20, 26, 29 October | 1, 4 November
Melodramma semiserio in 2 acts by Jacopo Foroni (1824–1858)
Libretto by Giorgio Giachetti, sung in Italian with English Surtitles
First performed at the King’s Theatre in Milan, 4 March 1848
Ser Matteo’s nephew Roberto wishes to marry the orphan Margherita, but she is in love with the soldier Ernesto. Ernesto’s sister Giustina arrives to tell him his regiment is leaving soon. Ernesto and Margherita decide to marry the next day. Margherita gives Ernesto a ribbon as a love token which he attaches to his cape. Ernesto’s colonel, Count Rodolfo then arrives saying he needs Ernesto’s to help him escape a duel. In the process of helping the colonel, Ernesto loses his cap. Giustina arrives to report a man has been attacked in the forest, but that she has found one of the attackers cap. It turns out to be Ernesto’s and he is arrested. Margherita arrives at the jail to argue for Ernesto’s release, but Roberto says he will only release Ernesto if Margherita gives him her hand in marriage. In the end the Count confesses that he was the person attacked, and it was Rodolfo who attacked him. Ernesto and Mergherita are reunited and marry.
Following the success of Cristina, regina di Svezia at Wexford in 2013, acclaimed by many as one of the most worthwhile rediscoveries in the festival’s long history, we return to another of Jacopo Foroni’s operas. The clue to the previous long neglect of Foroni (1824–1858), who scarcely features in the reference books, may lie in Foroni’s early death from cholera in Stockholm, where he had taken charge of the Italian opera company in 1849, presenting his credentials that year with his opera on the tumultuous life of Queen Christina of Sweden. As that work showed, at this stage he could still have been considered a worthy rival to Verdi as the inheritor of Donizetti’s mantle, though perhaps his willingness to leave Italy suggests that his temperament lay elsewhere. Indeed, though his music brims with Italianate vitality, he was a cosmopolitan figure, aware of the symphonic tradition north of the Alps.
Margherita was, significantly, his first opera, premiered one year earlier than Cristina in front of the ‘home’ audience in Milan. It was greeted with considerable enthusiasm, not least by the influential Alberto Mazzucato, who praised ‘the good balance between seriousness and comedy [and] the moderate timbre of the orchestral sound’. As this suggests, one of its models might have been Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’amore, with which it shares a rural setting (the action of Margherita takes place in a Swiss mountain village), and the score contains folk music tinges and evokes a Romantic landscape. Classified by its composer as a ‘Melodramma semiseria’, its libretto is an adaptation of a French text by no less a figure than Eugène Scribe, originally intended for the composer Adrien Boieldieu, who died before he could finish the work. Margherita was commissioned for Milan’s Teatro Re, a small theatre near La Scala (on a site absorbed into where the city’s famous Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele stands today), and the practicalities of writing for it are reflected in the opera’s essential intimacy.
A co-production with Oldenburghisches Staatstheater
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