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Alexander Campbell Mackenzie (born Edinburgh, 22 August 1847; died London, 28 April 1935).


Francis Hueffer.


Story (1840) by Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870).



First Performance: London (Drury Lane), 9 April 1883.

First Performance (Revision): London (His Majesty's Theatre), 9 December 1912.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Theatre Royal), 5 November 1883.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Sir Alexander Mackenzie was the greatest Scottish composer of the Victorian era, much admired by Elgar, and Principal of the Royal Academy of Music from 1888 to 1924. He had acknowledged success in a number of fields, including concertos for violin and for piano, as well as an admired oratorio, The Rose of Sharon. However success with opera eluded him. Colomba was his first attempt. It was revived in 1909 before Claude Aveling remodelled it into three acts for a staging by students at the Royal College of Music. It has not been presented anywhere since then. Of his later stage works, his Dickens-based The Cricket on the Hearth certainly has an attractive overture, even if nothing else of his music has been heard in years.

Until the sudden success of Bizet's Carmen in 1875, Prosper Mérimée's writings had not been an important source of opera plots, but Colomba is quite an acceptable drama, if a talented adapter could have been found. Mackenzie seems to have been unlucky on this occasion.


Main Characters

Orso Della Robbia, a Corsican army officer (tenor)

Colomba, his sister (soprano)

Count de Nevers, Governor of Corsica (bass)

Lydia, the Count's daughter (mezzo-soprano)

Giuseppe Barracini, murderer of Orso's father (baritone)

Savelli, a bandit (bass)

Chilina, Savelli's daughter (soprano)


Plot Summary

Orso has been away from Corsica for some time, serving as an officer in the French Army, His commanding officer is the Count de Nevers, and he is on the verge of becoming engaged to the Count's daughter. With the Count becoming the newly-appointed Governor of Corsica, these three move to the island. Orso is immediately greeted by his sister, Colomba, who informs him that their father has recently been murdered. There is a long-standing feud between their family and the Barracinis, of which this killing is the latest act. She demands that he gain revenge. Orso, having, as he thinks, gained civilised values in France, is reluctant to return to the old ways.

The Count exonerates the accused murderer, Giuseppe Barracini, and Orso accepts the idea of peace. But Colomba fnds a bandit chief, Savelli, who witnessed the killing. Orso now challenges Barracini to a duel, but is ambushed by Giuseppe and another of his family. Acting in self-defence, he kills them, and flees to the mountains, taking shelter with Savelli. Eventually the Count discovers the truth about the murder and is also persuaded that Orso acted in self-defence. He is pardoned and engaged to Lydia. In one further skirmish, Colomba is wounded, and dies in her brother's arms.

The Cast

 Savelli's daughter
 Orso's sister
Count de Nevers
 Governor of Corsica, Orso's commander
Giuseppe Barracini
 the Count's daughter, engaged to Orso
Orso Della Robbia
 a Corsican officer in the French army
 a Corsican bandit

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