Opera Scotland

Favorite La Favorite; The Favourite; La Favorita

Music

Gaetano Donizetti (born Bergamo, 29 November 1797; died Bergamo, 8 April 1848)

Text

Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz with additions by Eugène Scribe.

Source

Drama Le Comte de Comminges (1764) by Baculard d’Arnaud.

 

Premières

First performance: Paris (Opéra), 12 December 1840.

First UK performance: London (Drury Lane), 18 October 1843.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Theatre Royal), 24 January 1856.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.

 

Background

La Favorite was one of a group of successful pieces composed after Donizetti’s move to Paris. He was commissioned to produce a grand work for the Paris Opéra at relatively short notice. He had long observed the practice of composing pieces independently of commission, so on this occasion he could assemble a work quite rapidly, using music composed for other subjects, with just a few new arias to suit the particular talents of the singers engaged. The largest proportion of the music was in fact from an unperformed work commissioned by another Paris theatre which had gone bust.  La Favorite was composed to a French text, but like Verdi’s Parisian works, Sicilian Vespers and Don Carlos, it entered the repertoire in an Italian version that was distinctly slapdash in its lack of respect for the original, and the reputation of the work suffered as a result. In Britain, it just survived into the twentieth century, but has only had one brief run since then, in a staging by Welsh National, in spite of containing an excellent central role for mezzo and much highly attractive music.

 

Characters

Fernand, a novice, son of Balthazar (tenor)

Balthazar, a monastic superior (bass)

Inès, Léonor's companion (soprano)

Léonor de Guzman (mexxo-soprano)

Alphonse XI, King of Castile (baritone)

Don Gaspard, a courtier (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

The opera is set in 1340 in the kingdom of Castile. Fernand is a novice preparing to take holy orders, but is obsessed by his sudden love for an unknown woman. He tells his father that he has had second thoughts about his vocation, and Balthazar reluctantly releases him. Fernand does not know that this woman is Léonor, mistress of the king, and therefore the rival of his sister, who is the queen. On the island of Léon he meets Léonor among some court ladies, but she continues to keep her identity a secret and begs him to leave her. He goes off to the army. Later on, it becomes clear that the king intends to divorce his wife and marry Léonor. Balthazar brings news that the Vatican would not tolerate such an action, but Alphonse defies him, and is duly excommunicated. When Fernand returns after defeating the Moors in battle, Alphonse offers him a reward of his choice, and he asks for Léonor’s hand. The marriage is performed quickly, before anyone can warn Fernand of the true facts, and it is only after that Balthazar can tell him the truth. Fernand repudiates the marriage and returns to the monastic life. Léonor, conscience-stricken, also leaves the court, and is briefly reconciled to Fernand before she dies.

The Cast

Alphonse
 Alfonso XI, King of Castile
Balthazar
 Superior of the Monastery at Compostela
Don Gaspard
 a Minister of the King
Fernand
 a novice at the monastery, and Balthazar's son
Inès
 Léonor's confidante
Léonor
 the King's mistress

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