Gioachino Rossini: Sigismondo (1814)

Opera in two acts. Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes.

Okay, so I am tired of tragic operas, so I’m going to try to only review operas that have happy endings, be they comic or melodrama otherwise, for a while. Thus, we are headed for a lot of bel canto. This review is of the Rovigo, 1992 production which is considered the best in modern times.

Around half of the score of this opera was reused by Rossini in later more successful operas (it having been a failure). More than likely, then, the plot is to be blamed from its lack of success? Well, the main criticism of the work is actually how unoriginal the music is because, in turn, Rossini borrowed most of the music here from several of his earlier operas.

SETTING: Gniezno and the surrounding forest, Poland, early 16th century. King Sigismondo has condemned his wife Aldimira to death over an accusation of adultery brought to him by Ladislao, his prime minister. This prompts her father, Ulderico, King of Bohemia, to attack Sigismondo in revenge. Meanwhile, Aldimira has been saved by a nobleman named Zenovito and is passed off to the kings as his daughter when they both separately happen upon her in the forest where she has been hidden by Zenovito. Eventually it is revealed that Ladislao’s accusation was false. He is sentenced to life imprisonment, and Aldimira is restored as Queen Consort. Incidentally, the two bass roles of Zenovito and Ulderico were performed by the same singer because they do not appear at the same time.

LINK:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zR887OK1Ac

LOOK OUT FOR:

ACT 1: (76 minutes)

0: The overture ** starts with a somewhat familiar theme because it was later reused for Otello.

Scene 1: Royal Apartments.

8: O prence misero The opening chorus * starts with what is an obvious rework of the act 1 scene 4 entrance of Lindoro, Elvira, and Zulma in L’Italiana in Algeri. Things turn serious for Radoski and Ladislao’s sister Anagilda as they discuss the King’s madness, but the chorus keeps up its higher spirits.

11: L’immago tiranna A series of arioso passages for Ladislao *, not an aria but equally not recitative either. The cabaletta ended up in the Barber I think. He pretends to care about the King’s madness but really just wants his sister proclaimed Queen Consort.

17: Non seguirmi! Sigismondo arrives regretting condemning his wife because now her father Ulderico is coming after him for revenge, also he believes that her ghost is haunting him. Although it starts off morse (acceptable given the sentiments) it does eventually develop into a nice cavatina * for our contralto in transvesti. The scene concludes with a patch of recitative in which Sigismondo explains this situation and the immediate nature of Ulderico’s threat on the kingdom. He decides to pretend to go hunting in a forest on the border and get killed by encountering Ulderico’s forces and engaging them in battle.

Scene 2: The forest surrounding a small house.

29: Oggetto amabile  After some lovely woodwind preluding and some reflections on her tranquil surroundings from Aldimira we get her cavatina **. Zenovito then goes into his plan to pass her off as his daughter Egelinda. Hunting horns are heard in the distance.

34: Al bosco, alla caccia! A hunting chorus * which I can not help but feel I have heard before. Nobles arrive on the scene which might seem odd since they have no hunting elements around them. They leave after telling Zenovito that the King is going and he hides Aldimira so she can see him but he can not see her.

40: Vidi…ah no, che allor sognai Ladislao reflects on how horrid he is in a tranquil aria with a Mozart-like form *. Sigismondo and “Egelinda” meet and she introduces herself as the daughter of Zenovito.

46: Un segreto è il mio tormento The duet Sigismondo and “Egelinda” embark on might be vocally nice (Aldimira at least) but the orchestral accompaniment is incredibly sedate (mostly just strings and woodwinds), and very mild *. It is very weird because Sigismondo proposes marriage to “Egelinda” but she says that she must receive permission from her father first. Sigismondo decides to embark on a harebrained scheme to trick his father-in-law into thinking that the execution was just gossip by presenting “Egelinda” as Aldimira.

53: Tu l’opra tua seconda This forest spot must be very popular because Ladislao returns and discusses Zenovito’s daughter with him. Alone, Zenovito reflects in an aria ** with a good string backing.

58: Perché obbedir disdegni? Ladislao and Aldimira recognize each other in a duet ** which was definitely reused in La Cenerentola and which has an oddly happy tune to it for such an accusatory confrontation

63: A quiet orchestral interlude * as the scenery changes.

Scene 3: The interior of Zenovito’s house.

64, 72: Quale, o Ciel, d’idee funeste/All’armi! The act finale of which this entire twelve-minute scene starts with a sedate but vocally nice reflection from Sigismondo *. Aldimira comes in, as do Ladislao and Zenovito, then Aldimira and Zenovito leave only to return and there is an ensemble with a mild crescendo. Ladislao then leaves, only to bring the entire court back with him for a furious stretta * when it is revealed that Ulderico is coming to get Sigismondo and they all take up weapons.

ACT 2: (59 minutes)

Scene 1: A room on the ground floor of the Royal Palace.

0: In segreto a che ci chiama? The first of two choral numbers * in quick succession.

3: Viva Aldimira! If the libretto wasn’t confusing enough the Court greets Aldimira as herself and not as “Egelinda” * although she has been brought to the court specifically as the King’s new bride, because they apparently haven’t been fooled (so why has Sigismondo?).

5: Tomba di morte e orrore The second Aldimira-Sigismondo duet is a bit better than their first **. Sigismondo is confused by his emotions for this unknown woman and Aldimira wants to get to the bottom of why her husband tried to have her bumped off. They part separately. Meanwhile, Radoski has found a letter incriminating Ladislao in which he attempted to seduce Aldimira. He doesn’t know what to do with it and thinks that once Ulderico has been placated that “Egelinda” will be returned to her father unmarried, so Anagilda still has a really good chance of becoming Queen Consort.

16: Sognava contenti a lovely aria for Anagilda **, who up to this point has been mostly neglected by Rossini, as she contemplates becoming Consort.

21: Giusto ciel, che i mali miei Ladislao’s cavatina of guilt and remorse **, it eventually ended up becoming Matilda’s cavatina in Elisabetta, regina d’Inghilterra. 

28: Ah signor, nell’alma mia Radoski gives Aldimira the damning letter by Ladislao. Sigismondo tells her that Ulderico is about to arrive and she will need to play her part. She reassures him to an aria ** which uses a tune which will end up in the opening chorus of Elisabetta. The male chorus and some soprano coloratura provide a fine finish.

Scene 2: A valley between Poland and Bohemia.

35: Genitor, deh, vien! catches up with Ulderico and tells him that Aldimira is really a look-a-like who is really Egelinda, the daughter of a Polish nobleman. When the royal couple greet the King of Bohemia, he accuses Aldimira of being the look-a-like. A quartet ** ensues which is also based on a borrowed piece. The stretta would be reworked as the finale to the first act of The Barber. The two nations are at war.

45: Alma rea! Il più infelice The battle rages to music that got reworked into Cenerentola. Radoski is captured by Ulderico, Aldimira is pursued by Ladislao who slips on a mountain slope. Sigismondo contemplates ** executing Ladislao but Aldimira’s profession of love softens him to life in prison. Aldimira gives her father Ladislao’s letter, proving both her identity and Ladislao’s guilt. The aria would become the final aria from Cenerentola. 

56: Qual felice amico giorno The finale *, Aldimira is restored, Ladislao is imprisoned. A mild conclusion.

COMMENT:

This opera isn’t terrible, it does have some good points, although the best numbers are too recognizable from far better known later Rossini operas, there are very good numbers here even if nothing is brilliant. The plot is banal and uninteresting, as well as confusing. How are both her husband and her father fooled by Aldimira’s non-disguise? It is odd that Radoski ends up providing the plot with a solution (the letter) given that musically he does almost nothing. Both Ladislao and Sigismondo are experiencing mental torment over Aldimira’s supposed execution, but this isn’t really expanded upon well enough. Is Sigismondo insane? What is Ladislao’s motive, wanting to make his sister Queen Consort? Revenge on Aldimira for rejecting his adulterous desires? Both? The act finales, usually the more interesting part, are incredibly boring. Ultimately either a C+ or a B-.

4 thoughts on “Gioachino Rossini: Sigismondo (1814)

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