Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > La Favorita (Donizetti)
An Opera by Gaetano Donizetti
"La Favorita" (The Favorite), produced in Paris in 1840, is generally allowed to be, in many ways, the strongest of Donizettis tragic works. The story -- not very inviting -- is based on a French drama, which again owed its origin to a Spanish work.
A youthful cavalier, Fernando, is about to take monastic vows, when the monks are amazed to hear him confessing that this would be against his conscience. The fact is, he has caught sight of a fair penitent, who turns out to be Leonora, the Kings mistress, "La Favorita." Leonora reciprocates his passion, and to give him a chance of proving his chivalry, gets him a commission in the army. He returns with glory from the fight, and the King, tired by this time of his attachment, rewards him with the hand of Leonora. After the marriage Fernando learns of Leonoras past, and in disgust returns to the convent. Leonora follows, and, seeking and obtaining forgiveness, expires in his arms.
Historians of the opera all deal favourably with the music of "La Favorita." They remark the duet in the first Act for Fernando and the chief of the monastery; the graceful and melodious choruses of women, and the ballet music in the second Act; the Kings air, "Pour tant damour, in the third Act; and the whole of the fourth Act, which is indeed worth all the rest of the opera. The story is in all the books of how Donizetti wrote this Act in about three hours.