Gioachino Rossini: Bianca e Falliero o sia Il Consiglio dei Tre

Rossini Critical Edition

Edited by Gabriele Dotto (1996)

Two-volume score pp. LV, 1149 + critical commentary pp. 162
GR 18
Piano vocal score available
CP 134029

Bianca e Falliero, the fifth and last opera Rossini would compose for Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, was premiered there on 26 December 1819 to inaugurate the 1820 carnival season. For the composer, that performance marked the close of an extremely intense period of work during which, in little more than a year, he produced Ricciardo e Zoraide (San Carlo theater, Naples, 3 December 1818), Ermione (San Carlo, Naples, 27 March 1819), Eduardo e Cristina (San Benedetto theater, Venice, 24 April) and La donna del lago (San Carlo, Naples, 24 October). Even considering that Eduardo is little more than an assemblage of preexisting music, there is little question that Rossini had reached one of his most productive and felicitous periods of creativity, never again to be matched; after 1820 his output fell off sharply.

The principal source for the critical edition of Bianca e Falliero is the autograph full score housed in the Ricordi archive; it was contractually consigned immediately after completion to Giovanni Ricordi, “copyist and owner of the music”. The score is complete except for a missing spartitino to the final piece, and reflects the version of the opera as performed for the premiere at La Scala.

It has not been possible to identify the collaborator who wrote the secco recitatives, nor the copyist’s hand that appears occasionally in both the recitatives and the score proper. A few cuts are indicated in the margins of the score; some of these may well represent bars that were actually cut for the first performances, and are therefore signaled in the Critical Notes. It should be noted however that none of these cuts is marked as “definitive” (e.g., with cross-outs or paste-overs), nor are any of the cut indications in Rossini’s hand (apart a possible trace in N. 3, 237-245).

Two other autograph documents for Bianca e Falliero, though not for the score proper, offer precious information about contemporary vocal performance practice. These are the undated vocal variants Rossini wrote for Bianca’s Cavatina (N. 3) and the Bianca-Falliero Duet (N. 5); they are included in the Appendix to this vocal score.

Though we have information about some twenty productions of Bianca e Falliero between 1823 (the first known revival) and 1833 (after which it disappeared from the stage), only eight contemporary full scores of the opera are known to exist. Four of these seem to have been derived from copies the publisher rented to theaters and thus hew fairly faithfully to the readings of the autograph. None is entirely complete with respect to the autograph, however: sections or entire pieces are missing from the four scores mentioned above, while the other four scores show heavy manipulation, parts transposed to other keys and the insertion of pieces by other composers. Nonetheless, and even though Rossini was not involved in any revival of the full opera, these copies were often useful to the critical edition by offering documentation of contemporary solutions to errors, lacunae, or inconsistencies in the autograph.

Other manuscript documents which proved useful are the sets of performing material for individual pieces preserved in Italian archives. Among these the most interesting were the sets housed at the library of the Milan Conservatory, and the material for the Quartet N. 10 prepared twenty-five years after the premiere for a concert in Bologna with Rossini present.

In some cases the manuscript score copies or sets of performing material contain vocal variants (reported in the Critical Notes) by anonymous musicians, which offer the modern performer an idea of the performance practice of the time.

No full score of Bianca was published before this critical edition. Only two complete vocal scores were printed, both by Ricordi. The first edition – separate numbers of which were issued during the opera’s first run – already offers solutions to some of the ambiguities in the vocal parts of the autograph, solutions which may have been used during the performances themselves. The second edition, completely re-engraved in 1863 as part of the “New complete edition of vocal scores of all the published and previously unpublished operas of the famous Maestro Gioachino Rossini”, was clearly based on a new examination of the autograph score. As such, both editions of the vocal score were useful during the preparation of the critical edition for the contemporary solutions they adopted to problems in both the music and the setting of the singing text.

Contrary to what one would expect, given the opera’s rather brief stage career, an impressive number of extracts and arrangements were published of the more famous pieces.

The fundamental source for the singing text is the libretto printed for the premiere; it also served as the base text for set descriptions, stage directions, and punctuation (elements which are often incomplete or lacking in Rossini’s autographs).