The Lyric Stage: May 21- Act 2 of Donizetti's "Gianni di Parigi"
Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) wrote dozens of operas, at least 75 by most counts. Some of these are great - Lucia, Daughter of the Regiment, L'Elisir d'Amore, the three Queens. Most opera lovers would not rank Gianni di Parigi in the category of Lucia or Anna Bolena, but it is nevertheless a very good opera, and this week we have Act 2 for you.
The story is simplicity itself. The Dauphin of France wants to marry the Princess of Navarre, but wants to get to know her first. They schedule a meeting, but rather than accomodate 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.
If you write 75 operas, give or take a few, in a relatively short time span, a composer can be forgiven if he repeats himself. This is especially true if he writes in an age when self plagiarizing was not a sin. Puccini could never have turned "Che gelida manina" from La Boheme into a duet for The Girl of the Golden West, but Donizetti had no such restraints. If you listen a little past the halfway point of the music you will hear a duet that is extremely familiar, particularly to fans of Luciano Pavarotti, who grew famous for singing the aria version of it that Donizetti used in The Daughter of the Regiment. We have that for you this week as well.