Opera Scotland

Adelaide di Borgogna Adelaide of Burgundy

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


Giovanni Federico Schmidt


Original historical sources.



First performance: Rome (Teatro Argentina), 27 December 1817.

First UK performance: London (Queen Elizabeth Hall), 19 November 1978 (concert).

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 19 August 2005 (concert).

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Even in modern times, Adelaide is one of the most neglected of Rossini’s operas. His two previous operas in Rome had been Barbiere and Cenerentola, and in 1817 his earlier premieres were Otello (Naples), Cenerentola (Rome), Gazza Ladra (La Scala) and Armida (Naples). In that context, perhaps it is not surprising that Adelaide has struggled for recognition. Schmidt is not usually recognised as a great librettist, his nonsensical text for the previously successful Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra being seen as typical. However his work on Adelaide is unusual in that it is concise and sticks surprisingly close to historical fact. Rossini’s inspiration is uneven, but the best bits are excellent.



Adelaide, widow of Lotario (soprano)

Ottone – Otto I, Emperor of Germany (mezzo-soprano)

Adelberto, son of Berengario (tenor)

Berengario, usurping King of Italy (bass)

Eurice, Berengario’s wife (soprano)

Ernesto, an officer of Ottone (tenor)

Iroldo, former governor of Canosso (tenor)


Plot Summary

The plot is set in the year 951.  Lotario was King of Italy, ruling a large belt of territory, including his wife’s Burgundy lands.  It stretched from the North Sea through what is now eastern France down to Northern Italy and Rome.  When Berengario murders Lotario and seizes the throne, he has Adelaide imprisoned with a view to marrying her off to his son Adelberto.  After four months Adelaide is helped to escape and appeals for support to the German Emperor Otto.  She is again captured by Berengario.  When Otto’s army enters Italian territory, Berengario and Adelberto agree to offer friendship in the hope of deceiving Otto and trapping him.  When a temporary peace is agreed, Otto goes to the fortress where Berengario is staying, and Adelaide is also held.  He and Adelaide are immediately attracted, and Otto disturbs his enemies’ plans by announcing their marriage.

In the second act, Berengario’s reinforcements arrive and his deception becomes clear.  Otto is able to rejoin his forces and a battle takes place. After initial difficulty,  Otto’s troops are victorious and Berengario captured.  Otto agrees with Adelberto to exchange his father for Adelaide, but Berengario rejects that option.  However Eurice herself releases Adelaide in order to get her husband back.  In a further battle, Otto is again victorious, and at last he and Adelaide can be married.  Following the unification of their territories he becomes Holy Roman Emperor.

The Cast

 widow of Lotario, King of Italy
 son of Berengario
 usurping King of Italy
 an officer of Ottone
 Berengario's wife
 former governor of Canosso
 Otto I, Emperor of Germany

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