Gioachino Rossini: Tancredi 

Critical edition by Philip Gossett

Rossini Critical Edition Principal characteristics of the critical edition:

The principal advantage offered by the critical edition is that it presents in a single publication all the music that Rossini composed for this opera. In fact, the composer personally prepared three different versions of Tancredi:

⦁  Venice, Teatro La Fenice (6 February 1813);
⦁  Ferrara, Teatro Comunale (21 March 1813);
⦁  Milan, Teatro Re (18 December 1813).

None of these has found a place in the existing (traditional) editions of the score which in most cases present a “mixed” version never prepared by the composer.

Venice version
This is the version found in the principal text of the edition. It gathers together all the music that was performed on the evening of the very first performance of the opera; in particular it presents the original version of the Gran Scena di Tancredi (No. 16) absent in all the existing editions. The opera concludes with the so-called ‘finale lieto’ (Finale II «Fra quai soavi palpiti» (No. 17)).

Ferrara version
A few weeks after its opening in Venice, Rossini revived the opera in Ferrara composing a number of new pieces and effecting cuts and substitutions as well as approving the insertion of music not composed by himself. All the specifications relating to the staging of this version are provided in the preface to the score and in the critical commentary. Appendix III provides the newly composed musical pieces, specifically:

  • Amenaide’s Cavatina «Ah se pur morir degg’io» (No. 10a), a piece most probably not composed by Rossini;
  • A new conclusion to the Gran Scena di Tancredi (Chorus of Knights «Regna il terror» (No. 16.iia) and Tancredi’s Recitative and Rondò «Perché turbar la calma» (No. 16a.iii);
  • The Recitative after the Gran Scena di Tancredi «Ah! ch’ei si perde»;
  • The new finale to the opera consisting in the Chorus «Muore il prode» (No. 17a), and Tancredi’s Final Recitative and Cavatina «Amenaide... serbami tua fé» interposed by the Recitative after the Chorus « Barbari! È vano ogni rimorso» (No. 18a).

This new finale – the so-called ‘finale tragico’ – is presented here for the first time (none of the existing versions present it) following the discovery of Rossini’s autograph in a private library. This finale represents one of the most important musicological discoveries of last century and offers a surprising perspective on the personality and musical output of the young Rossini.

Milan version
Rossini almost certainly oversaw the subsequent revival of Tancredi for the inauguration of the Teatro Re in Milan in December 1813. In this case too numerous adjustments were made to the score, all pointed out in the preface and in the critical commentary. Appendix IV provides the newly composed musical pieces, specifically:

  • No. 4a: Argirio’s Recitative and Aria «Se ostinata ancor non cedi»;
  • No. 8a: the Chorus «Mora l’indegna», and Argirio’s Recitative and Aria «All’armi mi chiama», a piece most probably not composed by Rossini;
  • No. 15a: Roggiero’s Aria «Torni d’amor la face».

As well as all the music composed by Rossini for the three above-listed versions, the critical edition provides two further pieces:

  • No. 3a: Tancredi’s Recitative «O sospirato lido» and Cavatina «Dolci d’amor parole», composed by Rossini for Adelaide Malanotte in the course of the first performances in Venice as an alternative piece to the original cavatina No. 3 (APPENDIX II);
  • No. 9a: Isaura’s Aria «Tu che i miseri conforti», quite possibly not composed by Rossini, but present in a number of the musical sources of the era; what is involved is a different intonation for Isaura’s aria on the same verbal text as the original, but characterised by a higher vocal range (APPENDIX V).

In the face of such a large number of variants, a guide to the staging of Tancredi is offered in the prefix so as to help modern interpreters to correctly realise one of the composer’s three versions or an ‘intermediate’ version according to the spirit and aesthetic conceptions of the era. The vast range of possibilities offered to performers is the fruit of a deep and systematic study of the contemporary sources and as such it makes it possible to realise a range of performance outcomes all philologically correct and plausible.

Finally, a large number of autograph vocal variants are published in Appendixes I and V, a useful guide for modern performers, specifically:

  • Vocal variants for Tancredi’s Cavatina (No. 3) composed by Rossini in 1858 (APPENDIX I);
  • Cadenzas composed by Rossini for use by Giuditta Past in Amenaide and Tancredi’s Duet (No. 14) (APPENDIX I);
  • Other autograph vocal variants for Amenaide and Tancredi’s Duet (No. 14) (APPENDIX I)
  • Autograph variants for the Cavatina of Maestro Nicolini added by Sig.ra Pasta in Tancredi (APPENDIX V); these variants of a piece whose introduction into the opera was never approved by Rossini are published here with the sole scope of further documenting the performance practice of the era.

The critical commentary also includes for every number of the score the most significant vocal variants not ascribable to Rossini but found in the principal musical sources of the era.