A lecture about a forgotten opera: Donizetti’s Pia de’Tolomei (1836)

The 56th opera of Donizetti, based upon a libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, was mounted in Venice in February of 1837 at the Teatro Apollo. In spite of the fine performers (Tacchinardi-Persiani and Ronconi) the opera as a whole failed. It obtained a success, however, in 1838 in Rome. The principal performers on this occasion were the soprano Strepponi and the tenor Moriani. For the Rome performance, Donizetti composed a new finale for the 1st act. The autograph of the revised score, conserved at Naples, reveals that Donizetti strove toward a dramatic rather than a lyric end. There are surprising anticipations of the master’s final style as well as some typically Verdian melodic inflections. In one of the tenor arias there is a quotation of the future Traviata. The chorus serves to provide dramatic relief.