Saturday, 23 June 2018


A posthumous portrait of Donizetti,
pictured as he may have appeared in the
late 1830’s, when L’Ange de Nisida is
believed to have been composed. The newly
discovered epic is a romantic display of the
ever-popular love triangle trope so
prevalent in opera – in this instance, the
unyielding love of a soldier who has
fallen besotted for the mistress of a king.
This summer, some lucky London and U.K.-bound melophiles will have the distinct pleasure of experiencing the world premiere of 19th century Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti’s formerly lost opera L’Ange de Nisida (The Angel of Nisida) at Covent Garden. The rare work, discovered by musicologist Dr. Candida Mantica some eight years ago whilst she was studying as a PhD student at Southampton University, is believed to have been written by the composer sometime during the waning years of 1830 whilst residing in Paris[1] for the French capital’s Théâtre de la Renaissance prior to the company going bankrupt, thus prompting Donizetti to permanently shelve the opera.

Dr. Mantica, who located fragments from the work’s score at Paris’s Bibliothèque Nationale in 2010, spoke to reporters about the painstaking process of locating the additional leafs, which she says were scattered among 18 folders in no specific order, and which took her across the Atlantic and back to examine archives in both Europe and the United States to aid in the process of reconstruction:

“I was able to identify about 470 pages of autograph music [written by Donizetti, in his hand] thanks to a draft copy of the libretto, which allowed me to establish their original order.”

L’Ange de Nisida is set to premiere at Covent Garden July 18, with a repeat performance being held on the 21st. It will be a concert version only, with Joyce El-Khoury in the starring role and conducted by Sir Mark Elder (Music Director of the Hallé / Artistic Director and publisher of obscure works at Opera Rara), who is quick to point out that although much of the music contained in this new work was later recycled by Donizetti in later works (including La Favorite in 1840), “over half” of the music in L’Ange has never before been heard.

Tickets to the July 18th premiere and the July 21 encore are available now for purchase: ROH

Listen below to the tenor aria “Spirto gentil” from Donizetti’s La Favorite – a reworking of the previously shelved L’Ange de Nisida. Although Donizetti had new aria written for L’Ange,  the fourth act is said to have been transferred over intact. Franco Corelli performs:

[1]Donizetti had recently arrived in Paris after having fled Naples in the hopes of creating music under a less oppressive regime than found in Italy, which presently sought to “cleanse” opera of anti-religious/crown sentiment and/or parody, spectacular death, or any other distasteful subject matter that might incite public unrest. It was also meant to be a new beginning for the composer on the personal front: Gaetano had just lost both his parents, and his wife, Virginia (who died in childbirth) before packing his bags and journeying North.

Interestingly, whilst Donizetti assigned Neapolitan roots to the cuckolded King in L’Ange de Nisidia, in the reworked opera La Favorite, which would premiere in 1840 in Italy, the composer penned it’s king – under pressure from Italian censors – as a medieval king from Castile.

This is not the first Donizetti-related development to make the news in recent months: just this May the composer's rare Dante-inspired opera Pia de' Tolomei caused quite a stir during its US debut in Charleston when stage producer Andrea Cigni's made the curious –and very controversial – decision to set the 13th century tale in Fascist Italy. The music scored a major success with critics, the updated, highly politicized setting, not so much.

No comments:

Post a Comment