Catalani, Alfredo


Catalani, Alfredo

La Wally (full opera score with Italian libretto)

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Alfredo Catalani
(b. Lucca, 19 June 1854 – d. Milan, 7 August 1893)

La Wally

Lyric drama in four acts
Libretto by Luigi Illica after Wilhelmine von Hillern’s novel Die Geier-Wally (1875)

Alfredo Catalani is the tragic figure of Italian nineteenth-century opera. Generally regarded as Italy’s most important stage composer between Verdi and verismo, he was thwarted in his musical development by chronic illness on the one hand and by the machinations of the Italian opera industry on the other. Of his five operas (six if his thorough reworking of Elda as Loreley is counted as a separate work), each shows a marked improvement over its immediate predecessor, suggesting that if he had been allowed to live out a full artistic career he might well have surpassed in popularity his younger “one-work” verismo colleagues (Mascagni, Leoncavallo, Cilea, Giordani, and, outside Italy, Charpentier and Eugen d’Albert) and become a serious rival and alternative to Puccini. Alas, it was not to be: his pulmonary condition (haemoptysis) led contemporaries to doubt his ability to see projects through to completion, and the opera industry, meaning in essence the publishing house of Ricordi, ensured that he remained permanently in the position of, as he put it, an “understudy.”

Catalani has also gone down in history as the most important musical representative of the mid-century Milanese artistic reform movement known as the Scapigliatura (roughly “The Dishevelled,” or perhaps “The Scruffians”), whose members sought to instill a Baudelairean avant-garde ethos into the Italian art scene. Though primarily literary in its thrust, the Scapigliatura produced a brilliant writer-musician in Arrigo Boito, who supplied his friend Catalani with the libretto to his first opera (La falce, 1875), only to renege for almost twenty years on his promise to continue in the same vein (he turned instead to Verdi with, as we all know, spectacular results). The Scapigliatura were fundamentally anti-establishment and pro-Wagnerian in outlook and sought a renewal of Italian opera through an influx of devices from German romantic opera: Nordic themes, nature painting (with an increased emphasis on the orchestra), touches of the supernatural and legendary, and a fascination with Liebestod, the fateful intertwining of love and death. All of these features bulk large in Catalani’s output and reached a culmination in his last and finest creation, La Wally. …


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Score Data


Opera Explorer




210 x 297 mm





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