La campana sommersa

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La campana sommersa is an opera in 4 acts by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. Its libretto is by Claudio Guastalla, based on the play Die versunkene Glocke by German author Gerhart Hauptmann. The opera's premiere was on November 18, 1927 in Hamburg, Germany. Respighi's regular publisher, Ricordi, was displeased by his choice of subject, and refused to publish the opera. This led to its being published by the German publisher Bote & Bock, and a German premiere.

The fairy-tale world of Hauptmann's play inspired Respighi to create his most lavishly and imaginatively orchestrated operatic score, which frequently reminds the listener of his famous symphonic poems. Since the opera's anti-hero Enrico is a bell maker, Respighi fills the music with many chiming and ringing effects.


Role Voice type Premiere cast[1]
18 November 1927
(Conductor: Werner Wolff)
Rautendelein, an elf girl soprano Gertrud Callam
Ondino, a water spirit baritone Josef Degler
A faun tenor Paul Schwartz
Enrico, a bell maker tenor Gunnar Graarud
An old witch, Rautendelein's grandmother soprano Sabine Kalter
A priest bass Rudolf Bockelmann
A schoolmaster baritone Herbert Taubert
A barber baritone Karl Wasehmann
Magda, Enrico's wife soprano Emmy Land
The spectres of Enrico's two children speaking roles


La campana sommersa is scored for the following instruments:[2]

3 flutes (3 doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, bass tuba, timpani, bass drum, handbells, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, Basque drum, xylophone, anvils and drum sticks, harp, celesta, organ, bell, strings.


Act 1[edit]

The bell maker Enrico has built a bell for a new church, but the Faun has made it precipitate in the bottom of a lake. Enrico is in despair and the undine Rautendelein feels compassion for him. Rautendelein decides to go in the human world, and Ondino tries in vain to dissuade her.

Act 2[edit]

Enrico is overwhelmed by the misfortune, and his wife Magda despairs that he can start working again. But Rautendelein, in the form of a little girl believed dumb that the priest has introduced in the family to help Magda, manages to magically bring back strength and vigor in him.

Act 3[edit]

Love was born between Rautendelein and Enrico. Enrico has abandoned Magda and even intends to found a new religion, for which he is designing a temple. In vain the priest tries to dissuade him: "It is easier that the bell submerged at the bottom of the lake rings" replies Enrico. But later Enrico learns that Magda, desperate, has killed herself by jumping into the lake. While his children announce the accident, from the water the tolling of the bell is heard. Enrico, horrified, abandons Rautendelein.

Act 4[edit]

Desperate, Rautendelein has sunk into a spring and now is the wife of Ondino. Enrico is now close to the end of his life: a witch grants his wish to view again Rautendelein, who appears to him "as white as the Angel of Death." At first she pretends not to recognize him, then answers to his pleas, kisses him and gently lays him, dying, out.


Year Cast
Opera House and Orchestra
1956 Margherita Carosio,
Rina Malatrasi,
Umberto Borsò,
Tommaso Frascati
Franco Capuana,
Orchestra e Coro della RAI di Milano
CD: Great Opera Performances[3]
2003 Laura Aikin,
Alessandra Rezza,
John Daszak,
Kevin Connors
Friedemann Layer,
Opéra et Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon
CD: Accord
Cat: 4761884[4]


  1. ^ "Almannaco 18 November 1927" (in Italian). AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 29 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "Ottorino RESPIGHI. Catalogo delle composizioni suddiviso per generi musicali: Opere liriche". l'Orchestra Virtuale del Flaminio (in Italian). Retrieved 2 January 2015.  External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ "Ottorino Respighi - La Campana Sommersa - Franco Capuana (1956)". operaclass. Retrieved 7 January 2015.  External link in |publisher= (help)
  4. ^ Barker, Anthony. "Respighi The Sunken Bell ACCORD 2 CD 476 1884". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 7 January 2015.  External link in |publisher= (help)

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