Zandonai, Riccardo


Zandonai, Riccardo

Giulietta e Romeo: Episodio sinfonico dalla Danza del Torchio e Cavalcata

SKU: 1931 Category:



Riccardo Zandonai
(b. Sacco, Rovereto, 30. May 1883 – d. Pesaro, 5. June 1944)

Giulietta e Romeo:
Episodio sinfonico dalla Danza del Torchio e Cavalcata

Giulietta e Romeo, the sixth of Riccardo Zandonai’s ten operas, was first performed at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 February 1922. With his Francesca da Rimini (Turin, 1914) by then firmly established in the Italian repertory, the composer’s stock was riding high, and the occasion was keenly anticipated. The title roles were taken by veritable stars of the period, Gilda dalla Rizza (1892–1975) and Miguel Fleta (1897–1938); the composer himself conducted. A fashionable crowd thronged the Costanzi, and though the reaction was far from unanimous – there was fighting in the gallery – the evening ended in the success for which the composer had been hoping.1 That an Italian opera composer might not have been striving for popular acclaim may appear a strange idea. But as Zandonai later explained, Giulietta e Romeo was conceived almost as an act of defiance. Younger composers were affecting not to write for the public. His aim, by contrast, was »to return to melodramma … to popular opera, to that type of opera … which is more essentially Italian«.2

The ‘progressive’ wing of Italian musical opinion was appalled. A few isolated moments apart, the Florentine critic Giannotto Bastianelli (1883–1927) found »nothing good in the noisy and emphatic score«. The Roman critic Alberto Gasco (1879–1938) thought the opera overly long and loud, singling out for particular censure the Intermezzo in Act III. Bastianelli also disliked this »very vulgar and clangourous« passage.3 But Zandonai had judged his public well. Giulietta e Romeo may never have achieved the success of Francesca da Rimini, yet it too was standard repertory in Italy until the mid-1950s: there were no fewer than 67 productions in the opera’s first fifty years.4 Though rarely staged today, the opera’s music has not entirely been forgotten. Romeo’s Giulietta! Son io! from Act III remains a staple of the verismo tenor repertory.

In its heyday, the most celebrated extract from Giulietta e Romeo was purely orchestral: the very Intermezzo about which Bastianelli and Gasco were so disparaging. Known even before the premiere as the Cavalcata (Ride on Horseback), it describes Romeo’s nocturnal gallop from Mantua – where, accidentally, from the song of a travelling minstrel, he has learnt of Giulietta’s death (in fact only apparent, of course) – back to Verona, amid a thunderstorm. Gasco suggested that Zandonai »substantially modify the instrumentation of this piece. It seems as if the composer had wanted to depict not the ride of a single person, but the uproarious gallop of 3000 uhlans«.5 Again, the public had other ideas. Already at the third performance, the Cavalcata was encored, and this seems to have become standard practice.6 A letter to his confidant, the journalist Nicola D’Atri (1866–1955), shows Zandonai thinking about a concert arrangement of the Cavalcata as early as the summer following the premiere.7

It was not until September 1926 that Zandonai resolved to carry out this work, with a view to including the arrangement in two concerts he had been invited to conduct in Rome the following year. His initial idea was to preface the Cavalcata with music from the Danza del torchio (Torch Dance) heard at the start of Act II. By October he was contemplating something grander: »a kind of symphonic poem … which I would like to call ‘Studies’ on ‘Giulietta e Romeo’«. But the following summer, with his conducting dates in Rome fixed for December, he returned to the initial plan.8 As we shall see, a certain amount of music had to be newly composed: this seems to have been sketched between 3 and 10 November 1927, after which Zandonai worked on the orchestration. He sent the completed score of what he now called an Episodio to Ricordi, his publisher, on the 18th.9 Less than a month later, on 11 December, Zandonai conducted the premiere, with the Orchestra della Regia Accademia di Santa Cecilia in the Augusteo concert hall. D’Atri, who had been characteristically full of advice to the composer as he worked, was delighted. To Arturo Rossato (1882–1942), Zandonai’s librettist, he declared that, »The Cavalcata is a piece of such irresistible success that it will surely enter the repertory«.10 And D’Atri was right. Though this music is little played today, in 1983 the musicologist Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi could still describe the Episodio sinfonico as having enjoyed »for many years … a place of affection in our concert repertory«.

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Score Data


Repertoire Explorer




210 x 297 mm





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