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Opera Essentials: La donna del lago

A quick guide to Rossini’s turbulent love story.

By Kate Hopkins (Opera and Music Publications Officer)

20 May 2013 at 10.25am | 2 Comments

The Story Begins…
The Highlanders seek to maintain independence from the rule of the King of Scotland. Elena, daughter of the rebel Duglas, is in love with the young warrior Malcom, but her father is determined that she will marry the Highland chief Rodrigo. Will Elena choose love or duty? And who is the handsome stranger Uberto, who seems so interested in Elena?

Homage to History
John Fulljames celebrates Scotland in this production: both Scotland at the time of Sir Walter Scott and Rossini (when fascination with Scots history was at its height) and the historic Scotland in which the opera is set. The production highlights the beauty of Scottish landscape, of which the heroine, Elena, is a symbol, while not forgetting the struggles and battles that feature in all retellings of Scottish history. Read John Fulljames’s thoughts on Sir Walter Scott’s appeal.

A Musical Feast
La donna del lago is both intensely dramatic and full of lyrical beauty. Highlights of the opera include Elena’s opening aria ‘O mattutini albori!’ – one of Rossini’s most beautiful melodies – and her triumphant rondo ‘Tanti affetti in tal momento’, which closes the opera; Malcom’s ardent ‘Elena! O tu che chiamo!’ in Act I; and several large-scale ensembles and choruses, including a Chorus of Bards at the end of Act I, scored for male voices, harp and pizzicato violas, cellos and double basses.

From Political Drama to Romance
Rossini and his librettist Andrea Leone Tottola based La donna del lago on Sir Walter Scott’s hugely popular narrative poem The Lady of the Lake. Scott’s poem deals with themes of perpetual fascination for Rossini: romance, politics, nationalism and the conflict between love and duty.

An Exciting Rediscovery
La donna del lago was first performed at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, in 1819. It was enormously popular and was soon being performed around Europe. However, after the early 1850s it all but disappeared from the repertory for a century. Interest in the opera was revived from 1958, the beginning of the ‘bel canto revival’. Since then, the opera has increasingly become part of the repertory, with key productions including those at Covent Garden (1985), La Scala (1992 and 2011) and Paris Opéra (2010).

La donna del lago runs until 11 June. Tickets at Covent Garden are no longer available though the performance on 27 May will be relayed live into cinemas around the world.

The production is sponsored by the Peter Moores Foundation and the Friends of Covent Garden with generous philanthropic support from Celia Blakey, Hélène and Jean Peters, Judith Portrait and Susan and John Singer. The Production Director generously supported by Hamish and Sophie Forsyth.

By Kate Hopkins (Opera and Music Publications Officer)

20 May 2013 at 10.25am

This article has been categorised Opera and tagged background, by John Fulljames, Gioachino Rossini, La donna del lago, Opera Essentials, Production, Sir Walter Scott

This article has 2 comments

  1. Audrey Shangguan responded on 27 May 2013 at 11:33pm Reply

    I wonder why Elena, her father and her lover are put into the transparent boxes...

  2. Krysia Williams responded on 1 June 2013 at 12:14am Reply

    I wonder when gratuitous rape and goading of women by men will cease to be regarded as valid entertainment for an audience of thousands.
    John Fulljames direction was confused and confusing..many people around me did not comprehend the reason for the glass boxes and the nineteenth century observers/players.
    It was insulting to women..why did the female chorus members have to be cross-dressed as men...another example of discrimination against women in this production.
    I also find it disturbing that the men in the chorus will have been work shopped to find the part of them that will terrorise and goad women. disgraceful. Don't hide behind 'this reflects how it was'..it wasn't necessary to the production..use more imagination. This production was bereft of true ideas..the singing was great.

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