Opera Scotland

Donna del Lago La donna del lago; The Lady of the Lake

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Gioachino Rossini (born Pesaro, 29 February 1792; died Paris, 13 November 1868)

Andrea Leone Tottola

Poem The Lady of the Lake (1810) by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

First performance: Naples (Teatro San Carlo), 24 September 1819.
First UK performance: London (King’s Theatre, Haymarket), 18 February 1823.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Theatre Royal), 26 December 1835.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.

Rossini composed nine operas for Naples, generally considered to be the most forward-thinking house in Italy, and these works have been neglected until recently because of the extreme difficulties encountered in their performance. The Naples company included a soprano, Isabella Colbran, and two tenors, Nozzari and David, of quite exceptional ability. Even so, the opera had wide currency until 1860, with many performances in London. It then disappeared for nearly a century. Modern British revivals were in 1969 at the Camden Festival, with Kiri Te Kanawa and Robert Lloyd, and in 1985 at Covent Garden, with Frederica von Stade and Marilyn Horne. It is disappointing that a great opera by the leading composer of his day, based on a seminal work of Scottish literature, should still await a full staging in Scotland in modern times. The 2006 concert seems to be its first appearance since Rossini's lifetime.

Giacomo – King James V disguised as Uberto of Snowdon (tenor)
Rodrigo di Dhu (tenor)
Douglas d’Angus (bass)
Elena, daughter of Douglas (soprano)
Malcolm Graeme (mezzo-soprano)
Albina, Elena’s attendant (mezzo-soprano)
Serano, a follower of Douglas (tenor)
Bertram, the king’s squire (tenor)

Plot Summary
Around 1530, on the shores of Loch Katrine, it is dawn; Ellen rows her skiff across the loch, longing for the return of her lover, Malcolm. A huntsman, Hubert, who has been separated from his companions, greets her, and she offers him shelter on her island. Douglas, out of favour at court, has been given shelter here by Roderick Dhu, the local chieftain. In return he has promised that Ellen will marry Roderick. Hubert is ill at ease on discovering that Douglas is Ellen’s father. Albina ferries him back to shore. Malcolm returns in time to see Douglas rebuke his daughter for her unwillingness to marry Roderick, who also arrives at this point. They settle their differences for the time being as their clansmen prepare to do battle with the king’s forces. Ellen again meets Hubert who has realised that he loves her, but that she loves someone else. He gives her a ring as a token, saying this was given him by the king for saving him, and should be presented to the king if she ever needs help. This has been overheard by Roderick, who then challenges Hubert to a fight. In this combat, Roderick is killed, and the king’s forces then win the battle. Douglas goes to Stirling to surrender in the hope of receiving amnesty for his people, and Ellen follows him. In Stirling, the king is unsympathetic. Douglas and Malcolm are imprisoned. Ellen comes to present the ring to the king, and is astonished to find that he is Hubert. A general pardon follows and the king approves the marriage of Ellen and Malcolm.


OPERA RARA (3 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 2006

Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Carmen Giannattasio (Elena), Kenneth Tarver (Giacomo), Patricia Bardon (Malcolm).

This recording was made live at a concert performance in a packed Usher Hall and it was one of the highlights of the 2006 Edinburgh Festival. The Scottish Chamber Orchestra is on fabulous form and the woodwinds are delicious in so many solo opportunities. The Edinburgh Festival Chorus put lots of energy into the gathering of the clans – a foretaste of the choral writing Rossini would produce a decade later in William Tell. The soloists are all excellent. Carmen Giannattasio was making her British debut, but came back a couple of years later to sing Violetta with Scottish Opera in a new production of Traviata. She makes a strong impression. The two high-flying tenors, Kenneth Tarver and Gregory Kunde, have voices which contrast nicely, and Patricia Bardon has a lovely contralto tone as Malcolm Graeme. Robert Gleadow is suitably authoritative as Douglas. The live audience plays its part admirably – not a cough, not a splutter, just the sound of acute concentration and enjoyment. The Opera Rara package is superb, full of interesting notes.

SONY (2 CDs) Sung in Italian Recorded 1983

Conductor: Maurizio Pollini
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Katia Ricciarelli (Elena), Dalmacio Gonzales (Giacomo), Lucia Valentini Terrani (Malcolm).

For most people, this recording based on performances at the Rossini Festival at Pesaro, was the first chance to become acquainted with this lovely score. Maurizio Pollini is one of the great pianists of the last fifty years, and not generally regarded as a conductor, and Rossini has not been his speciality either. The result is however excellent – perhaps a little hard-driven at times, but nothing serious. The orchestra and chorus are almost as good as the Edinburgh set. Katia Ricciarelli gives a glorious performance as Elena, gentle and sweet-toned, with no problems with the coloratura, altogether one of her best recordings. Lucia Valentini Terrani was a wonderful exponent of these Rossini parts and Douglas is in the expert hands of Samuel Ramey. The two tenors, Dalmacio Gonzales and Dano Raffanti give a real sense of enjoyment to their rivalry.

The Cast

 Ellen’s attendant
 the king’s squire
Douglas d’Angus
 Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus
 Ellen, daughter of Douglas
 King James V, disguised as Uberto of Snowdon
Malcolm Graeme
 a rebel, in love with Ellen
Rodrigo di Dhu
 Roderick Dhu, a rebel chief
 a follower of Douglas

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