An opera in four acts from a libretto by Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaez – music by Gaetano Donizetti
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
Score by Candida Mantica / Opera Rara – Peters, Lipsia; Italian representative Casa Musicale Sonzogno di Piero Ostali, Milan
It was known that La Favorita (1840) had a close precedent, L’ange de Nisida, written by Donizetti for the Théâtre de la Renaissance in Paris (1839-1840), but it had never been staged, since in May 1840 the theatre had to suspend its activities due to financial difficulties. The composer had set the score aside without finishing the final act. However, the words and music were not lost, because not long afterwards they came together in La Favorita, written for the Paris Opéra, where it debuted on 2 December 1840. By extracting the sections originally in L’Ange from the score of La Favorita and combining them with sections which had been discarded but nevertheless survived, the musicologist Candida Mantica was able to reconstruct this work from Donizetti’s prime, and it now comes to the stage in a world premiere (a concert performance was given in London in July 2018).
Set on the coast of Naples in the late 15th century, L’Ange recounts a scandalous and adulterous affair of the Catholic King Ferdinand of Aragon, who entertains the idea of divorcing his legitimate wife and is threatened with excommunication by the Pope. Intertwined with this story is the love of a virtuous yet ignorant and naive young man for the same woman, the king’s mistress. When the young man discovers this after their marriage – encouraged by the king – he is destroyed by shame for the dishonour and torn between love and atonement. L’Ange begins as a comedy, but becomes progressively darker towards its dramatic conclusion. Anyone familiar with La Favorita will realise that this is not merely the original version with a few changes, but a very different type of drama.