Corinna: Maria Bayankina
La Marchesa Melibea: Anna Kiknadze
La Contessa di Folleville: Olga Pudova
Madama Cortese: Anastasia Kalagina
Il Cavalier Belfiore: Dmitry Voropaev
Il Conte di Libenskof: Denis Zakirov
Lord Sidney: Vadim Kravets
Don Profondo: Nikolai Kamensky
Il Barone di Trombonok: Ilya Bannik
Don Alvaro: Vladimir Moroz
World premiere: 19 June 1825, Théâtre-Italien, Paris
Premiere at the Mariinsky Theatre and premiere of this production: 13 April 2005
Running time: 2 hours 40 minutes
The performance has one interval
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Luigi Balocchi derived in part from Mme de Stael´s novel Corinne, ou l´Italie
Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Stage Director: Alain Maratrat
Set Designer: Pierre Alain Bertola
Costume Designer: Mireille Dessingy
Lighting Designer: Pascal Mérat
Musical Preparation: Larisa Gergieva
Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov
It is the 28th May 1825, the eve of the coronation of King Charles X of France, at the Golden Lily Inn. Illustrious names from all over Europe have gathered here in order to travel to Reims and attend the coronation. Maddalena the house-keeper is exhorting her staff to get ready for the departure of the guests.
Don Prudenzio, a health attendant who calls himself a doctor, complains that the guests should not travel in their condition, but has decided to let them go anyway. Nonetheless, he insists on being listened to while they are still here.
Madame Cortese, the Tyrolean owner of the hotel, wishes that she could accompany her guests to the coronation. She instructs her staff on what they should talk about with the guests – fine clothes with Folleville, women with Belfiore, empire with Libenskof – so that the Golden Lily should become famous in Europe for its hospitality.
The first guest is a Parisian lady of fashion, the Contessa di Folleville. She is anxiously awaiting news of her carriage, when in runs Don Luigino with the news that the carriage has overturned and all her fine clothes have been ruined. The Contessa faints. The German Baron von Trombonok and Prudenzio enter and begin to fight over what to do to help her. Prudenzio dramatically announces that she is going to die, and Folleville instantly revives. She heroically decides not to travel, for patriotic reasons: she cannot be seen at the coronation without her fine clothes. She brightens up, however, when her maid Modestina arrives with a beautiful hat salvaged from the wreckage.
Trombonok laughs at the folly of the world, and several more characters begin to arrive – the antique collector Don Profondo, the Spanish Don Alvaro and the young Polish widow Marchesa Melibea. These last two seem delighted with each other’s company, and suddenly the Russian general Count Libenskof bursts in and creates a scene of jealousy, challenging Don Alvaro to a duel. The situation is saved by the arrival of Corinna the poetess from Rome. Her song of peace and fraternal love calms everyone.
All leave the stage and the English Lord Sidney appears. He is secretly in love with Corinna but dares not tell her of his feelings. He leaves (escaping Don Profondo’s prying questions), and Corinna enters.
The young French chevalier Belfiore quickly follows. Though he has the heart of the Contessa di Folleville, he is not averse to including Corinna in his list of conquests. Falling to his knees, he declares his love for her, and Corinna, surprised at first by his ridiculous advances, finally rejects him in a passionate fury.
Enter Don Profondo, who has been charged with organising the trunks for the journey. With the help of the hotel staff, he goes through the effects of his fellow travellers. He is interrupted by Folleville, who is looking for Belfiore. Profondo admits that he saw him with Corinna. This angers her, but suddenly Baron Trombonok and Luigino enter, followed by the whole company, with the news that there are no horses available, and the voyage to Reims must be cancelled. Everyone is dismayed, but Madame Cortese brings a letter from her husband, who writes that for those who miss the festivities in Reims, there will be festivities in Paris. The Contessa invites everyone to join her in the capital. Everyone decides to spend the money raised for the journey on a banquet at the Golden Lily.
Trombonok, whose favourite theme is harmony, convinces Libenskof and Melibea that they are made for each other. Libenskof asks forgiveness for his jealousy, and Melibea, harsh at first, finally relents and forgives him.
The final scene is a grand festive divertissement to celebrate harmony, with each guest singing a song from their country, ending with an improvisation by Corinna on the new king, Charles X. The guests sing a final song to the glory of France.
The opera Il viaggio a Reims, ossia L’albergo del giglio d’oro was composed in 1825 on the occasion of the coronation of King Charles X of France, and the plot unfolds in the lead-up to the coronation itself, which numerous guests are hurrying to attend. Rossini himself called his opus a stage cantata, and it does, in fact, stand apart from the operatic model one might typically associate with this maestro. The opera has fourteen (!) lead characters, all of them tangled up in a huge web of confusion. Brief ariosos are intermingled with quartets and sextets. The composer frequently abandons the norms of the so-called solita forma (recitative – lento aria – presto cabaletta), and we moreover recognise Rossini’s signature, the requirement of virtuoso skills is high and the music is life-affirming, sunny and transparent.
This magnificent féerie did not enjoy public acclaim at the time it was first presented; moreover, in as much as it was written for a specific occasion, the composer had not initially considered the possibility of his work having any long-term existence in the repertoire. The score was withdrawn from the Comédie-Italienne in Paris and left on the shelf. The music of Il viaggio a Reims was later to appear in the opera Le Comte Ory: at that time, quoting from one’s own works was a common practice. Such a sensible method also corresponded to Rossini’s sense of “bon vivance”: why exhaust oneself composing new music if one can use old music which in any case very few people have heard? Il viaggio a Reims was rediscovered only in 1977, in the archives of the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where music historians Janet Johnson and Philip Gossett found the old sheet music for Le Comte Ory, containing hitherto unknown music. Following several years’ work to reconstruct the score, in 1984 there came the premiere of the opera at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, the composer’s home town. Since then the opera has gone on to enter the international repertoire and has been recorded on around ten occasions, appearing at the Mariinsky Theatre in 2006, where it was staged in a co-production with Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet.
The production garnered rave reviews in addition to receiving Russia’s Golden Mask theatre prize, moreover in two categories: “Best opera production” and “Best work by a stage director”. Here there are no elaborate historical costumes: the action unfolds against a gangplank embarkation platform for a cruise liner; the scenes – as well may be imagined – all contain numerous characters. Moreover, everything is done with elegance, with precision and subtlety, with the necessary colourfulness but without any excesses. The entire premise works on being able to showcase Rossini’s music in the best natural way, not losing sight of the characters amid the intricacies of the plot. Denis Velikzhanin
The production is a recipient of Russia’s Golden Mask National Theatre Award (2006)
Co-production with Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris
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