Giuseppe Verdi: I lombardi alla prima crociata

Verdi Edition

Edited by David R. B. Kimbell (2020)

NR 142079 | available for hire

I lombardi alla prima crociata is Giuseppe Verdi’s fourth opera, the last in Verdi’s collaboration with impresario Bartolomeo Merelli, which premiered at La Scala in Milano on February 11, 1843. In the wake of the triumph of Nabucco, the opera was hugely successful. It was widely performed in Italy, and by 1845 was being performed in cities throughout Europe. In March of 1847 it was the first of Verdi’s operas to be performed in New York. In autumn of that year, Verdi himself prepared an elaborate performance of the opera in Paris, entitled Jérusalem.

From a musical sources perspective, I lombardi alla prima crociata was, like many other operas by Verdi, a victim of its own success. With the proliferation of manuscript copies and scores for voice parts and piano, which were often prepared hastily and subject to the intervention of copyists, typographers, performers, as well as to censorship, the opera circulated and was often performed based on unreliable material, where compositional and dramaturgical choices made by Verdi and his librettist, Temistocle Solera, were distorted, approximated and sometimes deliberately altered.

The critical edition of I lombardi alla prima crociata by David R.B. Kimbell, in preparation for The Works of Giuseppe Verdi (jointly published by the University of Chicago Press and Casa Ricordi), is an important step ahead with respect to the scores currently available. It was prepared based on the manuscript of the score signed by Giuseppe Verdi, which is kept in the Ricordi Historical Archives in Milano.

Each page was meticulously reviewed on the basis of the indications contained in the original manuscript. With respect to the rental copy available up till now, and to the traditional reductions for voice and piano, hundreds of notes have been corrected, details in vocal lines have been worked out, and indications regarding tempo, dynamics and expression have either been modified or cleared up. Without exception, each page of the score contains corrections and clarifications.

In the end, besides the music, which had been known through previous editions, the critical edition presents three passages prepared by Verdi that served as alternatives to pieces contained in the main text of the opera. Two were prepared for the performance of the opera in Senigallia, which Verdi himself oversaw. The first is a replacement cabaletta he wrote for his friend, the tenor Antonio Poggi. The piece, contained in various editions of the score with the label “cabaletta nuova”, appears for the first time fully integrated. It was prepared based on a privately owned manuscript. The second alternative was the revision of Giselda’s cabaletta, which was prepared to meet the needs of the famed Erminia Frezzolini, Poggi’s wife. In a letter, Verdi stated that this way the cabaletta would be less tiring, and that the high B notes would become As, i.e., notes more suited to the range of signora Erminia.

The critical edition also provides a third appendix which contains a recitativo and an andantino for Giselda’s aria in the second act, which was most likely scrapped by Verdi but never removed from the original manuscript. These preliminary or replacement pieces are not necessarily to be preferred for a modern-day performance of I lombardi alla prima crociata, but they do represent valuable opportunities to explore Verdi’s creativity and his relationship with singers at the start of his career. They may be presented at concerts or conferences prior to a production of the opera.

Francesco Izzo (General Editor, The Works of Giuseppe Verdi)

WP of the critical edition: 1.04.2022 Venezia, Teatro La Fenice