Opera Scotland

Rantzau I Rantzau; The Rantzau Brothers

Music

Pietro Mascagni (born Livorno, 7 December 1863; died Rome, 2 August 1945).

Text

Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti & Guido Menasci.

Source

Comedy by Émile Erckmann (1822-99) and Louis Chatrian (1826-90).

 

Premieres

First Performance: Florence (Teatro della Pergola), 10 November 1892.

First Performance in UK: London (Covent Garden), 7 July 1893.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 15 November 1893.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

After the modest success of L'amico Fritz, Mascagni turned again to the librettists who had provided him with the extraordinary text for Cavalleria. This time the subject is worked out over four acts and has a happy ending, derived from the work of the Erckmann-Chatrian duo. This pair were familiar in 1890s Britain as 'author' of Le juif polonais, source of Sir Henry Irving's perennially popular thrilling drama The Bells.

The premiere was in Florence with more performances a few days later in Rome (where the composer wielded the baton). Within weeks I Rantzau was on its travels to Vienna and Berlin, as well as Venice and Trieste - Covent Garden was actually quite slow off the mark. Mascagni came to conduct, and the leads were taken by Nellie Melba and Fernando de Lucia. Clearly the new piece was being done in style. The Carl Rosa launched their English translation in Birmingham that October before taking it on the road. And that was about it - the piece was used to partner Pagliacci until  the famous pairing was arrived at, but after that it vanished without trace in Britain. Even in Italy it had disappeared by the end of the century.

The first Scottish showing had been scheduled for the previous week, 15 November, but Glasgow was engulfed for several days in thick fog, and the opening was deferred. This at least shows how serious the old 'pea-souper' conditions could be.

 

Characters

Gianni Rantzau (baritone)

Luisa, his daughter (soprano)

Giacomo Rantzau, Gianni's brother (bass)

Giorgio, his son (tenor)

Fiorenzo, a schoolteacher (baritone)

Lebel, a forester (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

A long-standing hatred exists between the two Rantzau brothers Gianni and Giacomo, the result of a dispute arising when Gianni successfully bought at auction a field they both coveted. Unknown to them, however, their only children, Luisa and Giorgio, are in love and hope to marry. Gianni announces plans for Luisa's marriage to the forest ranger Lebel, while Giorgio now reveals their love to his father and they quarrel violently. The stress of this situation causes Luisa to fall seriously ill, and Gianni relents in the hope of saving her. But when he tries to effect a reconciliation with his brother, Giacomo drives a hard bargain. Gianni feels he has no alternative but to accept these conditions. When Giorgio discovers how harsh his father is being he immediately makes his own views known and is at last able to restore peace. When Luisa recovers, she and Giorgio are able to marry.

The Cast

Fiorenzo
 a schoolmaster
Giacomo Rantzau
 Gianni's brother
Gianni Rantzau
 
Giorgio
 Giacomo's son
Julia
 
Lebel
 a forester
Luisa
 Gianni's daughter

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