Fedora (opera)

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Fedora is an opera in three acts by Umberto Giordano to an Italian libretto by Arturo Colautti, based on the play Fédora by Victorien Sardou. Along with Andrea Chénier and Siberia, it is one of the most notable works of Giordano.

It was first performed at the Teatro Lirico in Milan on 17 November 1898 conducted by the composer with Gemma Bellincioni creating the role of Fedora, and Enrico Caruso as her lover, Loris Ipanov.

Composition history[edit]

In 1889, Umberto Giordano saw Sardou's play Fédora at the Teatro Bellini di Napoli, with Sarah Bernhardt (for whom the play was written) in the title role. He immediately asked Sardou for permission to base an opera on the play, and Sardou initially refused because, at the time, Giordano was a relatively unknown composer. Following the premiere of his 1894 Regina Diaz, Giordano's publisher, Edoardo Sonzogno, asked Sardou again. However, Sardou demanded what Sozogno considered an exorbitant fee. It was only on the third attempt, and after Giordano's success with Andrea Chénier in 1896, that an agreement was reached to go ahead with the opera.

Performance History[edit]

Gemma Bellincioni, the soprano who created the title role of Fedora

Its first performance took place in Milan at the Teatro Lirico Internazionale. Gemma Bellincioni sang the role of Fedora, and Enrico Caruso was Loris Ipanov. The opera had great success on its opening night, and was soon brought to the Vienna Staatsoper by Mahler, and then to Paris where it was reportedly admired by both Massenet and Saint-Saëns. [1]

Fedora received its US premiere on 5 December 1906 at the New York Metropolitan Opera, with Caruso as Count Loris, Lina Cavalieri as Fedora, and Arturo Vigna conducting. The opera received eight performances during the Met's 1906/1907 and 1907/1908 seasons, and was revived in the 1920s when it received 25 more performances between 1923 and 1926. By the mid-20th century, however, operatic tastes had changed, and the opera became performed more sporadically.[2]

The 1990s saw a resurgence of interest in Fedora, with new productions at the Vienna Staatsoper, La Scala, New York's Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Lyric Opera, the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Washington National Opera and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Notable singers in post-1990 productions include Mirella Freni, Renata Scotto, Agnes Baltsa, Katia Ricciarelli, and Maria Guleghina as Fedora; and Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, and José Cura as Loris. Among Fedora's most recent performances are those at the Vienna Staatsoper in 2003, La Scala in 2004, and London's Holland Park Opera in 2006.

Roles[edit]

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 17 November 1898
(Conductor: Umberto Giordano)
Princess Fedora Romazov soprano Gemma Bellincioni
Count Loris Ipanov tenor Enrico Caruso
Countness Olga Sukarov soprano
De Siriex, a diplomat baritone
Desirè, a servant tenor
Dimitri, a servant contralto
Grech, a police inspector bass
Lorek, a surgeon baritone
Cirillo, a coachman baritone
Baron Rouvel tenor
Borov, a doctor baritone
Peasant Boy contralto
Boleslao Lazinski, a pianist

Synopsis[edit]

Act 1[edit]

St. Petersburg, 1881. A winter's night in the palace of Count Vladimir Andrejevich

Princess Fedora, who is to marry the Count the following day, arrives and sings of her love for him, unaware that the dissolute Count has betrayed her with another woman. The sound of sleigh-bells is heard, and the Count is brought in mortally wounded. Doctors and a priest are summoned, and the servants are questioned. It is proposed that Count Loris Ipanov, a suspected Nihilist sympathizer, was probably the assassin. De Siriex (a diplomat), and Grech (a police inspector) plan an investigation. Fedora swears on the jeweled Byzantine cross she is wearing that Count Andrejevich's death will be avenged.

Act 2[edit]

Paris

Fedora has followed Loris Ipanov there to avenge her fiancé's death. There is a reception at Fedora's house. Boleslao Lazinski, a virtuoso pianist is playing for the party-goers. Ipanov arrives and declares his love for Fedora. She tells him that she is returning to Russia the following day. Loris is desperate because he has been exiled from Russia and cannot follow her. He confesses to Fedora that it was he who had killed Count Vladimir. Fedora asks him to return after the reception is over to tell her the whole story. When she is alone, Fedora writes a letter to the chief of the Imperial Police in Russia accusing Ipanov of Count Vladimir's murder. Loris returns and confesses that he killed Count Vladimir because he had discovered that he and his wife were lovers. The night of the homicide, Ipanov had discovered them together. Vladimir shot at Ipanov and wounded him. Ipanov returned fire, killing Vladimir. Fedora realizes that she has fallen in love with Ipanov, and that he killed not for political ends, but to defend his honor. They embrace and she convinces him to spend the night with her.

Act 3[edit]

The Bernese Oberland in Switzerland

Loris and Fedora are now lovers and living in her villa. With them is her friend, Countess Olga Sukarev. De Siriex arrives to invite Olga on a bicycle ride. He tells Fedora that as a result of the letter she had written to the police chief, Loris's brother, Valeriano, was arrested for being part of the plot to murder Count Andrejevich and imprisoned in a fortress on the Neva river. One night the river flooded and the young man was drowned. When Loris's mother heard the news, she collapsed and died. Fedora is anguished - she has been the cause of two deaths. Loris receives a letter from a friend in Russia who tells him of the deaths of his mother and brother and that the cause was a woman living in Paris who had written a letter denouncing him to the police. Fedora confesses to Loris that she had written the letter and begs his forgiveness. When he initially refuses and curses her, Fedora swallows poison which she had hidden in the Byzantine cross she always wore around her neck. Loris begs the doctor to save her, but it is too late. Fedora dies in Loris's arms.

Recordings[edit]

Year Cast
(Fedora Romazov,
Loris Ipanov,
Olga Sukarov,
De Siriex)
Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label[3]
1931 Gilda Dalla Rizza,
Eugenio Dall' Argine,
Mirella Luba,
Emilio Ghirardini
Lorenzo Molajoli,
Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Gala GL
Cat: 100758
1969 Magda Olivero,
Mario del Monaco,
Lucia Cappellino,
Tito Gobbi
Lamberto Gardelli,
Opéra de Monte-Carlo Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Decca Records
Cat: 433 033-2
1985 Éva Marton,
José Carreras,
Veronika Kincses,
János Martin
Giuseppe Patanè,
Hungarian Radio Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: CBS Masterworks Records
Cat: M2K 42181
1993 Mirella Freni,
Plácido Domingo,
Adelina Scarabelli,
Alessandro Corbelli
Gianandrea Gavazzeni,
Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: TDK DVD
Cat: 824121001971
1996 Mirella Freni,
Plácido Domingo,
Ainhoa Arteta,
Dwayne Croft,
Jean-Yves Thibaudet
Roberto Abbado,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 00440 073 2329

Noted aria[edit]

"Amor ti Vieta" ("Love forbids you") is the most famous aria from the opera and is often sung by tenors in recitals, especially as an encore piece. This short aria (approximately 1:51 minutes) is sung by Count Loris when he declares his love to Fedora in Act II. An immediate favourite with the audience, it was encored by Enrico Caruso on the opera's opening night. [4] Caruso can be heard singing the aria, accompanied on the piano by Giordano himself, on Volume 1 of Enrico Caruso - The Complete Opera Recordings (Naxos 8.110703). This recording was made in 1902.

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ This paragraph is based on the account in Gelli, P., 2005, page?
  2. ^ Tommasini, A., 1996; Volpe, M., 2006; Ponick, T. 1998; Girardi, M., 2000
  3. ^ Recordings of Fedora on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
  4. ^ Gelli, P., 2005
Sources