“The fine Providence Singers dispatched [the Esperanto text] on lovely rivers of pentatonic melody”
The Boston Globe
15 November 2009
(Harrison La Koro Sutro)



 







Gaetano Donizetti (1797–1848)

Gaetano Donizetti

‘Chorus of the Wedding Guests’
     from Lucia di Lammermoor, 1835

“A new and very happy hope is rising for the Italian musical theatre. The young Maestro Gaetano Donizetti ... has launched himself strongly in his truly serious opera, Zoraida.”

Notizie del giorno, Rome

“The world wants something new. Others have ceded their places to us and we must cede ours to still others. ... I am more than happy to give mine to people of talent like Verdi.”

— Gaetano Donizetti
Letter to Giuseppina Appiani, 1844

Like Verdi, Gaetano Donizetti was born into a poor family, where a musical education was out of the question. His father was the caretaker of the local pawn shop. The maestro di cappella of Bergamo’s main church, however — the German opera composer Simone Mayr — had founded a school to provide additional training for choirboys. Donizetti was admitted when he was 9, and Mayr continued his training well past the point where Donizetti’s voice changed. It was Mayr who found the funds and supplied a letter of introduction to the music publisher Giovanni Ricordi that allowed Donizetti to study at the Liceo Musicale in Bologna.

Donizetti thrived and impressed teachers with his compositions, including his first effort at opera, a comedy titled Il pigmalione. At Mayr’s suggestion, he returned to Bergamo to seek employment. He wrote his next opera without a contract, and was able to get it produced in Venice, but his career advanced slowly. His ninth work, Zoraida di Granata, was well-received in Rome.

He moved to Naples early in 1822, which would be his base for a substantial part of his creative life. His reputation grew, and he became a very prolific composer, working swiftly on commissions. He would compose more than 70 operas, 16 symphonies, 19 string quartets, 193 songs, 45 duets, three oratorios, 28 cantatas, instrumental concertos, sonatas, and other chamber pieces. His work was being performed internationally, in Paris, London, Vienna. He moved to Paris for a time.

In the early 1840s, however, his health began to fail. Depression and severe mental illness eventually ended his creative career, and he was institutionalized near Paris. Following protracted efforts by his family and friends, he was allowed to return to Bergamo, where he died on April 8, 1848.


Chorus of the Wedding Guests (from Lucia di Lammermoor)
First performance: September 26, 1835, at Teatro di San Carlo, Naples; Libretto: Salvadore Cammarano

Synopsis
The opera is based on The Bride of Lammermoor, Sir Walter Scott’s historical novel set in early 18th-century Scotland. It is the story of young lovers from feuding noble families. Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood and Lucia di Lammermoor are the lovers. Lucia’s brother Enrico Ashton, Lord of Lammermoor, loathes all of Ravenswood and is determined to end their relationship and see his sister married to Lord Arturo Bucklaw.

As the work opens, Enrico and the castle guard are searching for an intruder, assuming it is Edgardo again. They are correct. As Lucia waits for Edgardo, she tells her maid that she has seen the ghost of a young woman killed long ago by a Ravenswood. She ignores the maid’s worry that the vision is a supernatural warning to break off the relationship with Edgardo, who soon appears. He hopes to make peace with Enrico, but that seems impossible. Edgardo must leave for France. The lovers make a vow of marriage and exchange rings.

Act II opens just before Lucia’s marriage to Arturo. Enrico tries to cement the union by showing Lucia a forged letter in which Edgardo says he has found a new love. Arturo arrives, and he and Lucia sign the marriage contract, though Lucia is acting strangely. Edgardo appears, angry and ready to fight, but the chaplain shows him the signed contract. Edgardo curses Lucia, throws his ring on the ground, and is escorted out of the castle.

Enrico has challenged Edgardo to a duel, and they agree to meet later. Meanwhile at the Hall of Lammermoor, the chaplain interrupts the wedding feast to report that Lucia has gone mad and killed her new husband Arturo. Lucia enters and in her madness imagines that she is about to marry Edgardo. Enrico is angry at first, then realizes that his sister is not well. Lucia collapses. Later, in the Ravenswood graveyard, Edgardo is planning to lose the duel and allow Enrico to kill him. But when word reaches him that Lucia has died, he kills himself with a dagger.

Coro
Per te d’immenso giubilo
tutto s’avviva intorno,
per te veggiam rinascere
della speranza il giorno,
qui l’amistà ti guida,
qui ti conduce amore,
tutto s’avviva intorno,
qui ti conduce amor,
qual astro in notte infida,
qual riso nel dolor,
qual astro,
ecc.

Arturo
Per poco fra le tenebre
sparì la vostra stella.
Io la farò risorgere
più fulgida, più bella.
La man mi porgi, Enrico,
ti stringi a questo cor,
a te ne vengo amico,
fratello e difensor.

Coro
Ah! ... Per te d’immenso giubilo,
ecc.

Arturo
A te ne vengo amico,
ecc.
... fratello e difensor,
ecc.

Coro
... qual astro in notte infida,
ecc.
... fratello e difensor,
ecc.

Coro
For you, all around
we join in rousing jubilation,
because of you, we see
the day of hope reborn,
here friendship guides you,
here love leads you,
new life is all around,
here love leads you,
like a star on a treacherous night,
like laughter in sorrow.
like a star,
etc.

Arturo
Your fortune’s star has suffered
a brief eclipse,
I shall see it rise again
brighter and more splendid.
Give me your hand, Enrico,
and accept my cordial greeting,
I come to you as friend,
brother and protector.

Coro
Ah!...For you we join in jubilation,
etc.

Arturo
I come to you as friend,
etc.
... brother and protector,
etc.

Coro
... like a star on a treacherous night,
etc.
... brother and protector,
etc.