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Qual pena in me gia desta

Opera details:

Opera title:

La Donna del lago


Giaochino Rossini




La Donna del lago Synopsis


La Donna del lago Libretto


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Previous scene: Eccomi a voi miei prodi
Next scene: Tanti affetti in tal momento

Gioachino Rossini - La donna del lago - "Qual pena in me gia desta" (Frederica von Stade, Rockwell Blake & Dano Raffanti)

Singer(s): Rockwell Blake Dano Raffanti Frederica von Stade

We continue with an almost textbook example of a scene for two rivals (here both tenors) and the woman they are fighting for: here is the Terzet from "La donna del lago".

"La donna del lago" is considered one of Rossini's most unusual operas and, probably, his most Romantic work. First of all, it is one of the first operas to be based on the works of the quintessential Romantic writer, Sir Walter Scott (many listeners will quickly remember the other one: Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor"). In fact, the story is rather too idealistic for my tastes, though the music is still brilliant. Secondly, the opera is one of Rossini's most unusual: it features no real overture, instead using a short prelude; secondly, the opera is, rather like Rossini's Otello, noteworthy for the way in which the soprano's music is full of vulnerability, in stark contrast to the aggressive vocal fireworks of the male characters who surround her (in the present except, the allegro passage wonderfully displays how the male singers overpower the voice of the soprano); the ensemble which closes the first act is also remarkable for its length (around 18 minutes), despite which the listener is kept engaged by the musical contrasts and continuing excitement (it's so wonderful, in fact, that it is going to be one of the first full finales I'm going to post in the framework of the compilation). Plus, there are really few places that one might find "boring", all male singers and the contralto have substantial arias, while the soprano gets the opportunity to bring the house down with a brilliant rondo.

Just like in "Ermione" the opera united Colbran, Pesaroni, David and Nozzari. Presented here is one of the most exciting ensembles in the opera: the confrontation of the two tenors.

Strikingly, the situation is very similar to the almost identical terzet in "Otello". Uberto, after proclaiming his love for Elena, accepting her refusal and giving her his ring a ring which he tells her was given to him by the King, prepares to depart, but Rodrigo has overheard the prior exchange with his bride. Overwhelmed with rage and jealousy, Rodrigo orders his men to kill the stranger. Elena pleads with Rodrigo's men, and then Rodrigo himself determines to duel with Uberto himself. The two men exit, as Elena tries in vain to calm the situation. So, almost the same situation as in "Otello" with the exception of th chorus' participation.

The piece actually starts with a dialogue and duettino for Elena and Uberto as he tries to win her over. For the sake of timing, I decided to simply post the terzet itself, rather than the whole scene. The terzet starts with a virtuoso allegro section as all three characters try to console themselves. What follows then is a long exchange between the tenors at the end of which both, unable to contain themselves, prepare for the duel. The final allegro section is one of the most exciting finishes to an ensemble that I had ever heard. Elena starts the section, providing the main line; Uberto takes over, while Elena's voice is taken to the lower register; finally, Rodrigo adds his voice, by now, Elena is completely drowned out by her "suitors", only emerging at the end of each couplet (here, Uberto ornaments the line, while Rodrigo states it). Finally, we get a dramatic flourish with participation from the chorus, as the rivals leave the scene.

I have only two recordings of "La donna del lago", both of which I treasure dearly. The first one (indeed, my first version of the opera) was recorded in Houston, in 1981 and features a brilliant cast of Frederica von Stade, Marilyn Horne, Rockwell Blake, Dano Raffanti, Nicola Zaccaria, finally, Susanne Mentzer and Bruce Ford in supporting roles. It a rather brilliant account with all in good voice, plus, von Stade still remains my favorite Elena. The only real letdown is the sound: it's a live recording and, technically speaking, not one of the best. Recently I also acquired a wonderful account with Ricciarelli, Valentini-Terrani, Gonzales, Raffanti (seriously, is he specializing in the role of Rodrigo?) and Ramey, recorded at a studio in Pesaro in 1984. It's a very earnest rendition but I prefer the former slightly. I decided to do the following: I'll post the terzet as performed in the Houston; while Pesaro will be given the Act One finale. Anyway, enjoy :)!

P.S. It seems that Opera Rara has recorded the piece on their disk "The Three Rossini Tenors" with Ford, Matteuzzi and Miricioui. I bet everything that it's a brilliant version, so I would urge you to go there, if you want a more balanced version.

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Full libretto La Donna del lago

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