Gaetano Donizetti: Deux hommes et une femme (Rita)

Donizetti Critical Edition

Edited by Paolo A. Rossini with the collaboration of Francesco Bellotto (2008)

One-volume set: score + critical commentary pp. I-XXXVII, 1-340
NR 138368
Piano vocal score available
CP 138370

This amusing one-act opera occupies a particular place in the endless production of Gaetano Donizetti: despite being complete in all its parts, it was performed only after the author’s death, on April 29, 1860 at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, with the title Rita, ou Le mari battu. Abbreviated to Rita in the Italian version, this title accompanied the work in its not infrequent performances for the following century and a half.

The new critical edition restores the title that appears in the main sources: Donizetti cancelled the title Rita, replacing it with Deux hommes et une femme (in French and Italian), both in the score and in a manuscript libretto which also contains other composer’s annotations. The libretto was of fundamental importance in tracing the original draft of the work.

The title was changed to Rita, ou Le mari battu on the occasion of the first Parisian production, when many other changes were made to the score by the librettist and the management of the Opéra-Comique; these changes passed into the first printed edition of the score (1860) and of the piano reduction (presumably also 1860), published by Lemoine, which then served as the basis for all subsequent editions, including those in Italian.

Another important aspect on which the Rossini-Bellotto edition sheds light is the genesis of the work. Scholars have always indicated the summer of 1841 as the time of composition: this is the date Donizetti affixed on the first page of the score and three letters from the composer to his brother-in-law Antonio Vasselli date back to the same year about the possibility of staging the opera (translated into Italian), in Naples (at the Teatro Nuovo or at the Teatro del Fondo). The research conducted by Francesco Bellotto led to the conclusion that the writing of the work dates back to 1839. A staging at the Opéra-Comique, scheduled for the autumn of that year and then canceled due to the wavering attitude of the theater director, François-Louis Crosnier, was probably the occasion for a series of changing to the score which, being made on the French text, were undoubtedly conceived for a Parisian production. Two years later Donizetti planned to have Deux hommes et une femme represented in Naples but even in this case the project did not go through, despite the commitment of Tommaso Persico, friend of the composer.

The score of Deux hommes et une femme remained among Donizetti’s papers during his last years and on his death became the subject of a long and complex legal dispute between Giuseppe Donizetti, brother of the composer, and Elisabetta Santi Pesenti, formerly the housekeeper of the other brother, Francesco, who died in the same year as Gaetano and named her his universal heir: the manuscript of Deux hommes et une femme was part of the legacy that Gaetano left to Francesco.

Only in 1855 Giuseppe Donizetti managed to obtain the score from Santi Pesenti, paying a large sum of money, and planned a staging of the work with the help of librettist Gustave Vaëz and of the director of the Opéra-Comique, Emile Perrin, who then turned down the idea. Donizetti’s single act arrived on the stage of the Opéra-Comique, with great hype, only thanks to Perrin’s successor, Nestor Roqueplan, five years later. In 1876 it premiered in Naples, in Italian.

In the ’50s of the twentieth century, Casa Ricordi prepared a new version with dialogues by Enrico Colosimo: thanks to this edition the work – in Italian and with the title of 1860, Rita – has entered the repertoire of many theaters.

The restoration of the original title and the reconstruction of the genesis of the work are not the only peculiarities of the critical edition. Elements of fundamental importance from a dramaturgical point of view are the recovery of an alternative part for Pepé and the recovery of a significant amount of musical material that had been eliminated in previous editions. Furthermore, the critical edition reports the first version of the Finale, offering scholars the opportunity to penetrate more deeply into Donizetti’s compositional mechanisms.