Gaetano Donizetti: La Favorite

Donizetti Critical Edition

Edited by Rebecca Harris-Warrick (1997)

Two-volume set: score + critical commentary pp. I-L, 1-462 / 463-903
NR 135544
Piano vocal score available
CP 135547

The critical edition restores the original French version of the opera as conceived by Donizetti for the first representation in Paris on December 2, 1840. The great success of the Paris edition led to productions all over the world and already in 1851 La Favorite had been translated in many languages. In the twentieth century the opera was known mostly in the Italian version, which is very corrupt and far from the original French version.

The first Italian translation done by Francesco Jannetti in 1841, still in use, changed the text so as to attenuate some parts of the plot (the story could hardly be accepted by Italian censors: a young man who, on the verge of taking vows, leaves the monastic life because he falls in love with the king’s mistress) with the result that the dramatic development, which is coherent and psychologically convincing in the French original, becomes rather inconsequential in the Italian version.

Apart from obvious contrasts in declamation due to the translation of the text, the score of the Italian version portrays a certain amount of melodic changes. Furthermore, around 1860 the finale of the opera was completely rewritten.

As a consequence the critical edition had to proceed to a thorough restoration, applying to all the opera’s aspects: literary text, general and dramatic form, musical style. All this entailed a process of reconstruction that proved to be quite laborious, given the complex generative record of the opera.

La Favorite, in fact, is the descendant of a preceding opera, L’ange de Nisida, commissioned from Donizetti but never performed as the Théàtre de la Renaissance went bankrupt before it could be staged. At its turn L’Ange de Nisida makes use of some fragments of an antecedent and unfinished opera entitled Adelaide.

Although Donizetti’s autograph score has been used as the primary source for the critical edition of La Favorite, other sources were of great importance for the completion of the critical edition.

As complex as the birth of this opera was, as the autograph eloquently proves (with its various superimposed levels and the resulting incoherence, lacunas, redundancies and general disorder), these sources helped solving a number of problems and dating the different stages of the composition.

The first stage is the composition of L’ange de Nisida. The second stage is the period immediately preceding the premiere of La Favorite, when a great number of additions, cuts and corrections were made to the score. The sources relative to this period comprise large sections of the autograph score, other autograph pages subsequently rejected, a printed libretto and two manuscripts, besides various solo vocal parts.

The third stage regards the period immediately following the premiere, when Donizetti made a number of cuts and other revisions.

The fourth stage is relative to the period when Donizetti had left Paris and is represented by some vocal parts and the piano score made by Richard Wagner: this source was particularly useful in some cases where the comparison between the parts and Wagner’s transcription reveals that some changes became part of the performance tradition only a few months after the premiere.