Edited by Eleonora Di Cintio (2023)
Naples, spring 1834. Following the premiere of Lucrezia Borgia at La Scala (December 26, 1833), Gaetano Donizetti sought to have his most recent opera staged at Teatro San Carlo. It would be the first of several such attempts, none of which succeeded. Bourbon censorship refused Lucrezia flat out, as well as all the other camouflaged versions of Felice Romani’s libretto that were presented for approval up until 1837. This series of refusals pretty much irreparably damaged Donizetti’s relationship with the Neapolitan Regulatory Commission for Theaters and Entertainment. By late summer 1838 the situation had reached the boiling point. Poliuto, Donizetti’s new opera for Teatro San Carlo, was also banned, while the censors forced him to make substantial changes to Pia de’ Tolomei, which was to replace Poliuto. But that was not all – since Pia de’ Tolomei had not yet made its premiere, the Commission demanded that Donizetti come up with another melodrama to be staged in the fall.
Donizetti was exasperated, to the point where he decided to decamp from Naples and head to Paris, where major commissions awaited him. But before leaving, after four frustrating years, Donizetti opted to give Lucrezia Borgia one last shot. Unlike his past efforts, this time the composer did not limit himself to modifications, with the help of others, of Romani’s libretto, which regarded the setting and characters: He had decided to rework the score. Now taking place at the time of the Third Crusade and set in the Middle East, Lucrezia Borgia was significantly transformed and renamed Dalinda. However, like all the rest, this new undertaking was doomed. Rejected by the censors after Donizetti had quit Naples, Dalinda was never performed at Teatro San Carlo. But the story did not end there. It is likely that some time following the composer’s death, the manuscript score for Dalinda, which Donizetti had left in Naples in the hopes that the opera might finally be staged there one day, was sold piecemeal.
After nearly all the missing parts of the Dalinda manuscript had been recovered and “recomposed”, today’s critical edition presents the melodrama as Donizetti had intended it. At long last, almost two centuries after its creation, Dalinda is ready to be performed. Of course, a great deal of the music for Dalinda was taken from Lucrezia Borgia. However, Donizetti’s many modifications were substantial and are combined with all-new, thoroughly original material, especially in the third and final act. There is a long, flowing aria for the tenor Ildemaro; an extremely delicate and tragic female chorus; as well as an arioso that the tenor sings before dying. Dalinda herself is the daughter of the leader of the pugnacious Ismailis, caught up in a man’s world as war between Moslems and Christians rages. The development of this character and the all-new historical and social context of her ordeal lends this opera an altogether unique identity. Thus, based on musical and dramaturgical considerations, Dalinda, at least in part, breaks from the configuration that inspired it – Lucrezia Borgia – and displays a stunningly prescient kinship with the tragic events that have in recent years rocked Eastern Europe and the Middle East.
WP of the critical edition: 14.05.2023, Konzerthaus Berlin.