La nave

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La nave is an opera in a Prologue and three “Episodes” by Italian composer Italo Montemezzi. Its Italian language libretto was adapted by Tito Ricordi from Gabriele d'Annunzio's 1908 play of the same name.

First performance[edit]

The opera premiered at La Scala in Milan on November 3, 1918, conducted by Tullio Serafin. La nave is a work which contains strongly patriotic and imperialistic themes, and fortune seemed to smile on its first performance when, after the conclusions of the first and second episodes, the performance was interrupted by announcements that Italian troops had entered Trento and Trieste respectively, thus signaling a successful end to Italy’s involvement in World War I.[1] A myth later developed that La Nave had been a great popular and critical success in 1918. The source of this error appears to be a statement Serafin made in Opera News in 1953: "La nave was received as well as – perhaps better than – [Montemezzi’s great hit] L’Amore [dei Tre Re]. … it was received with warm enthusiasm by the critics of all the Milan papers …."[2] In fact, Serafin was misremembering, and none of the reviews was particularly enthusiastic. The critics praised Montemezzi’s orchestral and choral writing, but criticised the opera for being insufficiently tuneful, too Germanic in style, and based on an unsuitable source.[3] The most positive review, which appeared in the Corriere della Sera (attributed to Renato Simoni by David Chandler), described the opera as a "sincere success" with the public, but also noted that the audience response had been "only occasionally truly enthusiastic."[4]

Later performances[edit]

Productions followed in Chicago in 1919 and Verona in 1923. It was also revived in Rome in 1938. But many factors militated against the opera's long term success. It was extremely expensive to stage, due to its large choruses, extravagant scenery, and, especially, the requirement of having a full-sized ship heading out to sea, on stage, in the final act. The lead roles are also very difficult.[citation needed] In addition, La nave's extremely violent and aggressively imperialistic rhetoric seemed out of place after the fall of Mussolini at the end of the Second World War.[citation needed]

La Nave was performed in New York City by Teatro Grattacielo in concert on October 31, 2012, the first time the opera had been heard in the United States since Montemezzi conducted it in Chicago in 1919.


Role Voice type Première cast
3 November 1918
(Conductor: Tullio Serafin)
Basiliola soprano Elena Rakowska
Orso Faledro bass Giulio Cirino
Marco Gràtico tenor Edoardo Di Giovanni (Edward Johnson)
Sergio Gràtico baritone Francesco Cigada
Gauro Pietro Orseolo tenor
Zosimo bass Oreste Carozzi


  1. ^ David Chandler (ed.), Essays on the Montemezzi-D’Annunzio “Nave” (Norwich: Durrant Publishing, 2012), 56.
  2. ^ Tullio Serafin, "Italo Montemezzi – an appreciation," Opera News 19 January 1953, p. 31.
  3. ^ Chandler, Essays on the Montemezzi-D’Annunzio “Nave.” This includes (in English translation) the 1918 reviews from the Corriere della Sera, Il Secolo, Il Popolo d’Italia, La Perseveranza, L’Illustrazione Italiana, Corriere di Milano and Rivista d’Italia, as well as an extended extract from the review in La Nazione.
  4. ^ Chandler, Essays, 72.


  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "La nave". Almanacco Amadeus (in Italian)
  • Chandler, David (ed.), Essays on the Montemezzi-D’Annunzio “Nave” (Norwich: Durrant Publishing, 2012)
  • Cooke, Mervyn (2005). The Cambridge Companion to Twentieth-Century Opera. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-78009-8
  • Moore, Edward C. (1930). Forty Years of Opera in Chicago. H. Liveright, pp. 202–204

External links[edit]