It has been noted that Nicolai's work for the opera stage, which followed the successful Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor (The Merry Wives of Windsor) (his only German opera), included three others, all of which were in Italian (two being Gilippede ed Odoardo and Il proscritto) and all "are all firmly cast in the bel canto style, with gracefully flowing melodies in the manner of Bellini". Marini was a part-time poet when not employed by the government tobacco monopoly, and is best remembered today for being called in to rewrite the third act of Donizetti's Adelia..
Il templario received its premiere performances at the Teatro Regio, Turin in 1840, and continued on a successful run through Italy, rivaling Pacini's Saffò. However, it disappeared for over 160 years until it was reconstructed in 2006 and performed in 2008.
The success of Nicolai's opera had an unintended contributing indirect effect on the failure of Verdi's early attempt at the opera buffa genre, Un giorno di regno, in 1840. The Teatro alla Scala impresario Merelli insisted on using the opera seria singers previously assembled for Nicolai's opera, which had toured in Milan, thus contributing to the disaster experienced by Verdi.
Following its first Italian performances
Laviska notes that:
- [The opera's] renown was so immediate, that productions were immediately scheduled for Genoa, Milan, and Trieste that same year, and in Venice, Vienna, Barcelona, Brescia, and Vicenza the year following. No fewer than seventeen productions were given in 1842, and the opera retained its popularity through the late 1860s, making it – alongside Mercadante's La vestale and Pacini's Saffo (both given in Naples, also in 1840) – one of the most lasting and well received Italian operas from this period.
After its original highly successful run in Italy, Il templario was forgotten, as fashion moved on and Nicolai's early death reduced interest in his work outside Germany. His father sold his autographs to Bote & Bock, who then filed and forgot them until 1937 when Joseph Goebbels was seeking pure-German operas to replace the removal of works by composers such as Meyerbeer from the German stage. Goebels was attracted to the story of Ivanhoe but sought to have Nicolai's opera rewritten to remove the flattering elements around the Jewish heroine Rebecca. However, the Second World War intervened before such a version could be made.
The rediscovered opera was again "lost" when the archives of both Bote & Bock in Berlin and Casa Ricordi in Milan were destroyed during World War II.
Re-discovery and reconstruction
However interest in Nicolai renewed in the 1990s and the music historian Michael Wittmann was finally able to reconstruct Il templario from various versions. These included a revision originally deposited with the local censor in Naples but found in the Conservatorio di Musica under the title Teodosia, a German language edition, and also a French piano-vocal score, which allowed for the complete reconstruction in 2006.
Following Wittmann's reconstruction, Il templario was then performed at the Chemnitz Opera in March 2008 conducted by Frank Beermann, with the American tenor Stanley Jackson as Ivanhoe. A live recording of the 7 March performance was later issued.
- Place: England
- Time: 12th Century: the conflict between Anglo-Saxon nobles and their Norman conquerors
Following the story line of Ivanhoe, Vilfredo d’Ivanhoe is in love with Ravena, the ward of his father Cedrico, who wishes to marry her off for political advantage. Cedrico turns against his son, leading Ivanhoe to leave for the Crusades. Ivanhoe is wounded and cared for by the Jewish Rebecca, who with her father Isacco follows Ivanhoe back to England. Rebecca is in turn loved by Briano, the templar of the opera's title. Briano and Rebecca are both – inexplicably – struck dead in the final scene of the opera, leaving the Anglo-Saxons praising Ivanhoe.
(Cedrico il Sassone,
Briano di Bois-Guilbert,
Issaco di York)
Opera House and Orchestra
Hans Christoph Begemann,
Robert-Schuman-Philharmonie and chorus of Oper Chemnitz
(Recording of a performance on 7 March)
|CD: Classic Produktion Osnabrück,
Cat: 777 434-2
- Holden, p. 631
- Ashbrook, Donizetti (Italian edition p. 327)
- Budden, p.? :"The cast had been assembled chiefly for the performance of the season's most successful novelty, II templario, Nicolai's version of Ivanhoe".
- Laviska, on musicalcriticism.com
- Wittmann, essay in CPO's CD libretto
- Lavisca states: "Michael Wittmann discusses the details surrounding this discovery as well as much more information on Nicolai and his career in the wonderfully comprehensive booklet notes to this recording"
- Recording information from Laviska
- Charles H. Parsons, American Record Guide, January/February 2010: "Wow! This is one fine find of an opera and performance”
- Ashbrook, William (1982), Donizetti and His Operas, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 052123526X ISBN 0-521-23526-X
- Budden, Julian (1984), The Operas of Verdi, Volume 1: From Oberto to Rigoletto. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-310581
- Holden, Amanda (Ed.) (2001), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-140-29312-4
- Laviska, David (2010), Review of the 2008 recording on musicalcriticism.com, 22 June 2010 Retrieved 4 July 2012