ⓘ Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo


ⓘ Il furioso allisola di San Domingo

Il furioso allisola di San Domingo is a "romantic melodramma" in two acts by the composer Gaetano Donizetti. Jacopo Ferretti, who since 1821 had written five libretti for Donizetti and two for Rossini, had proposed the unusual subject and he was contracted to write the Italian libretto based on a five-act play of the same title by an unknown author in 1820, which "had been given in the same theatre and which Donizetti had immediately loved". However, has been noted by Charles Osborne, the "ultimate derivation of both play and libretto is an episode in part 1 of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantess published in 1605" which is the story of Cardenio and Lucinda.

The opera was premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome, Italy, on 2 January 1833 and was very successful throughout Europe - being staged in over 100 locations - but it disappeared after 1889, not to be seen again until 1958.


1. Composition history

After completing Lelisir damore for Milan and being present for its first performance on 12 May 1832 where it was immediately successful, Donizetti and his wife, Virginia, left for Rome. Within a few weeks of his arrival, he had signed a contract to write Parisina for Florence and, for Rome, Il furioso with the librettist to be Ferretti. As Battaglia notes, for the composer:

It was the protagonists drama that actually intrigued him: a man at last, after so many sorrowful female images on the brink of madness as innocent victims of the prejudices and cruelty of people. Now a man".

Then the couple moved on to a busy schedule in Naples, which included the preparation for what became Sancia di Castiglia for a November premiere.

The first installment of Il furioso s libretto arrived in August and the process of composition and modification began. With performances of Sancia over, the composer left for Rome with Furioso s first act and part of the second act completed. Much of the "discussion" between Donizetti and Ferretti had taken place by means of letters during the previous months an unusual procedure for this composer, since he usually worked with the librettist present. Significantly, as Ashbrook points out, the composer "coins a maxim for Ferrettis benefit: "The good consists of making things small and beautiful, and not in singing a lot and being boring".

In the composition of this opera, one thing stands out: the power of the baritone, the 23-year-old Giorgio Ronconi for whom the two men were writing the role of Cardenio. Furioso is the first opera in which Donizetti has a baritone as the hero.


2. Performance history

19th Century

Il furioso was subsequently presented at La Scala October 1833 onward for 36 performances, the Teatro Regio di Parma and in Venice at the San Benedetto both in 1834, the Teatro Comunale di Bologna 1835, the Teatro della Canobbiana 1835, the Teatro Nacional de São Carlos 1835, and the Teatro di San Carlo 1836 for a total of 70 presentations in other opera houses in Italy alone, as well as in at least 25 other European cities from Barcelona May 1834 to Brussels March 1844, including London on 17 December 1836.

However, as Martin Deasy points out, it was the 1834 performances in Naples which drew the most attention, noting that when presented in that city on 11 May, the opera:

burst upon Naples like a supernova, opening in three theatres on the same night.These simultaneous local premieres - a phenomenon unprecedented in Italy - caught the collective imagination, triggering an urban craze that swept the city for more than a fortnight a sequence of beguiling tunes, his delectable orchestration, sometimes echoing the voices, sometimes underpinning them, sometimes mocking them; his ability to paint a stage picture with two bars of music, supplying a deft touch to fleeting emotions while never losing sight or sound of the story itself, in this opera.

In September 2006, it was given at the Musiktheater im Revier, Gelsenkirchen, Germany. The Bergamo Opera Festival in Donizettis home town presented the opera in October 2013.


3.1. Synopsis Act 1

On the seashore of the island

Carrying a basket, Marcella emerges from her hut and observes the raging sea, expresses concern about "the raving one", and prepares to leave her basket of food under a bush for him: Freme il mar lontan lontano / "The sea is agitated / I hear the thunder.". Bartolomeo, her father, follows her. He roughly questions her motive and, while she offers the explanation that it is to observe the weather, he knows that she really has come to look for the "furious one". He discovers food hidden in the basket and, understanding that this is designed for the "madman", Cardenio, Bartolomeo describes the bizarre behavior of this man and despairs of the attraction which women seem to have in helping insane people: So per chi. Sempre pietose / Fur la femmine con matti / "I know to whom. Women have always been pitiful to the insanes." Marcella pleads with her father for help in order to protect him from himself.

Kaidamà, Bartolomeos island native servant, joins the assembled islanders having been terrorized by Cardenios madness, and he describes his experience of running away after being repeatedly hit. He continues to fear for his life, expressing his fear in an extensive aria that unless the people kill the madman, he will kill Kaidamà: Aria: Scelsi la via brevissima / "I chose the shortest way / towards the farm". However, Bartolomeo orders Kaidamà to go back to the farm, brandishing his whip as a threat.

Appearing to set off as instructed, Kaidamà hides in one of the huts as Cardenio is heard offstage. He enters and expresses his sadness when describing a woman who clearly was his love: Aria: Raggio damor parea / Nel anno primo april degli anni / "Like a gleam of love she was / In the prime of her life / But she was as beautiful as she was evil / Mistress of deceit / She had roses on her face / And thorns hidden in her heart". This sadness causes the onlookers some anguish, especially when they see Cardenio looking at the possibility of jumping from the clifftop and into the sea, but spotting Marcella, Cardenio moves away and into the rocks. The assembled company laments, Bartolomeo instructs his daughter to leave the basket of food, and then moves towards the rocks to find the madman.

As the storm grows in intensity, Marcella and Kaidamà leave the hut. They see a ship perilously making its way through the raging seas, and the assembled group watches as the ship breaks apart and sinks. Eleonora is thrown on the shore and Marcella and the farmers carry her to a rock. Terrified at the sight of Kaidamà, she recoils in horror: "Oh! extreme torment! I am still alive!". As Marcella, Kaidamà, and the farmers interject words of comfort, Eleonora confesses that she deceived her husband, but that she still loves him - "Im burning with a tardy love" - and that she is tormented by her guilt: "I deserve the cruelty of heavens" she exclaims. Marcella offers her a change of clothes, but when Bartolomeo returns, having failed to find Cardenio, he demands the identity of the woman.

Cardenio reaches the beach Tutto e velen per me!.Per me sconvolto / E lordin di natura!.Aprile istesso / "Everything is poison to me! To me the nature of Order is upset! April itself / Is productive only of thorns! The grass is bitter." He asks himself why he was betrayed, expressing his continuing love for Eleonora. Kaidamà leaves his hut and is approached by the delusional Cardenio who offers love and a share of the food left for him. As they eat, Cardenio again recalls his love Di quei occhi ilampi ardenti / Rispondeano agli occi miei / "The ardent flashes of her beautiful eyes / Answered my eyes". Suddenly his anger is aroused. he violently grabs Kaidamàs hand and demands to know where Eleonora is. The servant is in pain and, in a duet finale, the two men sing of their frustrations: Cardenio Era il sorriso giorni miei / "She was the joy of my life" while Kaidamà demands to be left alone and proclaims that he will run away. Barolomeo emerges from his hut, Cardenio leaves, and Kaidamà runs into the hut.

Off shore, a ship is seen. It comes to shore and Fernando and sailors disembark, the latter proclaiming their joy at a safe arrival and Ferrando telling that his mother had urged him to try to find his brother. As Fernando makes his way through the rocks, wondering who may be able to him locate Cardenio, Kaidamà emerges, and each is surprised by the others strange appearance. However, Kaidamà is quickly convinced to provide help by Fernandos offer of money.

Interior of Bartolomeos hut

Marcella, leading Eleonora, and the countrypeople enter. Eleonora confesses her lack of innocence, but she is told that her father is bringing the madman to them. Both arrive, Cardenio demanding to know where he is being taken and Bartolomeo proclaiming that he wants to hear the madmans story and share his sorrow. Wife his wife remaining out of sight, Cardenio describes his love for "a Portuguese virgin" and what happened.

Standing out of sight in the crowd, Eleonora tries to break free to run to Cardenio, but she is held back by Marcella. Bartolomeo is sympathetic to Cardenios plight, but his tears are rejected until Fernando makes himself known to his brother. The brothers embrace until, finally unable to control herself, Eleonora breaks free and collapses at her husbands feet. Although he is moved by her appearance, he quickly rejects her and all the help that he has received.

Each character expresses his/her feelings in a quartet finale: Eleonoras Nel mio squardo mezzo-spento / Mira espresso il pentimento / "Look how my lifeless eyes / Express my regret" is followed by Cardenios Donna iniqua! E non remmenti / "Wicked woman! Dont you remember / Your deceptions, your oaths?", then Ferandos In quell volto, in quellaccento / "On that face, in those words / Cant you see her regret?" and finally by Kaidamà, Marcella and the country people with Ah! fuggir, scappar lo fate / "Ah! Let him run away". To this, the assembled groups respond "Ah! you make us tremble and freeze" as they watch Cardenio – followed by Fernando – flee from the scene. Eleonora collapses.


3.2. Synopsis Act 2

On the seashore

The farmers and Kaidamà, searching for Cardenio, move along seashore and disappear. Cardenio then appears Lasciatemi! Lasciatemi!. Tiranni! / "Leave me! Leave me!.Cruel ones!". Eleonora hears him from inside the hut: "I want to see him again" she exclaims. Recognising her voice, he begins to run away, then falls. Eleonora and Marcella rush from the hut, Eleonora exclaiming: La mia vittima e qui. Cardenio! Oh in quale / Stato feral di morte / "My victim is here! Cardenio! Oh! In what / Funereal state"). Although he gets to his feet, he appears to be unable to see anything and is unaware of Eleonora’s presence. When in desperation he asks who will help him, Eleonora steps forward, telling him that only death can divide them from now on. Cardenio laments his state La sventura / Fin la luce m’involo! / "Misfortune / Stole even the light from me" but, as he begins to be able to see again, he addresses her fondly. Suddenly the reality of who she is strikes him, and he grabs a cudgel and is about to strike her when Ferrando rushes in to prevents him. The madman quickly rushes off, leaping into the sea in order to drown himself. Tearing off his clothes, his brother plunges in after him.

Bartolomeo and the islanders come from along the shore, still searching for Cardenio. Bartolomeo: Dove? Dove sara? Tutto la selva / Ho invan percorsa / "Where? Where is he? In vain / I scoured the whole wood". Kaidamà rushes in and explains how Cardenio had plunged into the sea but had been rescued by Ferrando. Then another group of islanders appears, explaining that the madman seems now to be sane. This is immediately confirmed by Ferrando who recounts his brother’s wish to return to his country

As evening approaches, Cardenio, now dressed in new clothes and clean shaven, is melancholy Aria: Qui pianse al pianto mio Qui la rividi / Piu bella del dolor…Pieta mi vines. / "Here she cried at my tears. Here I saw her again / More beautiful in her sorrow.Pity overcame me". Unaware that Cardenio is watching, Kaidamà enters carrying two pistols. He is suddenly confronted by Cardenio who explains that his madness is over and demands that the pistols be handed over, telling the native that he has decided that dying together with Eleonora is the only way that he can continue.

Darkness is descending as Ferrando brings Eleonora to Cardenio and, when she tearfully confesses, he gives her one of the pistols and orders her to shoot him, just as he will shoot her with the other one. It is only when the islanders enter bearing torches that Cardenio is able to see that Eleonoras pistol is pointed not at him but at herself. He realises that she does love him, and the couple is reunited.