Maria de Rudenz

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Maria de Rudenz
dramma tragico by Gaetano Donizetti
Gaetano Donizetti 1.jpg
The composer in 1835
Librettist Salvadore Cammarano
Language Italian
Based on La Nonne Sanglante
by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Julien de Mallian
Premiere 30 January 1838 (1838-01-30)
Teatro La Fenice, Venice

Maria de Rudenz is a dramma tragico, or tragic opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the 5-act French Gothic melodrama La Nonne Sanglante (Paris, 1835), by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Julien de Mallian, and elements from The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis. It premiered at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, on 30 January 1838 with Caroline Ungher as Maria, Giorgio Ronconi as Corrado di Waldorf, and Napoleone Moriani as Enrico.


Tenor Napoleone Moriani (by Joseph Kriehuber)
Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 30 January 1838
(Conductor: Gaetano Donizetti )
Maria de Rudenz soprano Carolina Ungher
Matilde di Wolf, her cousin soprano Isabella Casali
Corrado Waldorf baritone Giorgio Ronconi
Enrico, his brother tenor Napoleone Moriani (it)
Rambaldo, old relative of the Rudenz house bass Domenico Raffaeli
The Chancellor of Rudenz tenor Alessandro Giacchini
Knights, squires, and vassals of the Rudenz house

The Singers[edit]

Caroline Unger was born in Vienna in 1803, and later studied voice in Milan with her future co-star’s father, the famous voice teacher Domenico Ronconi. She made her debut in 1821 as Dorabella in Così fan tutte in Vienna, then sang in the 1824 premiere of Beethoven’s Ninth Sympathy, where she famously turned the deaf composer around to acknowledge the audience’s thunderous applause. One of the most important prima donnas of the 19th century, that she created for Donizetti the leading roles in Parisina, Maria de Rudenz, and Belisario indicates the dramatic nature of her voice; Donizetti admired her intense acting, which is crucial to the essentially dramatic soprano role of Maria de Rudenz. Liszt’s lover, the Countess Marie d’Agoult, wrote of Unger’s 1838 La Fenice performance as Parisina, “…an admirable singer, pathetic, full of intelligence…” She died in Florence on March 23, 1877, and was buried there in the cemetery of the basilica of San Miniato al Monte.

Isabella Casali was a young soprano from Bologna, Italy. In 1837 she made her successful debut at Lugo in Giuseppe Persiani's opera Ines di Castro (28 January 1835, Teatro San Carlo), singing the role of Bianca, Princess of Castile, a role not dissimilar to Matilde di Wolf (Teatri, arte e letteratura, no. 717, vol. 28, 1837).

Giorgio Ronconi was born in Milan in 1810. He made his debut at Pavia in 1831 as Valdeburgo in La straniera. Chorley wrote that Ronconi had modest vocal resources but transcended his limits through the genius of his acting: "The low stature—the features, unmarked and commonplace when silent,—promising nothing to an audience—yet which could express a dignity of bearing, a tragic passion which cannot be exceeded…" Ronconi inspired a long line of great Italian baritones that continued into modern times, a tradition which included Tito Gobbi and Ettore Bastianini. The most esteemed of his contemporaries and immediate successors were Felice Varesi, Leone Giraldoni, Francesco Graziani and Antonio Cotogni, all outstanding Verdi singers. Ronconi created seven different Donizetti roles, including Torquato Tasso, Nello in Pia de' Tolomei (1837), Don Pedro in Maria Padilla, and Chevreuse in Maria di Rohan, a part the baritone would essay in seventeen different productions:

"There have been few such examples of terrible courtly tragedy in Italian Opera as Signor Ronconi's Chevreuse :—the polished demeanour of his earlier scenes giving a fearful force of contrast to the latter ones when the torrent of pent-up passion nears the precipice. In spite of the discrepancy between all our ideas of serious and sentimental music, and the old French dresses which we are accustomed to associate with the Dorantes and Alcestes of Moliere's dramas, the terror of the last scene, when (betwixt his teeth, almost,) the great artist uttered the line, "Sull' uscio tremendo lo sguardo figgiamo," clutching, the while, the weak and guilty woman by her wrist, as he dragged her to the door behind which her falsity was screened, was something fearful—a sound to chill the blood—a sight to stop the breath." (Chorley, H. F. (1862), Thirty Years' Musical Recollections, Volume II, "The Year 1847")

Giorgio Ronconi died in Madrid, 8 January 1890.

Napoleone Moriani was born to a prosperous family in Florence, March 10 1808. He began singing with Maestro Carlo Ruga in Firenze in 1826, and then simultaneously studying law at the University of Pisa. His debut was in 1833, first as Agobar in Pacini’s Gli arabi nelle Gallie at the Teatro dei Condomini in Pavia, and on 26 December at the Teatro Regio di Parma as Donizetti’s Riccardo Percy. Moriani created Enrico and Carlo in Linda di Chamounix, and was something of a Donizetti specialist. He appeared in many of the composer’s operas, particularly famously Lucia di Lammermoor and Lucrezia Borgia. Donizetti composed a finale nuovo for Moriani in the 1840 La Scala production of Lucrezia, a moving arioso that represented an important milestone in the development of the tenor persona in opera. Moriani’s passionate Romantic acting in this and the Lucia tomb scene earned the tenor the sobriquet ‘Il tenore della bella morte’. Richard Wagner was so moved by his performance in Dresden (1843) that he put down his baton to applaud with the audience. Moriani chose Enrico in Maria de Rudenz as his last operatic appearance, in 1851, at the San Carlo, Naples. Napoleone Moriani died 4 March 1878 in Florence.

Domenico Raffaeli created the role of Inigo (custodian of the royal tombs) in Mercadante’s opera Le due illustri rivali, which premiered March 10, 1838 at the Teatro La Fenice, also with Unger and Moriani, just weeks after the prima of Maria de Rudenz.

Alessandro Giacchini created the roles of Ubaldo in Pia de' Tolomei (Venice, Teatro Apollo, 1837) and the Cancelliere in Maria de Rudenz for Donizetti. For Pacini he was the first Alberto di Maloisin at the premiere of Ivanhoe (Venice, La Fenice, 1832). After a devastating fire on the night of 12 December 1836, La Fenice theatre was completely rebuilt and reinaugurated 26 December 1837 with the prima of Giuseppe Lillo's Rosmunda in Ravenna, in which Giacchini created the role of Menete.


Place: Switzerland (The play source La nonne sanglante is set in 18th Century Germany.)
Time: 1400[1]

PART ONE: The Will

(Cammarano divides the libretto into 'parts', not acts.)

—A room in an inn on the river Aar. We see the convent of Arau and the Castle of Rudenz on the further shore through the windows. Dawn is breaking. Matilde de Wolff (orphaned cousin of Maria de Rudenz) and the nuns can be heard praising God’s majesty in nature. Corrado di Waldorf expresses his love of Matilde and how it saved him from misery in a ‘hit’ aria of the 19th C. concert stage, Ah! Non avea più lagrime. Corrado di Waldorf tells his brother Enrico that, having had his proposal of marriage to Maria rejected by her father, they had fled to Venice, but one night he had seen Maria descend into the garden to meet a waiting man! In revenge, he abandoned her retributively in the catacombs of Rome. After paying a man gold to lead Maria out of the catacombs, he had wandered abroad distractedly, until returning home to fall in love with Matilde, (duetto) Qui di mie pene un angelo. She is about to marry Corrado and inherit the castle that very day from Maria’s father, Count Piero di Rudenz—who died brokenhearted believing his absent daughter was dead. The count's will had stipulated Matilde's inheritance of the castle if Maria had not returned within one year of her disappearance; it is the last day of that 1-year period. Enrico reveals a secret love for Matilde, and his conflicted, tormented feelings toward his own brother.

—In the gloomy Rudenz castle, Rambaldo, a trusty old retainer—and the man in the Venice garden—believes Maria has died in Rome as reported. Eventually he sees a ghost-like woman, prostrate in the shadows, weeping in front of the late Count of Rudenz’s portrait. Entering through the castle’s secret underground passages, Maria has returned home from Rome, seeking Corrado. Rambaldo reveals that Corrado’s father died an assassin on the scaffold and Matilde is to be married, but omits the identity of the bridegroom as Corrado. Maria expresses her desire to retire into the convent to pray for forgiveness, (aria) Si, del chiostro penitente. She tells Rambaldo that she will soon die unseen to the world, and that he should tell Corrado that she will have died still loving him.

—Everyone gathers to hear the will of the Count Rudenz, but the retainers want Maria de Rudenz back as mistress. The Cancelliere reads the will, which stipulates that if Maria fails to return in a year, Matilde inherits the castle, Maria having disappeared exactly one year ago to the day. Just as Corrado declares his love for Matilde, Maria—clearly reassessing her recent magnanimity—enters sensationally to stop the marriage and the inheritance! In a magnificent concertato larghetto, Chiuse al di per te le ciglia, Maria announces that it was Corrado's treachery that killed her father. Her retainers enthusiastically rally in support, (coro) Maria, di fidi sudditi. Maria expresses her intention that Corrado will lose Matilde to the cloister, declares herself avenged, and drags Matilde away.


Maria tells Rambaldo to secure the castle against a rescue attempt of Matilde from Corrado. Enrico explains his love of Matilde, and asks for her release from captivity. He expresses mingled love and hatred of his own brother in an aria, Talor nel mio delirio. Maria says that she may be able to unite him with Matilde because of the mysterious knowledge she has about Corrado. Alone, Maria tells Corrado that he must relinquish Matilde to his brother, and that his father was actually one Ugo di Berna, who was beheaded on the German coast as a notorious assassin! Ugo, when he was banished, had left Corrado as a baby with a trusted friend, who raised him as his own son. Thus, Enrico and he aren't really brothers. She will keep these secrets only if she returns to her as they once were, as she declares her love in duetto, Fonte d’amare lagrime. Maria tells him that if he marries Matilde, he should just kill her now with his sword, but that he won't enjoy the wedding night—she will rise up as a ghost, dripping with blood. Corrado rejects this, and Maria reminds him of the sinister, Borgia-like ancestral history of the castle, as she threatens to throw Matilde into the pit she then reveals under a trap door. Incensed, Corrado finally stabs Maria. The retainers and Matilde rush in, and Maria declares that she has stabbed herself. All then exclaim over the body of the (apparently) poor expired woman.

PART THREE: The Spectre

—An atrium in the castle; a chapel to one side lit up within. At the back a view of the park lapped by water. The moon is shining. The castle retainers remark ominously that a dark-mantled ghost with streaming hair has been seen near the chapel, Enrico has fled, and that Corrado is to marry Matilde. Enrico returns unexpectedly, and Rambaldo tells him it’s too late, as Corrado has just now married Matilde. Enrico has received a mysterious letter which reveals that Corrado deliberately kept Enrico in the dark concerning Ugo di Berna and that he knew all along about his love for Matilde. Corrado appears with the wedding party, who move on, leaving him alone. Enraged, Enrico tells him that he now knows everything, and will destroy his marriage, (duetto) A me, cui finance la speme togliesti. The knights enter, requesting Corrado’s return to Matilde. Enrico announces that Corrado is a villain and the son of a murderer, rips the insignia of the Counts of Rudenz from Corrado, and tramples it. Enrico insists that his brother must die, bathed in his blood, over Matilde, (duetto) O tremenda gelosia. The two men rush off furiously to duel in the park.

—Matilde’s ladies praise her beauty in a hall adjacent to the nuptial chamber splendid with garlands of flowers, torches and dancing, during which, unseen by all, a masked woman upstage enters the bridal room. A page speaks to Matilde, who retires to the chamber. Corrado enters, and all leave; he throws his sword out of the window. A scream is heard from the chamber, and rushing towards it, Corrado is stopped by a mantled and veiled Maria. “I told you I should rise again from the tomb!” Medea-like, she gloats that Corrado should have fled the wedding chapel, and that he should see what she has left him inside, (aria) Mostro iniquo, tremar tu dovevi. Corrado returns from the chamber, exclaiming that Matilde has been stabbed to death. Everyone returns, and dropping her veil, Maria reveals that Rambaldo had just sealed her tomb, when a low groan made him realize she still lived, but has kept this secret. Corrado attempts to stab her for the second time, but is restrained. In a slow cabaletta, Al misfatto enorme e rio, she reveals her mad love for Corrado and the reasons behind her terrible revenge upon him and Matilde: "But when an immense love is outraged/It knows neither law nor limit." Resisting help, she tears her bandages away from her wound, admitting what will be her own ignominious legacy (just as was Ugo di Berna’s). Rambaldo alone, she says, will remain to cast a flower on her "infame tomba." She admits that she still loves him. The company recoils at this "notte di terror." Corrado—deeply moved—regretting he must live, makes to embrace her, as the most tragic Maria de Rudenz falls dead at his feet.

Literary sources[edit]

La nonne sanglante[edit]

Marguerite Georges as the nun appears to Henri de Rudenz in IV, viii of La nonne sanglante, Paris, 1835

Salvadore Cammarano based his libretto on a 5-act French play, La nonne sanglante, by Auguste Anicet-Bourgeois and Julien de Mallian, which premiered Feb. 17, 1835 in Paris, at the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin. The melodrama was very successful in its day; the legendary actress Marguerite Georges created the role of Marie de Rudenz, and M. Lockroy (1803-1891), the French actor-librettist, Conrad de Waldorf. The melodrama derives only its title, imagery, and some motifs from the very popular Gothic novel of Matthew Lewis, The Monk, while otherwise straying from that book's explicit plot line. The selection of this play as their source, with its extreme Gothic sensibility, shows just how au courant Donizetti and his librettist really were with the Romantic movement in music and literature.

Corrado di Waldorf (Conrad) only briefly mentions the catacombs in Cammarano's libretto, but in Act One of La Nonne sanglante, De Mallian and Anicet-Bourgeois fully dramatize his abandonment of Marie de Rudenz—living under the identity of 'Stella'—in the luridly-lit passages of subterranean Rome (Act I, ii):

CONRAD. …Ma vengeance n’était que de l’amour… je le sans là, je t’aime Stella… je t’aime à donner encore ma vie pour ton salut. (Il remonte au fond.)

STELLA. Conrad!... où vas-tu?

CONRAD. Cherchez une tombe pour moi, on pour tous deux en passage. (Bruit d’éboulement.)

STELLA. Malheureux! La mort est là!

CONRAD. Elle me frappera du moins avant toi! (Il disparaît sous la voûte.)

STELLA, s’élançant avec lui. Conrad!.. (Une partie de la voûte se détache et les sépare.)

The Monk: A Romance[edit]

The Monk, A Romance, by Matthew Lewis, a first edition of the book in the British Museum

Maria de Rudenz incorporates imagery, themes, and motifs from Lewis's Gothic novel The Monk. It was written in ten weeks by the nineteen-year-old Matthew Lewis (writer) while living in The Hague in 1794 and serving as an attaché to the British embassy. The novel is a foundational text of 19th Century Romanticism. Cammarano's heroine Maria de Rudenz incorporates certain traits from the book's leading character Agnes, and the figure of the Bleeding Nun.

La nonne sanglante, illustration by Émile Bayard for the 1854 Gounod opera of the same name

Performance history[edit]

19th century[edit]

While the initial performances were not very successful (Donizetti regarded them as "a fiasco"),[2] Maria de Rudenz was withdrawn after two performances.[1]

Yet subsequently, the opera enjoyed many other Italian productions in the years following the Venice première, the second being a couple months later in March, 1838, in Florence at the Teatro Pergola with the important baritone Felice Varesi (1813-1889). He was not only the main rival to Ronconi, but the creator of Verdi's Macbetto, Rigoletto, and Germont, rôles modeled on and anticipated by the great Bellini and Donizetti baritone parts—including Corrado di Waldorf—created for these two seminal baritones.

Other productions followed in Milan, Naples, Genoa, Turino, and Palermo. It was quite popular in Livorno with Verdi muse Giuseppina Strepponi in 1838, and enjoyed 14 successful performances in Rome at the storied Teatro Valle in 1841 with Marietta Albini (d. 1849), where an "excellent production and superior singing this time won vigorous approval."[2] (Albini was the second wife of the great bel canto composer Giovanni Pacini, appearing in many of his operas.) A notable Norma and famously replacing Strepponi in Nabucco, Teresa De Giuli-Bórsi (1817-1877)—a powerful soprano much admired by Verdi—picked this rôle for her appearance at the Teatro La Scala in 1842.

For such a supposedly failed opera, Strepponi and Ronconi—two of opera's great legends—thought enough of it to revive it in five separate productions over the next four years: on the Livorno stage, at Florence in 1839 and Verona in 1840, and particularly successfully at Faenza and Ancona in 1841. Donizetti wrote of the Ancona staging: "I read now of the success of 'Maria de Rudenz' in Ancona, its very happy reception, and I still bleed for the severity with which they judged me in Venice." That the great bel canto baritone Giorgio Ronconi—the creator of Corrado—appeared opposite Strepponi in all of these productions must count as evidence of the esteem he felt for the rôle, and perhaps advocates for the opera's quality. The celebrated Italian soprano Teresa Brambilla (1813-1895), creator of Verdi's Gilda, and whose beautiful sister Marietta Brambilla created the rôle of Maffio Orsini in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia, had a popular success with the work in Rome at the Teatro Apollo in 1843, again with Ronconi in his seventh and last production of this opera. The creator of Amelia in Simon Boccanegra, the dramatic soprano Luigia Bendazzi (1829-1901) achieved a notable success in the role at the Teatro San Carlo in 1851, selecting it for the next production after her début, the success of which launched a major career.

The opera was produced every year since its premiere until 1867, mainly in Italy, but with productions in Madrid (1841), Corfu, Lisbon, Malta, Alexandria, Barcelona (1845), Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires. There were two productions in 1867, in Senigallia on the Adriatic and Rieti (Lazio), and in Macerata in central Italy (1870), which appears to be the final 19th C. staging. Its absence from London, Paris, and Vienna, though, is significant, but need not definitively discredit the work in a modern assessment.

Modern performances[edit]

Today, the opera has been staged only twice. It did not receive a performance in the UK until the Opera Rara concert presentation in London on 27 October 1974.[3] The first staged presentations in the 20th century took place at La Fenice beginning on 21 December 1980 with Katia Ricciarelli in the title role and Leo Nucci in a notable performance as Corrado di Waldorf[1] Both of these occasions have been recorded. The opera was successfully revived in 2016, on Oct. 28, 31, Nov. 3, and 6, at the Irish Wexford Opera Festival. The opera was lauded for it power, singular 'color' (tinta) and dark expressivity, while the singing of Gilda Fiume as Maria and Joo Wan Kang as Corrado was praised. Many critics found director Fabio Ceresa's highly ironic, modernistic, and even comedic approach to 19th C. Gothic melodrama effective and appropriate; George Hall, reviewing the Oct. 28th performance (, Oct. 31), dissented:

Moving the action forward to the period of composition, Ceresa and his team fill the stage up with all sorts of unnecessary contrivance that clogs up the piece's dramatic wheels. McCann's set is enormous and cumbersome, a multi-level structure whose individual sections must be a nightmare to move around on the Wexford stage, and in whose multiple rooms there is far too much extraneous activity. There is an obsessive amount of weird headgear worn by all the characters, especially the chorus, while someone should discretely dispose of the characters' puppet doubles.

Analysis and themes[edit]

Donizetti, as the opera's first critic, held a surprisingly ambivalent position on the work. While the opera is generally understood as something of a problem work in the Donizetti canon, the composer didn't banish the score from his own self-identified list of accomplishments. He includes Maria de Rudenz in the list of successes recorded in what is probably his most famous letter, written to Antonio Vasselli, a military surgeon who was his brother-in-law and dearest confidant. The excerpt inscribed on his piano still moves visitors to the Donizetti Museum on the Via Arena, just off the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo:

"Don't sell that piano at any price, for it holds my whole artistic life inside it. I have had it in my ears since 1822: there were murmured the Annas, the Maries, the Faustas, the Lucias, the Robertos, the Belisarios, the Marinos, the Martyrs, the Olivos, Ajo, Furioso, Paria, Castello di Kenilworth, Ugo, Pazzi, Pia, Rudenz....Oh, let it live as long as I live! I lived with it in my age of hope, my married life, my loneliness..." (Letter to Vasselli, July 3, 1843)

Selected recordings[edit]

Year Cast:
Maria de Rudenz,
Matilde di Wolf,
Corrado Waldorf, Enrico
Opera House and Orchestra
1974 Ludmilla (Milla) Andrew,
Merril Jenkins,
Christian du Plessis,
Richard Greager
Alun Francis, Philomusica of London and the Opera Rara Chorus,
(Recording of a concert performance in the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, 27 October)
CD: Memories,
Cat: HR 4588-4589
1981 Katia Ricciarelli,
Silvia Baleani,
Leo Nucci,
Alberto Cupido
Eliahu Inbal,
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro La Fenice, Venice,
(Recorded at the La Fenice, Venice, January)
CD: Fonit Cetra «Italia»
Cat: CDC 91
Mondo Musica,
Cat: MFOH 10708
Living Stage,
Cat: LS 35140
1997 Nelly Miricioiu,
Robert McFarland,
Bruce Ford,
Matthew Hargreaves
David Parry,
Philharmonia Orchestra and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
CD: Opera Rara,
Cat: ORC16


Joseph Raff: Fantasie brillante in f on motifs from Donizetti's "Maria de Rudenz", Op. 4, for piano (1842, revised 1881). Opp. 2–6 were published by Breitkopf & Härtel at the recommendation of Mendelssohn and well-reviewed by Robert Schumann in his Neue Zeitschrift für Musik. That the opera was sufficiently known to attract the attention of a young composer trying to make his career conflicts with the critical idea of a contemporaneous failure with the public.



  1. ^ a b c Osborne 1994, pp. 262-263
  2. ^ a b Weinstock 1963, pp. 354-355
  3. ^ Ashbrook and Hibberd, p. 239
  4. ^ Recordings on


  • Allitt, John Stewart (1991), Donizetti: in the light of Romanticism and the teaching of Johann Simon Mayr, Shaftesbury: Element Books, Ltd (UK); Rockport, MA: Element, Inc.(US)
  • Ashbrook, William (1982), Donizetti and His Operas, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23526-X
  • Ashbrook, William (1998), "Donizetti, Gaetano" in Stanley Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Three, pp. 201–203. London: Macmillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
  • Ashbrook, William and Sarah Hibberd (2001), in Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4. pp. 224 – 247.
  • Black, John (1982), Donizetti’s Operas in Naples, 1822—1848. London: The Donizetti Society.
  • Joly, Jacques. "'La Nonne sanglante' tra Donizetti, Berlioz, e Gounod." L'opera tra Venezi Parigi. Studi di Musica Veneta. Vol.14. Ed. Maria Teresa Muraro. Firenze: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1998.
  • Loewenberg, Alfred (1970). Annals of Opera, 1597-1940, 2nd edition. Rowman and Littlefield
  • Osborne, Charles, (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
  • Sadie, Stanley, (Ed.); John Tyrell (Exec. Ed.) (2004), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd edition. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-19-517067-2 (hardcover). ISBN 0-19-517067-9 OCLC 419285866 (eBook).
  • Weinstock, Herbert (1963), Donizetti and the World of Opera in Italy, Paris, and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, New York: Pantheon Books. LCCN 63-13703

External links[edit]