Tancredi is a melodramma eroico (opera seria or 'heroic' opera) in two acts by composer Gioachino Rossini and librettist Gaetano Rossi (who was also to write Semiramide ten years later), based on Voltaire's play Tancrède (1759). The opera made its first appearance at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 6 February 1813, and because Il signor Bruschino premiered in late January, the composer must have completed Tancredi in less than a month. The overture, borrowed from La pietra del paragone, is a popular example of Rossini's characteristic style and is regularly performed in concert and recorded.
This opera was considered by Stendhal, Rossini's earliest biographer, to be "high amongst the composer's masterworks," and he described it as "a genuine thunderbolt out of a clear, blue sky for the Italian lyric theatre."
The title role of Tancredi, a breeches role, is so vocally demanding that casting the part has traditionally proved to be challenging. It requires a true contralto or a mezzo-soprano with a strong lower register who possesses great vocal agility and endurance. The title role includes two lengthy arias (O patria! ... Di tanti palpiti, Dove son io? – Fra quali orror), and three duets (L'aura che intorno spiri with Armenaide, M'abbraccia, Argirio ... Ecco la tromba! with Argirio, Ah, come mai quell' anima with Amenaide).
Although the original version had a happy ending (as required by the opera seria tradition), soon after the Venice premiere, Rossini had the poet Luigi Lechi rework the libretto to emulate the original tragic ending by Voltaire, and in this new ending, presented at the Teatro Comunale in Ferrara in March 1813, Tancredi wins the battle but is mortally wounded. Only then does he learn that Amenaide never betrayed him, and Agirio marries the lovers in time for Tancredi to die in his wife's arms. As is noted by Gossett and Brauner, it was the rediscovery of this ending in 1974 that resulted in the version which is usually performed today.
Later, in the Venice ending of 1816, the dying Solamir professes Amenaide's innocence, and Tancredi returns home in triumph.
Tancredi premiered in February 1813 at La Fenice in Venice with Adelaide Malanotte in the title role and it was soon mounted at major opera houses throughout Italy, including a revised version in Ferrara in March of that year, but audiences disliked the tragic ending and subsequent performances there reverted to the Venice ending. Other Italian houses presented the Venice version, including the Teatro Comunale di Bologna (1814), the Teatro Apollo in Rome (1814), the Teatro Regio di Torino (1814), La Fenice again (1815), the Teatro del Fondo in Naples (1816), and the Teatro San Moisè in Venice (1816).
The opera was first performed in England at the King's Theatre in London on 4 May 1820 with Fanny Corri-Paltoni as Amenaide. Its French premiere was given by the Théâtre-Lyrique Italien at the Salle Louvois in Paris on 23 April 1822 with Giuditta Pasta in the title role. It was performed in Portugal for the first time at the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos on 18 September 1822 and was given its La Scala premiere on 8 November 1823 with Brigida Lorenzani as Tancredi. The United States premiere occurred on 31 December 1825 at the Park Theatre in New York City using the revised version by Lechi. The Paris Opéra mounted the work for the first time with Maria Malibran in the title role on 30 March 1829.
20th century and beyond
After an 1833 revival at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Tancredi was not mounted again until almost 120 years later. The Maggio Musicale Fiorentino revived the work on 17 May 1952 with Giulietta Simionato in the title role, Teresa Stich-Randall as Amenaide, Francesco Albanese as Argirio, Mario Petri as Orbazzano, and Tullio Serafin conducting.
Following the discovery of the long-lost tragic ending and the preparation of the critical edition by Philip Gossett and others at the University of Chicago in 1976, the work was revived 25 years later, at which time mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne performed the title role with the Houston Grand Opera on 13 October 1977. Horne, who is now strongly associated with the title role, insisted on the tragic Ferrara ending, citing that it is more consistent with the overall tone of the opera. Indeed, most of the recordings of this opera today use the Ferrara conclusion, while some include the Venice finale as an extra track.
Horne's triumphant performances as Tancredi in Houston soon led to invitations from other opera houses to sing the role, and it is largely through her efforts that the opera enjoyed a surge of revivals during the latter half of the 20th century. She sang the part for performances at the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma (1977), the San Francisco Opera (1979), the Aix-en-Provence Festival (1981), La Fenice (1981, 1983), and the Lyric Opera of Chicago (1989) among others.
While Tancredi is not one of the more frequently mounted operas, it has now become less of a rarity on the opera stage. Contralto Ewa Podleś achieved recognition in the title role, performing it at the Vlaamse Opera (1991), La Scala (1993), the Berlin State Opera (1996), the Canadian Opera Company (2005), the Caramoor International Music Festival (2006), the Teatro Real (2007), and Opera Boston (2009) among others. She also recorded the role in 1995. Bulgarian mezzo-soprano Vesselina Kasarova has also been praised in the role, singing it at the Salzburg Festival (1992), the Opera Orchestra of New York (1997), and on a 1996 recording with the Bavarian Radio Chorus and Munich Radio Orchestra.
Pier Luigi Pizzi staged a new production of Tancredi for the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in 1982 which originally utilised both the tragic and happy endings - the former being interpolated as a 'dream sequence' for Amenaide. He also designed both costumes and scenery. The production was conducted by Gianluigi Gelmetti and featured Lucia Valentini Terrani in the title role, as well as Dalmacio Gonzales (Argirio), Katia Ricciarelli (Amenaide), Giancarlo Luccardi (Orbazzano) and, as Isaura, Bernadette Manca di Nissa - who later went on to perform the title role for the 1992 live DVD recording. The production was also revived at Pesaro in 1991, 1999 and 2004.
In 2005 it went to Rome and Florence (where it was filmed for DVD with Daniela Barcellona in the title role), and then was presented by the Deutsche Oper Berlin in 2011, with Alberto Zedda conducting. Barcellona sang Tancredi again in a new staging of the opera at the Teatro Regio di Torino in November 2009 after reprising the part in February 2009 at the Teatro de la Maestranza. The Theater an der Wien mounted the work for the first time in October 2009 with Vivica Genaux in the title role and René Jacobs conducting.
It was presented in concert by the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in December 2009 with Nora Gubisch as Tancredi, and it will be staged at that venue in May 2014 with Marie-Nicole Lemieux in the title role and Patrizia Ciofi as Amenaide.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 6 February 1813
|Tancredi, an exiled Syracusean soldier||contralto or mezzo-soprano||Adelaide Melanotte-Montresor|
|Amenaide, the daughter of a noble family, in love with Tancredi||soprano||Elisabetta Manfredini-Guarmani|
|Argirio, father of Amenaide; head of his family, at war with the family of Orbazzano||tenor||Pietro Todràn|
|Orbazzano, the head of his noble family, at war with the family of Argirio||bass||Luciano Bianchi|
|Isaura, friend to Amenaide||contralto||Teresa Marchesi|
|Roggiero, Tancredi's squire||mezzo-soprano or tenor||Carolina Sivelli|
|Knights, nobles, squires, Syracusans, Saracens; ladies-in-waiting, warriors, pages, guards, etc|
There is both conflict and war between the Byzantine empire (with which it has an unstable truce) and the Saracen armies headed by Solamir, but exhausted by external war, there are internal conflicts as well. The soldier Tancredi and his family have been stripped of their estates and inheritances, and he himself has been banished since his youth. Two more noble families — headed by Argirio and Orbazzano — have been warring for years. Argirio and his family — his wife and his daughter, Amenaide — have been residing as guests of the Byzantine court, where Tancredi presides in exile. Also present in the court is Solamir, the Moorish general, who wishes for the lovely Amenaide's hand in marriage in hopes that he can create a Saracen-Syracusean alliance. However, Amenaide is secretly in love with Tancredi.
- Place: The city-state of Syracuse
- Time: AD 1005
Scene 1: a Gallery in Argirio's palace'
Warring nobles Argirio, leader of the Senate in Syracuse, and Orbazzano and their men celebrate a truce and the end of a civil war: Chorus: Pace, onore, fede, amore / "Peace, honour, faith, love / Rule now". Along with Issauro and her ladies, Argirio proclaims that this unity reinforces a new security for the city against the Moorish forces led by Solamir. He names Orbazzano as the leader against the Moors. However, Argirio warms the assembled forces against a possible greater threat, that from the banished Tancredi.
The Senate has already given Tancredi's confiscated estates to Orbazzano. To help solidify this truce, Argirio offers Orbazzano his daughter Amenaide in marriage. She dutifully consents to the arrangement, although she still loves Tancredi, who has returned in disguise to Syracuse. Soon, a letter she sends to him falls into the hands of an agent of Orbazzano near Solamir's camp. Amenaide has deliberately omitted Tancredi's name for his protection, and so it is assumed that the letter was intended for Solamir. A furious Orbazzano publicly reveals the letter at his own wedding ceremony, and Amenaide is sentenced to death for treason.
Still in disguise, Tancredi has offered his service to Argirio, believing that his love has been betrayed and that Amenaide is a traitor. Despite this, he challenges Orbazzano to a duel in defence of Amenaide's honor and life. He wins the duel, killing Orbazzano and winning Amenaide's freedom, and prepares to leave Syracuse. But, before he can leave, Solamir's forces invade, so Tancredi leads his fellow Syracusans into battle, and emerges victorious.
- [1813 Revised Ferrara ending]: Tancredi is terribly wounded, but learns the truth about Amenaide just in time to marry her. He then dies in her arms.
- [1816 Venetian ending]: Tancredi and Amenaide are happily reunited after he learns that her letter was for him, and not for Solamir.
opera house and orchestra
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro dell'Opera di Roma,
(Audio and video recordings of a performance(s) in the Rome Opera, December.
|Audio CD: Celestial Audio,
Cat: CA 202
Capella Coloniesis and Chorus of Westdeutschen Rundfunks
|CD: Fonit Cetra
Cat: 2564 69972-7
La Fenice Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a performance in La Fenice, December)
|CD: Mondo Musica
Cat: MFOH 1074
|1992||Bernadette Manca di Nissa,
Radio Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Stuttgart
(Recording of a performance at the Schlosstheater Schwetzingen
|DVD: Arthaus Musik
Cat: 100 206 (Europe);
100 207 (US)
Collegium Instrumentale Brugense, Capella Brugensis
(recorded at the Poissy Theatre and the Centre Musical-Lyrique-Phonographique, Île de France, from 26 to 31 January 1994)
Münchener Sinfonieorchester, Bayrischer Rundfunkchor
|CD: RCA Victor
Cat: 09026 68349-2
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi di Trieste
|DVD: Kicco Classics
Cat: KCOU 9004
Minsk Orchestra and the "Motet et Madrigal" Chamber Choir, Posen
|CD: NEF 
Cat: ASIN: B0002CPFCE
Orchestra and Chorus of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
(Video recording of a performance in the Teatro Comunale di Firenze 21 October)
Cat: DVWW OPTANC
- Gossett and Brauner 2001, in Holden, pp. 770-771
- Osborne, C. 1994, p. 34
- Osborne, C. 1994, p. 30
- Gossett 2008, "A Happy Ending to the Tragic Finale of Tancredi", pp. 148–152
- Rossini Festival archives
- Théâtre des Champs-Élysées website Retrieved 11 August 2013
- Recordings of Tancredi on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Recording details on Italian Amazon
- Gossett, Philip (2006), Divas and Scholars: Performing Italian Opera, Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-30482-3
- Gossett, Philip; Brauner, Patricia (2001), "Tancredi" in Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Osborne, Charles (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
- Osborne, Richard, Rossini (1990), Ithaca, New York: Northeastern University Press. ISBN 1-55553-088-5 ISBN 1-55553-088-5
- Osborne, Richard (1998), "Tancredi", in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Four. pp. 644–645. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- Toye, Francis (1987), Rossini: The Man and His Music, Dover Publications, 1987. ISBN 0-486-25396-1 ISBN 0-486-25396-1
- Tancredi: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Full score of the overture to this opera