Enjoy Italian opera online for free

Until February 15th, you can watch Linda di Chamounix, a semiserious opera by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti, on the website of Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Italian theatres have not reopened their doors to the audience yet, but you can enjoy some shows (even live performances!) completely free of charge and from the comfort of your home. Florence-based Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino is among the institutions that in this period are offering the experience of a live event on their website, allowing music enthusiasts from all over the world to enjoy opera and classical music concerts. The theatre is currently streaming Linda di Chamounix, available until February 15th, which will be followed by Rigoletto on February 23rd and Così fan tutte on March 28th.

Linda di Chamounix

Opera Eugenia Tadolini, portrait
Eugenia Tadolini, one of Donizetti’s favourite singers and the first Linda. Portrait by Josef Kriehuber

In 1841, Bartolomeo Merelli, a fellow pupil of Gaetano Donizetti, director of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and the Kärnthnerthor Theater in Vienna, engaged the composer to write an opera for La Scala, Maria Padilla, and his Viennese theatre, Linda di Chamounix, produced in 1842 and dedicated to empress Maria Anna. This work was so successful that earned Donizetti the appointment of official composer of emperor Ferdinand I’s court.

Linda di Chamounix is a semiserious opera in three acts, whose Italian libretto was written by Gaetano Rossi. The protagonist is a beautiful and virtuous girl, Linda (played by Jessica Pratt, soprano), in love with Carlo, Viscount of Sirval (Francesco Demuro, tenor), whose relationship is threatened by his uncle, the Marquis of Boisfleury. The opera is full of misunderstandings, anagnorises and plot twists that, with the help of Pierotto, Linda’s friend (Teresa Iervolino, mezzo-soprano), will lead to the traditional happy ending.

Gaetano Donizetti: life and works

Opera Gaetano_Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti, portrait by Joseph Kriehuber

The youngest of three sons of the keeper of the municipal pawnshop, Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (Bergamo, 1797-1848), showed an early interest in music. He began his musical studies with Johannes Simon Mayr, a Bavarian priest and opera composer who helped him enter Bologna’s Liceo Filarmonico and supported his early career. His first renowned work was Enrico di Borgogna, composed for a libretto by Bartolomeo Merelli, which debuted in Venice in 1818. During the next twelve years, he wrote 31 operas, but his first international success was Anna Bolena (1830), produced in Milan, which made him a celebrity in Europe and across the Atlantic. The 1830s are the years of his best-known works: L’elisir d’amore (1832), a comedy full of charm and character written in eight days, with a libretto by Felice Romani, the best theatre poet of the day and the author of Lucrezia Borgia’s libretto (1833), which consolidated Donizetti’s reputation, followed by his tragic masterpiece Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), a historical drama based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor.

In 1837, his beloved wife Virginia Vasselli died soon after the stillbirth of a son, leaving him alone since none of their three children had survived. The following year, after Poliuto, a drama about a Christian martyr, was banned in Naples, he moved to Paris, where the opera was produced as Les Martyrs with a French text by Eugène Scribe. There, he also composed La fille du regiment (1840), his first opera written specifically to a French libretto and a resounding success. His last years, spent in Paris, Naples, Vienna, Milan, Genoa, Bergamo, were marked by an obsession for work, the appearance of a mental disorder and the worsening of the symptoms of syphilis. Before dying in Bergamo in 1848, he composed the witty Don Pasquale, his comic masterpiece, and Dom Sébastien (1843), unfavourably reviewed by critics but a success with the public.

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