Act Two of Donizetti's Gianni di Parigi this week on the Lyric Stage
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) wrote dozens of operas, at least 75 by most counts, many of them great, including Lucia di Lammemoor, The Daughter of the Regiment, L'Elisir d'Amore and the three Queens. This week on the Lyric Stage we don't have one of his great ones, but nonetheless music from a very good one, Act 2 of Gianni di Parigi. The story is simplicity itself. The Dauphin of France wants to marry the Princess of Navarre, but he wants to get to know her first. They schedule a meeting, but rather than accommodate her at what is apparently the only inn in the vicinity - she has after all, reserved rooms at the inn - he bribes the landlord and takes over the place. When she arrives, he presents himself incognito as the simple but rich burgher John of Paris. He graciously offers her hospitality and a feast. She knows all about his plot, and goes along with it. They fall in love and decide to marry.
One critic calls this an apprentice opera, but it came midway in Donnizetti's career, 1831, and after he wrote Anna Bolena and only two years before he wrote L'Elisir d'Amore. One distinction about the opera is the tenor role, which is substantial. Donizetti wrote it for Giovanni Battista Rubini, a famous tenor of the day. He hoped Rubini would promote the opera as a vehicle for himself in Paris, where Donizetti wanted to establish himself. But Rubini did not do so, and the opera was not performed until 1839, when La Scala gave the premiere.
About all of those operas Donizetti wrote. He sometimes, shall we say, drew inspiration from his own music to help meet a deadline. Luciano Pavarotti will sing an aria from The Daughter of the Regiment that shows us an example of this.