Composer: Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto: Salvadore Cammarano, after Anicet-Bourgeois, Cuvelier & Maillan’s La nonne sanglante; Matthew Lewis’ The Monk
First performed: Teatro La Fenice, Venice, 30 January 1838
Maria di Rudenz is, Charles Osborne says, “complex, overwrought, and grisly” – and, in the cold light of day, it certainly seems lurid.
Fratricide; a soprano who dies three times (she comes from the tomb to wreak her bloody revenge); and obsessive passion.
It starts with a battery of melodramatic chords. In the first scene alone, we’re given two brothers in love with the same woman (Mathilde). One of the brothers, Corrado, a) buried his previous girlfriend (Maria) alive in the catacombs, and b) is really the son of a notorious murderer.
Maria comes back from the dead, wanting Corrado to marry her. She orders Mathilde to become a nun; and she tries to kill Mathilde with a concealed pit in the floor, like a Batman villain. Corrado stabs her.
Maria comes back from the dead – again.
Corrado kills Enrico in a duel.
Maria kills Mathilde.
Before Corrado can try to kill Maria again, she tears open her bandages (at this point, Wagner had to lie down) and dies.
“Oh qual notte di terror!” sing the chorus.
Gosh, says the audience.
The opera was a dismal failure at its premiere in Venice – as Donizetti expected. It was withdrawn after its second performance, and replaced with Parisina.
There is, though, no reason why this opera shouldn’t be performed more. It grips throughout, and it’s dramatically intense, with a strong role for the soprano. (If Callas had sung it, it would probably be in the repertory now.)
The score is lively and generally sensitive to the text (barring probably the jolliest funeral chorus ever). Note the imaginative slow passage in the Act I finale.
- MARIA DI RUDENZ (soprano): Carolina Ungher
- MATILDE di Wolf, her cousin (soprano): Isabella Casali
- CORRADO Waldorf (baritone): Giorgio Ronconi
- ENRICO, believed to be his brother (tenor): Napoleone Moriani
- 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
ACT I: IL TESTAMENTO
- N. 1 – Introduzione e Cavatina di Corrado Laude all’eterno Amor primiero – Ah! Non avea più lagrime (Coro, Corrado)
- N. 2 – Duetto fra Corrado ed Enrico Ed or son lieto appieno
- N. 3 – Cavatina di Maria Sì, del chiostro penitente (Maria, Rambaldo)
- N. 4 – Coro Ah! che di pianto è questo (Coro, Rambaldo)
- N. 5 – Finale I Di Matilde lo sposo adorato – Chiuse al dì per te le ciglia (Maria, Corrado, Enrico, Matilde, Rambaldo, Coro)
ACT II: UN DELITTO
- N. 6 – Preludio ed Aria di Enrico Talor nel mio delirio (Enrico, Maria)
- N. 7 – Duetto fra Maria e Corrado e Finaletto Fonte d’amare lagrime – Oh, ciel!… (Maria, Corrado, Rambaldo, Coro, Matilde)
ACT III: LO SPETTRO
- N. 8 – Coro e Duetto fra Enrico e Corrado Sì, quell’ombra sepolcrale – A me, cui financo la speme togliesti (Coro, Enrico, Corrado)
- N. 9 – Coro e Aria Finale di Maria O giovinetta sposa – Ah, fra gli amplessi tuoi – Mostro iniquo, tremar tu dovevi (Maria, Corrado, Coro, Rambaldo)