A lost Donizetti opera comes up for air

A lost Donizetti opera comes up for air


norman lebrecht

February 18, 2018

About 30 years ago I broke the story in the Sunday Times of a major find in the Covent Garden basement – an opera by Donizetti called Elisabetta.

There was much fuss, huffing and puffing, and a promise to stage the piece as soon as possible.

It finally got a concert performance in 1998, followed by a recording, and that was the end of the matter.

Today, the Observer reports the discovery of another Donizetti masterpiece, lost for 180 years, the Angel of Nisida.

Same old, same old?



  • Jamal Bakri says:

    Whomever said the score was lost? The opera was cancelled and reworked as la favorite, no?

    • Brian B says:

      Yes, Hence the famous story that he wrote Act 4 of Favorite in one night while his friends were away. Most of it was written as L’Ange and the famous tenor aria including the famous tenor aria which went from Duc d’Albe to L’Ange to Favorite. But now we’re being told half of this score has never been heard. La Favorite, anyway, doesn’t get nearly the number of performances and productions it deserves.

      • Jamal Bakri says:

        “But now we’re being told half of this score has never been heard”. That’s very interesting. I hope they do it soon then. I can’t wait for July’s Liceu Favorite with Spyres and Margaine. I think it’s an absolutely wonderful opera. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Has Been says:

    Question… How do we know it is a ‘masterpiece’ ?
    Was Elisabeth a ‘masterpiece ?
    Sometimes these works are lost or forgotten for a good reason.

  • steven holloway says:

    Surely this is the opera ‘Elisabetta’, not to be confused with Elisabetta al Castillo di Kenilworth, and not at all “about Elizabeth, Queen of England”. The lost Elisabetta is she who walks from Siberia to Moscow in aid of her father, and I really don’t think that, even in the world of opera, Elizabeth I was made to walk anywhere in aid of Henry VIII.

    • Alastair Miles says:

      That’s the one, Steven. I sang it with Juan Diego Florez, Andrea Rost and Alessandro Corbelli with Carlo Rizzi conducting. It’s on YouTube….

      • steven holloway says:

        Thank you, Alastair. I shall listen to it with interest.

      • Jackyt says:

        Thank you so much Alastair Miles, a JDF recording I’d missed! I’m listening now. What a Monday morning treat!
        I’ll certainly go to The Angel of Nisida too. Great cast, and much cheaper to see at the ROH than fully staged operas.

    • Brian B says:

      Elisabetta is also known as ‘Otto mesi in due ore’ or is a version of that opera.

    • steven holloway says:

      Pleased to note that you have corrected your post re the heroine of the opera, NL.

  • RLGetty says:

    The Elisabetta performed by Mr. Miles, Ms. Rost and Mr. Flórez in 1997 has nothing to do with the Queen of England. It’s about a girl named Elisabetta who travels through -80°C ice-cold Siberia wilderness for 8 months in order to get a pardon for her parents from the Tsar of Russia. In these times of Russian collusion and treachery, I’m sure the plot could be of interest to many. It’s a reworking of Otto Mesi in Due Ore (1827) that has some music not by Donizetti, but by one of his pupils, Uranio Fontana. The restored French version, using only music by Donizetti, was heard for the first time in 2003 at the Caramoor Festival (using manuscripts found by Crutchfield & Bonynge in the 1980s). I uploaded it to YouTube and it’s a delightful score. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqIsWpb6CIg&t=611s Sir Mark Elder told me that L’Ange de Nisida is a true gem. It has about 75% of never heard before Donizetti music. A well worth trip to London in July I’d say.