Opera Scotland

Dante and Beatrice

Music

Stephen Rowland Philpot (born 1870; died 1950)

Text

W J Miller.

Source

Poem La vita nuova (c1290-94) by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Gresham Hall, Brixton), 25 November 1889

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 11 July 1918.

 

Background

The great Florence-born poet Dante Alighieri is most famously celebrated for his epic poem La Divina Commedia, in three sections - Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso. His personal life was dominated by his unconsummated love for a young woman to whom he gave the name Beatrice, commemorated after her death in his poem La vita nuova. It is this last that provides the source for Miller's libretto.

The artists in the pre-Raphaelite movement very frequently inspired by Dante, and Philpot may in turn have known of at least two of Rossetti's paintings, The Meeting of Dante and Beatrice and The Death of Beatrice, the latter now being a popular item in the collection at Dundee's McManus Galleries.

The still teenage Philpot's opera had little success at its first appearance. However it was revived briefly by the Carl Rosa company thirty years later. This staging was launched on 7 June 1918 at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London. It was quickly taken on a provincial tour that ranged from Glasgow Theatre Royal to the Grand Theatre, Hull in July. Later London openings included the King's Hammersmith on 16 September 1920, followed by its first Covent Garden performance on 17 December 1920.

 

Main Characters

Dante (tenor)

Beatrice (soprano)

Giotto (tenor)

Cavalcanti (baritone)

Gentucca (mezzo-soprano)

Giovanna (soprano)

 

Plot Summary

The opera is in three acts, or perhaps tableaux, representing different episodes in the relationship. First comes the meeting of Dante and Beatrice. The second is in a reception room in Beatrice's house. The final act is in Beatrice's bedchamber.

The Cast

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