proposed by Ottone, otherwise Berengario must die, but Adelberto finds his mother’s laments unworthy of her. 5 Adelberto’s people appeal to his love for his father. He is torn between love for Adelaide and the natural feelings for his father. He himself begs nature to give him strength so that virtue will prevail; torn by conflicting feelings he goes off with his men. 6 Eurice decides to make it possible for her enemy Adelaide to flee, so that Berengario can return; Iroldo praises the resolve of married love.
Ernesto informs Ottone that Adelberto wishes to come to him to discuss the exchange of prisoners. Ottone hopes that Adelberto will agree to this, for without Adelaide his victory would be in vain. He confronts the captive Berengario with his futile deceitfulness. Adelberto comes and tells Ottone of his agreement to the exchange. But Berengario indignantly rejects the request; for him the forfeiture of the regency outweighs death. In return for Adelaide he demands of Ottone the throne of Insubria at the least. Ottone is in agreement and wishes to finalise the deal immediately. Suddenly Adelaide appears. 7 She declares that Cupid loosened her shackles. Ottone shows his relief while Berengario and Adelberto express their chagrin. Ottone asks Adelberto to leave the encampment and to brace himself for a new outcome on the battlefield. Adelberto demands the release of Berengario, to which Adelaide agrees, since she had promised that to Eurice. Berengario rejects this ignoble deal. But finally he leaves the encampment with Adelberto in order to defend Canossa while Ottone, now assured of success, and Adelaide anxiously await the forthcoming battle for reconquering Canossa. 8 Adelaide confesses her anxiety but Ottone reassures her. 9 Ottone embraces Adelaide once again. She ties around him a ribbon from her veil as a token of her love. Ottone goes off to battle. Adelaide meditates alone and hopes that her tears will find favour in heaven. She is wrenched out of her thoughts by the chorus of soldiers: the enemy has been defeated more quickly than expected. Adelaide surrenders herself to an indescribable feeling of happiness after so much worry.
Outside the fortress of Canossa.
10 At the open gates of Canossa the people cheer the victorious Ottone, who appears in a triumphal chariot, in his wake Berengario and Adelberto in chains. 11 Ottone values the approbation of the people more than his own crown but most of all he values the love of Adelaide. He places his crown on her head and Adelaide reaffirms her love. He proclaims that he will share the empire with her as the queen of Italy. While Berengario and Adelberto stand dejectedly to one side, Adelaide and the people share in Ottone’s joy.
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