Opera Scotland

Elisir d'amore 1957Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Piccola Scala)

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The chorus and orchestra of La Scala Milan appeared with great success at one of the early Edinburgh Festivals in 1950. The two conductors then were the veteran Music Director Victor de Sabata and the brilliant young Guido Cantelli. Clearly it was hoped that the full opera company would visit before long. However the Festival struggled for most of its first half century to accommodate grand opera in the King's Theatre, and no such visit was ever likely. In 1955, a small theatre, the Piccola Scala, was opened in Milan, with the intention of staging new works and revivals of little known smaller pieces. Foreign tours were quickly undertaken, to Vienna and Johannesburg, and an Edinburgh season at last became possible.

The thirty-six year-old Cantelli was appointed to lead the Scala company, but a few days after the announcement, he was killed in an air-crash at Paris on 24 November 1956. It was soon after this that the Edinburgh visit was announced, though the conductors would now be Nino Sanzogno and Antonino Votto. The programme originally announced included the work with which the new Milan house had opened, Cimarosa's Il matrimonio segreto and Bellini's La sonnambula (actually a main house production, though not very grand). Also proposed were Donizetti's Don Pasquale and a double-bill of recent operas by Menotti which would receive British stage premieres - The Medium and Amahl and the Night Visitors.

By August, Gianandrea Gavazzeni had been added to the list of conductors, while the schedule had also changed. Don Pasquale and the Menotti programme were dropped in favour of L'elisir d'amore and Il turco in Italia. While the presence of Maria Callas in the Bellini made headlines, several important singers made British debuts, including Rosanna Carteri and three excellent tenors - Giuseppe di Stefano, Luigi Alva and Nicola Monti.

Good as this cast undoubtedly was, for what was then a relatively little-known masterpiece, the evening was dominated by the glorious voice and charming persona of the young Giuseppe di Stefano. At one performance the ovation after 'Una furtiva lagrima' is reported to have continued for fully ten minutes. In Edinburgh? - surely not!


The Piccola Scala in Edinburgh - 1957

The four productions brought from Milan were:  Cimarosa (ll matrimpnio segreto);  Rossini (Il turco in Italia);  Donizetti (L'elisir d'amore);  Bellini (La sonnambula).

The Festival opera schedule was as follows:

First week, commencing 19 Aug:  Mon Sonnambula;  Tue Matrimonio segreto;  Wed Sonnambula;  Thu Matrimonio;  Fri Elisir d'amore;  Sat Matrimonio segreto.

Second week, commencing 26 Aug:  Mon Sonnambula;  Tue Elisir;  Wed Matrimonio segreto;  Thu Sonnambula;  Fri Turco in Italia;  Sat Elisir d'amore.

Third week, commencing 2 Sep:  Mon Turco in Italia;  Tue Sonnambula;  Wed Turco in Italia;  Thu Elisir;  Fri Turco;  Sat Elisir d'amore.

Performance Cast

Nemorino a young peasant

Giuseppe di Stefano

Adina a wealthy farm owner

Rosanna Carteri

Belcore a sergeant

Giulio Fioravanti

Dulcamara a quack doctor

Fernando Corena

Giannetta a peasant girl

Greta Rapisardi

Performance DatesElisir d'amore 1957

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

23 Aug, 19.00 27 Aug, 19.00 31 Aug, 19.00 5 Sep, 19.00 7 Sep, 19.00

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