Rossini’s “Maometto II” in Rostock
The Volkstheater Rostock is offering a special bel canto highlight on 9 January 2015, a concert performance of Rossini’s oper Maometto II using the new Critical Edition by Hans Schellevis. On the podium is the renowned English Rossini specialist David Parry (photo), who conducted this seldom-performed opera last year at the Garsington Festival and has recorded it on CD.
Maometto Secondo is an opera in which love vs. duty is brought strongly to the fore. Anna (soprano) has earlier fallen in love with Maometto (bass-baritone), but she knew him under a false name, Uberto. He believes that he can claim her as his own and make her Queen of conquered Italy, but she remains with her people, her father, Erisso (the tenor) and her would-be lover and ultimately husband, Calbo (contralto). In the opera, Maometto believes he has conquered the Venetian outpost of Negroponte, but his revenge against Erisso and Calbo falters when Anna claims they are her father and brother. He ultimately will give his trust to her, but she refuses steadfastly to yield to her feelings for him, and ultimately saves Erisso and Calbo, who will lead the forces of Negroponte against Maometto and his army of followers. Finallly, she kills herself, rather than yield to her feelings for Maometto.
Making a critical edition of this opera, prepared by Hans Schellevis, is not a simple task. It was an opera that Rossini particularly loved, and when it was not successful in its first run in Naples (where it had its premiere at the Teatro San Carlo on 3 December 1820), he revived it at the Teatro La Fenice of Venice to open the Carnival season of 1822 (on 26 December), where its fate was no better, and then—in a French adaptation—made it his first opera for the Paris Opéra on 9 October 1826. Although it was reasonably well appreciated in its French version, even that version was not enormously successful, but rather opened the way to Rossini’s more fruitful efforts in France, Moïse of 1827, Le comte Ory of 1828, and Guillaume Tell of 1829. During this complex series of adaptations, he intervened repeatedly in the autograph manuscript of his score, so that there are many elements in it that make it difficult to follow. The end of the Duet for Maometto and Anna (N. 7) was rewritten for Venice, with the Banda playing in the final section, Maometto’s Scena ed Aria (N. 8) was extensively modified or cut, and, for Venice, the vocal line of the Aria for Calbo (N. 9) was completely recast for Anna. There are signs of these and other changes throughout the autograph manuscript of the opera, found today at the Fondazione Rossini of Pesaro; this autograph does not preserve completely any version of the work.Ultimately, the edition to be published by Bärenreiter will have as its primary text the 1820 Neapolitan version, which the editors hold to be the very finest and which will be used for the premiere of the new edition this summer in Santa Fe; but it will feature the 1822 Venetian revision as an appendix (this will include an overture and a Terzetto prepared afresh for Venice). B ecause the problems of the French adaptation are much more complicated, that version will appear as a separate edition. Not that even 1820 was a simple matter: Rossini wrote the opera in the midst of a significant popular rebellion (the so-called “Carbonari” rebellion) against the Bourbon monarchs of Naples. There are many passages which refer to Italian independence. But there were other passages that seemed overly strong to Rossini, who, for example, did not set the finale exactly as his librettist, the Duca di Ventiganano, prepared it. Anna still commits suicide rather than yield to the man she loves, the would-be conqueror, Maometto II, but she does not conclude by singing, after she stabs herself, as in the original printed libretto:
E tu che Italia… conquistar… presume
Impara or tu… da un Itala donzella
Che ancora degli eroi la patria è questa.
(Cade morta appiè del sepolcro [della madre])
Instead of concluding with this patriotic sentiment, Anna kills herself while those around her in Rossini’s musical setting simply express their sorrow (Oh giorno di dolor!).It is insufficient o use materials in Pesaro, since Rossini himself employed the chorus at the beginning of Act II in Il viaggio a Reims for Paris (the autograph is currently in the New York Public Library), while other passages are not to be found in the autograph manuscript: for them, the editor has had access to all surviving secondary sources, in particular to a manuscript copied in Naples and closely related to the autograph manuscript in what must have been its pristine state. Is all this effort worth it? Absolutely, because Maometto Secondo is one of the greatest serious operas written during the nineteenth century.
(from [t]akte 1/2012]