Opera Essentials: La donna del lago
A quick guide to Rossini’s turbulent love story.
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).
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.