University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - Rossini: La Donna del Lago

06/16/2019 1:00 pm
06/16/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

In the early nineteenth century Gioacchino Rossini wrote opera buffa better than any other Italian composer of his day, but he really made his mark a little later in his career as a writer of operatic melodramas. They were popular, to be sure, but they all fell out of the repertoire by mid century, only to be revived in the mid twentieth century. La Donna del Lago (1819) is the most beautifully melodic of them all. This opera comes at the dawn of the bel canto period.

The action is set in the Scottish Highlands, the story taken from a narrative poem by Sir Walter Scott. Interest in Scottish lore was running high then all across Europe. "The Lady of the Lake" offers hospitality to King James the Fifth of Scotland, who is travelling in the Highlands in disguise. Although her father is the leader of a clan of rebellious Highlanders, the king intervenes on her behalf. The rebels are pardoned and Ellen, "The Lady of the Lake" is free to marry her true love.

La Donna del Lago was given at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, the composer's hometown in Italy, in 1983. The production made use of the then new critical edition of Rossini's score. The opera as recorded therefore sounds pretty much the way it was intended to be sung in the early nineteenth century. Soprano Katia Ricciarelli is Ellen or Elena, "The Lady." Douglas of Angus, her father, is baritone Samuel Ramey, and mezzo Lucia Valentini-Terrani sings in the breeches role of Malcolm, Ellen's true love. The world premiere recording came out in 1984 on three CBS Masterworks digital LPs. I have broadcast these same LPs before on two occasions, Sunday, September 15, 1985 and Sunday, May 18, 2008.