A tragic opera in three acts from a libretto by Giovanni Emanuele Bidera and Agostino Ruffini
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
First performance: Paris, Théâtre Italien, 12th March 1835
Rivisited edition on autograph material by Maria Chiara Bertieri
Marino Faliero by Gaetano Donizetti
Marino Faliero dates to Donizetti’s full artistic maturity: it was expressly written in 1835 for Paris, when Donizetti set foot there for the first time. The composer from Bergamo was invited to represent – together with Bellini – the generation of successful young Italian composers in the major European theatrical city at the Théâtre Italien.
At the Théâtre Italien, where Rossini was working as musical consultant, they presented respectively Marino Faliero and I Puritani, two works in which the political component is strongly present.
Several Italian refugees who were followers of Mazzini had found hospitality in Paris, and also the Théâtre Italien’s billboards reflected this image of Italianity: in 1834 the libertarian Ernani by Gabussie and Il bravo by Marliani, a carbonaro from Milan, had made their debut there; the following year, two exiled followers of Mazzini such as Agostino Ruffini and Carlo Pepoli were respectively involved in the writing of the librettos of Marino Faliero and I Puritani.
Displaying a rich and elaborate score, rebels heroically facing martyrdom, great collective and choral pages (the People), it comes as no surprise that Marino Faliero should be highly favoured by Giuseppe Mazzini, who saw it as the first step towards a committed musical theatre, a potentially great educational gymnasium for the redemption of the Italians.
Marino Faliero: synopses of the opera
Venice, 1355. The workers of the arsenal comment on an inscription that appeared in Rialto accusing Elena, wife of Doge Marino Faliero, of having betrayed her husband. Their leader, Israele Bertucci, remembers the enterprise of Zadar in which he had taken part alongside Faliero. Steno, an arrogant patrician, arrives: he accuses the artisans of not working enough and threatens to punish them.
Israele and his people criticize the arrogance of the nobles. In the palace of the doge, his nephew Fernando, in love with Elena, has decided to leave Venice. Elena arrives and gives him a veil as a token of their love. The doge, unaware of the love bond between the two, drives his wife away and confides to his nephew his upset about the shameful accusation made against her. Faliero is also embittered by the invitation to a masquerade by patrician Leoni, in which he feels compelled to participate.
Left alone, the doge is joined by Israele who reveals him that a conspiracy against the patricians is being plotted. The two agree: during Lioni’s ball, Israele will indicate to the doge the number and names of those who have joined. Faliero, Elena and Fernando arrive to the palace of Lioni. The doge leaves with Israele, who tells him that the conspirators will act that very night, moving from the Church of “San Giovanni e Paolo”. Elena is pestered by a masked figure. It is Steno, who is challenged to a duel by Fernando: they will meet at dawn, in San Giovanni.
The conspirators meet in San Giovanni. Fernando also arrives and waits for the duel to begin. When the bell tower rings three o’clock, he goes to the established place. The conspirators come out into the open, joined by the doge. As a thunderstorm approaches, a sound of swords is heard: Fernando has been fatally injured and, in his agony, he points to Steno as his killer.
In the ducal palace, Faliero announces the death of Fernando to Elena. At that moment, Leoni enters to claim the presence of the doge against the conspirators. Faliero declares to be their leader and proclaims himself king, but he is arrested by the guards, while Elena surrenders to despair. In the hall of the Council of the Ten, Faliero, Israele and the other conspirators are sentenced to death.
Left alone, the deposed doge is joined by Elena. Faliero asks her to be buried with the veil that his nephew was wearing. Elena recognizes it and, overcome by remorse, confesses her love for Fernando. At first Faliero is furious, but then regains his peace, forgives his bride, and goes to the gallows. Elena prays and, when the drums announce his execution, falls unconscious.