Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Linda di Chamounix (Donizetti)
Linda di Chamounix
(English title: Linda of Chamounix)
An Opera by Gaetano Donizetti
Opera, in three acts, by Donizetti; words by Rossi. Produced, May 19, 1842, Theatre near the Carinthian Gate (Kärntherthor), Vienna. London, June, 1843. New York, Palmos Opera House, January 4, 1847, with Clothilda Barili; Academy of Music, March 9, 1861, with Clara Louise Kellogg, later with Patti as Linda and Galassi as Antonio; Metropolitan Opera House, April 23, 1890, with Patti.
MARQUIS DE BOISFLEURY
CHARLES, Vicomte de Sirval
Peasant men and women, Savoyards, etc.
Time: 1760, during the reign of Louis XV.
Place: Chamounix and Paris.
"Linda di Chamounix" contains an air for soprano without which no collection of opera arias is complete. This is Lindas aria in the first act, "O luce di quest anima" (Oh! star that guidst my fervent love). When Donizetti was composing "Linda di Chamounix" for Vienna, with this air and its fluent embellishments, he also was writing for the Imperial chapel a "Miserere" and an "Ave Maria" which were highly praised for a style as severe and restrained as "O luce di quest anima" is light and graceful.
"Linda di Chamounix" is in three acts, entitled "The Departure," "Paris," "The Return." The story is somewhat naïve, as its exposition will show.
Act I. The village of Chamounix. On one side a farm-house. On an eminence a church. Antonio and Madeline are poor villagers. Linda is their daughter. She has fallen in love with an artist, Charles, who really is the Viscount de Sirval, but has not yet disclosed his identity to her. When the opera opens Lindas parents are in fear of being dispossessed by the Marquis de Boisfleury, who is Charless uncle, but knows nothing of his nephews presence in Chamounix, or of his love for Linda. She, it may be remarked, is one of those pure, sweet, unsophisticated creatures, who exist only on the stage, and possibly in opera.
When the opera opens, Antonio returns from a visit to the Marquiss agent, the Intendant. Hopes have been held out to him that the Marquis will relent. Antonio communicates these hopes to his wife in the beautiful solo, "Ambo nati in questa valle" (We were both in this valley nurtured).
There are shouts of "Viva!" without. The Marquis has arrived. He seems kindness itself to the old couple. He asks for Linda, but she has gone to prayers in the chapel. We learn from an aside between the Marquis and his Intendant, that the Marquiss apparent benevolence is merely part of a libidinous scheme which involves Linda, whose beauty has attracted the titled roué.
After this scene, Linda comes on alone and sings "O luce di quest anima."
I also quote the concluding phrase:
Savoyards are preparing to depart for Paris to go to work there. Among them is Pierrot, with his hurdy-gurdy. He sings a charming ballad. "Per sua madre ando una figlia" (Once a better fortune seeking).
There is then a love scene between Linda and Charles, with the effective duet, "A consolarmi affrestisi" (Oh! that the blessed day were come, when standing by my side), a phrase which is heard again with significant effect in the third act.
Antonio then learns from the good Prefect of the village that the latter suspects the Marquis of sinister intentions toward Linda. Indeed at that moment Linda comes in with a paper from the Marquis, which assures to her parents their home; but, she adds, naively, that she has been invited by the Marquis to the castle. Parents and Prefect are alarmed for her safety. The Prefect has a brother in Paris. To his protection it is decided that Linda shall go with her Savoyard friends, who even now are preparing to depart.
Act II. Room in a handsome, well-furnished apartment in Paris. This apartment is Lindas. In it she has been installed by Charles. The natural supposition, that it has been paid for by her virtue, is in this instance a mistake, but one, I am sure, made by nine people out of ten of those who see the opera, since the explanation of how she got there consists merely of a few incidental lines in recitative.
Linda herself, but for her incredible naïveté would realize the impossibility of the situation.
A voice singing in the street she recognizes as Pierrots, calls him up to her, and assists him with money, of which she appears to have plenty. She tells him that the Prefects brother, in whose house she was to have found protection, had died. She was obliged to support herself by singing in the street. Fortunately she had by chance met Charles, who disclosed to her his identity as the Viscount de Sirval. He is not ready to marry her yet on account of certain family complications, but meanwhile has placed her in this apartment, where he provides for her. There is a duet, in which Linda and Pierrot sing of her happiness.
Pierrot having left, the Marquis, who has discovered her retreat, but does not know that it is provided by his nephew Charles, calls to force his unwelcome attention upon her. He laughs, as is not unnatural, at her protestations that she is supported here in innocence; but when she threatens him with possible violence from her intended, he has a neat little solo of precaution, ending "Guardati, pensaci, marchese mio" (Be cautious -- ponder well, Marquis most valiant).
The Marquis, having prudently taken his departure, Linda having gone to another room, and Charles having come in, we learn from his recitative and air that his mother, the Marquise de Sirval, has selected a wife for him, whom she insists he shall marry. He hopes to escape from this marriage, but, as his mother has heard of Linda and also insists that he shall give her up, he has come to explain matters to her and temporarily to part from her. But when he sees her and temporarily to part from her. But when he sees her, her beauty so moves him that his courage fails him, although, as he goes, there is a sadness in his manner that fills her with sad forebodings.
For three months Linda has heard nothing from her parents. Letters, with money, which she has sent them, have remained unanswered -- another of the situations in which this most artless heroine of opera discovers herself, without seeking the simple and obvious way of relieving the suspense.
In any event, her parents have become impoverished through the Marquis de Boisfleurys disfavour, for at this moment her father, in the condition of a mendicant, comes in to beg the intercession in his behalf of the Viscount de Sirval (Charles). Not recognizing Linda, he mistakes her for Charless wife. She bestows bounteous alms upon him, but hesitates to make herself known, until, when he bends over to kiss her hand she cannot refrain from disclosing herself. Her surroundings arouse his suspicions, which are confirmed by Pierrot, who comes running in with the news that he has learned of preparations for the marriage of Charles to a lady of his mothers choice. In a scene (which a fine singer like Galassi was able to invest with real power) Antonio hurls the alms Linda has given him at her feet, denounces her, and departs. Pierrot seeks to comfort her. But alas! her fathers denunciation of her, and, above all, what she believes to be Charless desertion, have unseated her reason.
Act III. The village of Chamounix. The Savoyards are returning and are joyfully greeted. Charles, who has been able to persuade his mother to permit him to wed Linda, has come in search of her. Incidentally he has brought solace for Antonio and Madeline. The De Sirvals are the real owners of the farm, the Marquis, Charles's uncle, being only their representative. Lindas parents are to remain in undisturbed possession of the farm; -- but where is she?
Pierrot is heard singing. Whenever he sings he is able to persuade Linda to follow him. Thus her faithful friend gradually had led her back to Chamounix. And when Charles chants for her a phrase of their first act duet, "O consolarmi affretisi" her reason returns, and it is "Ah! di tue pene sparve il sogno" (Ah! the vision of my sorrow fades).
In this drama of naïveté, an artlessness which I mention again because I think it is not so much the music as the libretto that has become old-fashioned, even the Marquis comes in for a good word. For when he too offers his congratulations, what does Linda do but refer the old libertine, who has sought her ruin, as "him who will be my uncle dear."