Gaetano Donizetti: Les Martyrs

Donizetti Critical Edition

Edited by Flora Willson (2016)

Two-volume set: score + critical commentary pp. I-XLVI, 1-496 / 497-916
NR 140672
Piano vocal score available
CP 140675

Donizetti’s Les Martyrs, on a libretto by Eugène Scribe, first went on stage at the Opéra in Paris on 10 April 1840. The work is a French adaptation, in the form of a grand opera, of the tragedia lirica Poliuto, which Donizetti wrote for the San Carlo in Naples but which was never staged.

The edition presents as the principal text the version that is considered to have gone on stage in Paris in 1840. The works performed at the Opéra in this period were often cut during rehearsals and even in the course of the initial performances themselves: the study of the autograph score has made it possible to establish that all the cuts marked in it were probably – even if not certainly – effected or authorised by Donizetti himself.

There are two autograph scores of Les Martyrs: the first one contains the autograph of the orchestral sections of the music deriving directly from Poliuto, and the second one contains the vocal parts of the entire opera and the orchestral sections written expressly for Les Martyrs. As well as these there are other sources that have been of fundamental importance for this edition: the printed edition of the first reduction for voice and piano and the first printed edition of the score, testimonies to a well-defined phase of the genesis that have made it possible to determine the structure of an opera that has had a particularly complex gestation.

Appendix 1 contains four sections cut by the composer from the score at an advanced stage in the composition, probably during the rehearsals or indeed in the course of the initial performances. These sections are in fact present in the first edition of the reduction for voice and piano, and in the first edition of the libretto, both already prepared for printing some months before the beginning of the rehearsals.

The historical introduction, in addition to the usual reconstruction of the genesis and performance history of the opera, contains a section dedicated to performance choices: in particular, it suggests inserting the cut passages – those contained in the appendix – in any modern production.

The critical edition emends the errors and inconsistencies in the sources and restores the musical text to its original state. It discusses in the critical commentary and proposes solutions in the score to recurrent problems in the reading of Donizetti’s autograph that have generated different and at times erroneous readings in the existing versions.

The edition includes in the form of footnotes some of the stage directions contained in the Livret de mise-en-scène.