Monday, November 09, 2009

A Night at the Opera with Margaret of Anjou

I promise to do a more substantive post soon, but while surfing this weekend, I came across an opera of which I hadn't heard before, Margherita d'Anjou by Giacomo Meyerbeer, with a libretto by Felice Romani. (Doesn't using the word "libretto" make this blog seem ever-so-classy?) This is known as an opera semiseria, or a semi-serious opera. (Feel the high culture simply oozing from this blog today.)

As I understand the storyline, the opera, which premiered at La Scala in 1820, takes place in Scotland around 1462, when Margherita, widowed from Henry VI, is fighting to regain her throne, from which she has been removed by one Riccardo, our very own beloved Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III. Margherita has other things on mind besides Riccardo, however; she's having an affair with the Duke of Lavarenne, whose wife, Isaura, is understandably unhappy about this. Isaura disguises herself as a doctor's page in order to win back her husband, and Margherita in turn disguises herself as a peasant in order to avoid detection by Riccardo. Eventually, the duke and his wife are reconciled, Riccardo is thwarted, and Belmonte, Margherita's general who had defected to Riccardo, returns to her service. (I should point out before some irate Ricardian does that the real-life Richard was ten years old in 1462 and thus unlikely to be chasing Margaret of Anjou around Scotland at the time.)

The opera was revived in London in 2002; some reviews can be found here. It was also recorded; a review of the recording is here. Some more information about the opera (from which the summary above was largely drawn) is here. Incidentally, Richard III is also the subject of an opera by Giorgio Battistelli, based on Shakespeare's play. The opera had its world premiere in 2005 at Antwerp. I know that a couple of opera buffs read this blog; has anyone seen/heard either of the operas in question?

6 comments:

Ceirseach said...

I haven't heard of either of them, and certainly didn't know that Meyerbeer did anything on English history (Donizetti's Anna Bolena is kind of hilarious, though). But, of course Richard is chasing Margherita around - everyone knows he is the primary Wars of the Roses villain, right? Shakespeare said so! And if Margaret is an opera character, naturally she is running around having affairs and getting dressed up in breeches. That is how history works.

Bella said...

Hi Susan, and happy Monday to you! This libretto sounds so interesting and fun to watch. I'm not an Opera Bluff, but I can definatly appreciate the passion and time invested in a play and would go see it. Hope to hear if someone has already seen it. BTW--Richard is one of my heroes, so no [Shakespearan??] play would influence me to think bad of My Richard (wink)

Gabriele C. said...

OK, that CD set went right on my Amazon wishlist, lol. It can keeping Handel's Arminio company until Christmas. :)

trish wilson said...

A couple of opera buffs – how about three in a row though I would prefer to call myself a cognoscenti. Been a regular ever since my parents dragged a pre-teen moi to an open air performance of Aida in Rome - it didn't start until 9pm - and when I was in Vienna student tickets were only 50 cents.

I thought there was something familiar about the name Romani – of course GM’s opera is based on his 5 act melodrama of the same name and GM is famous for being one of the first exponents of Grand Opera who unfortunately – he was Jewish – got on the wrong side of Wagner. There is a school of thought that holds it was GM’s fame coupled with Wagner’s early struggle to establish himself as THE German composer that tipped Wagner into anti-Semitism.

Other queens to get the operatic treatment – vocal technique and melodrama prevailing over historical accuracy – are Anne Boleyn (Donizetti’s Anna Bolena) which was revived last year this side of the pond thus coinciding with The Tudors and The Other Boleyn Girl and Mary Queen of Scots – Maria Stuarda by the same composer which also involves QE1 (Elisabetta) – sort of operatic catfight.

Don’t know much about Giorgio Battistelli as I’ve been rather out of it recently – to afford a decent seat at The Garden these days you need to work for Goldman Sachs - though he seems to be quite a prolific composer another historic subject being Mary Shelley (Frau Frankenstein). It seems his Richard III – the Shakespeare psycho – libretto in English didn’t go down too well with some Anglo-Saxon critics – one even suggests Tarantino should have done the staging which was in modern dress set in a circus – and alas alack Margaret is one of those characters conspicuous by her absence. By all accounts not one for Bella. Or for aficionadas of MOA.

Susan Higginbotham said...

Thanks, all! I'll have to give in and buy the Margherita CD myself, though the last time I attempted to sit around the house listening to music, my family found this such a strange and disturbing spectacle that I gave it up after about a half hour.

trish wilson said...

Come on Sue

Dont't tell me you've never heard of headphones?

It's what keeps my daughter and me from combing each other's hair or worse!!!