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Catalani La Wally

Alfredo Catalani La Wally Alfredo Catalani was the great operatic hope which never materialised.  A contemporary and rival of Puccini, he was regarded for a while as the natural successor to Verdi as the leader of Italian opera, but two things prevented that from happening.  One was his early death from consumption at the age […]

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Jules Massenet – Thérèse

  Jules Massenet Thérèse Of several operas set during the turmoil of the French Revolution, Massenet’s Thérèse is the most concise: its powerful story of friendship, love, duty and sacrifice is an emotional roller-coaster as its three main characters play out their tragic lives against the backdrop of a country and a whole society turned […]

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Ethel Smyth – The Wreckers

OPERASTORY: Plots Ethel Smyth The Wreckers Holidays in Cornwall with friends when she was younger had a lasting effect on Ethel Smyth. Deeply impressed by stories of the determined Old Testament zeal of isolated Cornish communities who made their living by luring ships onto the wild coastline and the unsuccessful attempts of Wesleyan ministers to […]

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Tommaso Traetta – Antigona

OPERASTORY: Plots Tommaso Traetta Antigona Just occasionally, an opera comes along which changes the course of operatic history. But just occasionally, operas which should be better-known slip below the horizon and disappear from view. Whilst this is sad in that many operas can stay disappeared for ever, it can also provide opportunities for exciting discoveries. […]

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Francesco Cilea – Gina

Francesco Cilea Gina Opera composers have to start somewhere. In the case of Francesco Cilea, his first stage work, Gina, was a graduation piece written when he was twenty-two and performed by his fellow students in the theatre of the Conservatorio in Naples where Cilea had studied alongside Umberto Giordano with the distinguished and magnanimous […]

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Umberto Giordano – Mala Vita

Opera in three acts. Libretto by Nicola Daspuro, based on the play O Voto by Salvatore di Giacomo. First performed at the Teatro Argentina in Rome on 21 February 1892.  Revised and watered down as Il Voto, it was then first given at the Teatro Lirico in Milan on 10 November 1897.   Act 1 […]

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Umberto Giordano – Il Re

Novella (‘short story’) in three scenes. Libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. First performed at La Scala, Milan, on 12 January 1929.   Scene 1 Inside a windmill, the miller, his wife, their young neighbour Colombello, and a lawyer, a priest and an astrologer are sitting in silence, thinking.  A cuckoo clock strikes three.  The priest rises […]

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Richard Strauss – Intermezzo

A bourgeois comedy with symphonic interludes in two acts. Libretto by the composer. First performed in the Court Theatre in Dresden on 4 November 1924.   Act 1 Scene 1 It is early one morning in the home of the conductor and court composer Robert Storch in Grundlsee.  Robert is preparing to leave for a […]

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Charles Gounod – La Colombe

Opera in two acts. Libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré, after a fable by Jean de La Fontaine. First performed at the Théâtre de Bade, Baden-Baden, on 6 August 1860.   Act 1 A small cottage in the country, just outside Florence. Mazet, the manservant of an impoverished young nobleman, Horace, starts the day […]

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Charles Gounod – La Nonne Sanglante

Opera in five acts. Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne, based on an episode in The Monk, by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1796). First performed at the Paris Opéra on 18 October 1854.   Act 1 Bohemia in the eleventh century: the castle of Baron Moldaw There has long been enmity between the rival families […]

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