Bianca e Fernando

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Bianca e Fernando (Bianca and Fernando) is an opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini.

The original version of this opera was presented as Bianca e Gernando and was set to a libretto by Domenico Gilardoni, based on Bianca e Fernando alla tomba di Carlo IV, duca di Agrigento (Bianca and Ferdinand at the Tomb of Charles IV, Duke of Agrigento), a play by Carlo Roti which is set in Sicily. In 1826, use of the name Fernando in the title was forbidden because Ferdinando was the name of the heir to the throne, and no form of it could be used on a royal stage.[1]

The 1826 work—Bellini's first professionally-staged opera—had its first performance at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples on 30 May 1826.[1] Its success resulted the offer to the young composer from Domenico Barbaja, the Intendente at the San Carlo and also part of the management of La Scala opera house in Milan, of a commission to write a new opera for La Scala.[1]

The revival of Bianca e Gernando, with the title reverting to the original one proposed for the opera, came about after the success of Il pirata in Milan in October 1827. A commission came from Genoa in early 1828, too late for Bellini to write anything new. However, he did re-arrange the music to suit the singers' voices and in addition (as Galatopoulos states), Romani took on the re-construction of the libretto with the result that "out of the whole of Bianca, the only pieces entirely unchanged are the big duet and the romanza; everything else is altered, and about half of it is new".[2] For this later production, Bellini specifically rejected a request by Gilardoni to revise the libretto, preferring instead Felice Romani, whom he regarded as the superior poet.[1][3]

Performance history[edit]

The first version—Bellini's first professionally-staged opera and given as Bianca e Gernando—had its first performance at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples on 30 May 1826, while the revised version, given under its original title, Bianca e Fernando, took place on the occasion of the opening of the new Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa on 7 April 1828.

It was presented in Rome on 1 July 1837. Weinstock includes an extract from the opera's publisher, Antonio Tosi, who "praised the leading singers and commented on the altitudes to which Bellini's later operas had raised him":[4]

...he not only followed the method of those numerous servile imitators of the Rossinian style who, lacking that master's genius and distinction, remained unaware that in the fine arts, not copies, but creations are wanted, not imitations, but originality.[5]

The opera is rarely, if ever, performed today, although a recording exists of a 1991 performance at the Teatro Massimo Bellini in Catania.[6]

Roles[edit]

Soprano
Adelaide Tosi
Tenor
Giovanni David
Baritone
Antonio Tamburini
Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 7 April 1828
(Conductor: - )
Bianca soprano Adelaide Tosi
Fernando tenor Giovanni David
Carlo, Duke d'Agrigento,
father of Bianco and Fernando
bass Giuseppe Rossi
Filippo bass (modern-day baritone) Antonio Tamburini
Clemente bass Agostino Rovere
Viscardo mezzo-soprano Elisabetta Coda
Uggero tenor Antonio Crippa
Eloisa mezzo-soprano Marietta Riva

Synopsis[edit]

Place: Agrigento
Late 14th century

Background The ambitious Philip has secretly imprisoned Charles, Duke of Agrigento, having usurped his throne. Charles' son Fernando was accordingly been forced into exile although he is still only a child. Bianca, Fernando's sister and the widow of the Duke of Messina, is the mother of little Henry, ignores Philip's plotting and agrees to become his wife. Fernando, now an adult, returns home with a desire to avenge his father, who thinks he is dead.

Act 1[edit]

Using the false name of Adolfo and pretending to be a soldier of fortune, Fernando comes to the palace of Agrigento and offers his services to the new Duke. Adolfo convinces Viscardo, a follower of Philip, that he saw Fernando die and Philip receives this news with joy. He hires Adolfo without hesitation, thinking of entrusting the task of killing Carlo to him.

Bianca comes to the palace to meet her prospective bridegroom. Here she meets Fernando, but after so many years, she does not recognize him. Indeed, she suspects him. Fernando, for his part, is convinced that his sister is an accomplice of the usurper.

Act 2[edit]

Filippo orders Adolfo go to the prison to kill Carlo. At the same time, he announces his upcoming wedding to Bianca. The old and trusted henchman of Fernando, Clemente, informs Bianca that Fernando wants to see her and brother and sister finally meet face to face. But when they recognize each other, Fernando tells Bianca of Philip's plots. Together, they go to the prison to free Carlo, followed by Fernando's companions in arms. Philip also arrives at the palace, bringing with him little Henry whom he threatens to kill if Fernando will not give himself up. But the trusty Clemente disarms him, and the tyrant is finally ousted.[7]

Recordings[edit]

Year Cast:
(Bianca, Fernando,
Filippo, Carlo)
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label[8]
1976 Yasuko Hayashi,
Antonio Savastano,
Enrico Fissore,
Mario Macchi
Gabriele Ferro,
RAI Turin Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Cat: OPD 1419
1991 Young Ok Shin,
Gregory Kunde,
Haijing Fu,
Aurio Tomicich
Andrea Licata,
Teatro Massimo Bellini, Orchestra and Chorus, Catania,
(Audio and video recordings of a performance
(or of performances) at Catania Bellini Festival)
Audio CD: Live Opera
Unnumbered

DVD: House of Opera,
cat: DVDCC 247

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c d Weinstock 1971, pp. 30—34
  2. ^ Romani to Florimo, approx. February 1828, in Galatopoulos 2002, p. 73
  3. ^ Osborne 1994, p. 312–313
  4. ^ Weinstock 1971, p. 241
  5. ^ Antonio Tosi, in Weinstock 1971, p. 241
  6. ^ Recording details
  7. ^ Synopsis taken from the translation of the Italian Wikipedia article.
  8. ^ Recordings of Bianca e Fernando on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk

Cited sources

  • Galatopoulos, Stelios (2002), Bellini: Life, Times, Music: 1801-1835. London, Sanctuary Publishing Ltd. ISBN 9781860744051
  • Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0931340713
  • Weinstock, Herbert (1971), Bellini: His life and His Operas, New York: Knopf. ISBN 0394416562

Other sources

External links[edit]