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Gioacchino Antonio Rossini

1992 ( MILAN )

Elena - June Anderson
Malcolm - Martine Dupuy
Uberto ( Giacomo ) - Rockwell Blake
Rodrigo di Dhu - Chris Merritt
Douglas d'Angus - Giorgio Surjan
Albina - Marilena Laurenza
Serano - Ernesto Gavazzi
Bertram - Ferrero Poggi

Conductor -  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra - Teatro alla Scala
Chorus - Teatro alla Scala

La donna del lago (The Lady of the Lake) is an opera composed by Gioachino Rossini with a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola (whose verses are described as "limpid" by one critic) based on the French translation of The Lady of the Lake, a narrative poem written in 1810 by Sir Walter Scott, whose work continued to popularize the image of the romantic highlands. Scott's basic story has been noted as coming from "the hint of an incident stemming from the frequent custom of James V, the King of Scotland, of walking through the kingdom in disguise".

It was the first of the Italian operas to be based on Scott's romantic works, and marked the beginning of romanticism in Rossini's work. It was "deeply influential in the development of Italian romantic opera" to the extent that by 1840 (barely 20 years after this opera), there were 25 Italian operas based on his works, the most famous being Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor of 1835. Others in German, French and English followed.

Written for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, this was the seventh of nine operas which Rossini wrote for that house between 1815 and 1822. Although the première on 24 September 1819 was not a success, there followed many performances throughout major European venues (as well as being presented in Cuba and by major South American houses) until about 1860, after which the opera disappeared until 1958. In modern times, performances have been given fairly frequently.



Opera in two acts by Gioachino Rossini
to an Italian libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola.


Elena (Ellen), Lady of the Lake
Malcom (Malcolm) Groeme (Graeme), Rebel chieftain, Elena's lover (en travesti) 
Uberto di Snowdon, alias of Giacomo V, Re di Scozia (King James V of Scotland). Enamoured of Elena
Duglas (Douglas) d'Angus, Elena's father, rebel and former tutor to King James 
Rodrigo (Roderick) di Dhu, Betrothed to Elena, rebel chief of the Highlanders
Serano, Douglas's retainer
Albina, Elena's confidante  
Bertram, Servant to the King  
Chorus: Pastori, Pastorelle scozzesi, Bardi, Grandi di Scozia, Dame scozzesi, Guerrieri del Clan Alpino, Cacciatori, Guardie reali.
Scottish shepherds and shepherdesses, bards, Scottish nobles and their ladies, Highland warriors, hunters, royal guards


Time: : First half of the sixteenth century
Place:  Scotland

Premiere Cast, 24 October 1819




Scene 1: The shores of Loch Katrine, with the Ben Ledi mountains in the background

Shepherds are watching flocks at dawn on the shore and men in the nearby forests are hunting (Chorus: Del dì la messaggiera già il crin di rose infiora / "It is the day of the harvest and rose tresses are fully blossomed). Elena appears in a boat on the lake and sings of her longing for her true love, Malcolm (Cavatina: Oh mattutini albori| vi ha preceduti Amor / "Love has preceded you, to awake me again from my slumbers"). At the edge of the lake, Elena hears the sound of horns and vainly hopes that Malcolm will be among the hunters. However, King James - who has disguised himself as "Uberto" in the hope of meeting the beautiful Elena - approaches from a distance, claiming to be a lost hunter. She offers him shelter and James accepts, and the two cross the lake towards Elena's home (Duettino: Scendi nel piccol legno / "Get into my little boat"). As they sail off, the men in his entourage arrive, searching for the disguised King (Chorus: Uberto! Ah! dove t'ascondi? / "Oberto, where are you hiding?"). Frustrated, they agree to widen the search and pray for guidance in finding their leader.

Scene 2: Douglas's home

Arriving at her home, Elena explains her simple life. But Uberto/King James sees insignias of his ancestors and learns that Elena's father is Douglas, the King's tutor, who has since become a rebel exiled from the court, a decision which Uberto in an aside says the King regrets. Elena's friends arrive and sing of her betrothal by her father to Rodrigo, chief of the Highlanders, a Scots tribe opposed to King James. Uberto/James becomes jealous. However, he suspects that Elena is not in love with Rodrigo (Duet: Le mie barbare vicende / "What good will it do to hear about my cruel fortunes?"). Directly, he asks if there is someone she loves, and learns this was only a brief episode in her past. Encouraged, he prepares to leave Elena's house (Duet: Cielo! in qual estasi! / "Heavens, I feel myself transported in ecstasy"), and he and Elena expresses similar emotions. All leave as Elena goes inside.

Malcolm arrives, having decided to join the Highlanders (Mura felici, ove il mio ben si aggira! / Dopo più lune io vi riveggo / "Happy walls, that shelter my beloved. After so long I will see her again!"). Alone, he recalls fond memories of Elena: (Aria: Elena! oh tu, che chiamo!, Deh vola a me un istante / "Elena! you whom I call!, Ah!, fly back to me for a moment, come back to me and say I love you"). Then he swears he will take her away from the strongest man or die in the attempt. Unseen, Malcolm then watches Elena and her father discussing her upcoming marriage to Rodrigo. She is reluctant, but Douglas orders her to obey his command: (Aria: Taci, lo voglio, e basti / "Be quiet! It is my wish...Show me that you're a daughter worthy of her father"). As he leaves, trumpets announce Rodrigo; Douglas orders Elena to follow him.

Malcolm, who has overheard the conversation, approaches Elena and they pledge their undying devotion to each other (Duettino: Vivere io non saprò/ potrò, mio ben, senza di te / (Elena, then Malcolm): "Beloved, I shall not be able to live, my love, without you"). Together they leave.

Scene 3

The Highland warriors urge one another to fight (Chorus: Qual rapido torrente / "Like a swift-flowing stream, surging over obstacles in its way") and welcome Rodrigo. He pledges to lead them to victory but, aside, expresses anxiety to see his future bride: (Cavatina: Eccomi a voi, miei prodi / "I come to you my brave honor of the native soil"). His soldiers assure him he will win the hand of the woman he loves, as well as military victory.

Douglas enters and he and Rodrigo greet one another, the latter fervently expressing his desire to see Elena. (Rodrigo and Chorus: Ma dov'è colei / "But where is Elena, who kindles such a sweet flame in my breast"). Acclaimed by the assembled crowd for her beauty, Elena enters. Rodrigo approaches, declaring his love: (Aria: Quanto a quest'alma amante / "My loving soul finds the sweetness of this moment"). Concerned that she does not appear to respond, Douglas assures Rodrigo that she is restrained by modesty. Father, daughter and suitor each express their hopes, concerns and fears: (Trio: Di opposti affetti un vortice / "A whirlwind of contrary emotions, Swirls about me").

Malcolm and his men arrive to join the Highlanders, demanding to be put to the test. Elena tries to hide her emotions, but Douglas immediately understands where her heart lies. At the same time, Rodrigo offers friendship to Malcolm and introduces Elena as his bride-to-be; but he, too, perceives a connection between Malcolm and Elena. In a quartet accompanied by the chorus of soldiers and women, each expresses his or her conflicting emotions: (Rodrigo: Crudele sospetto, Che me agiti il petto / "Cruel suspicion That sets me shuddering"; then Elena and Malcolm together: Ah cèlati, o affetto, nel misero petto! / "Ah my affection - keep yourself hidden"; then Douglas: Ah l'ira, il dispetto, mi straziano il petto! / "Ah! Anger and resentment Tear my heart apart"; finally Albina and chorus: Crudele sospetto gli serpe nel petto! / "Cruel suspicion twists Like a snake").

Abruptly, Serano enters to warn of an attack by the King's forces. The Bards (Coro dei Bardi) enter and sing Già un raggio forier d'immenso splendor, addita il sentier di gloria, di onor, in which they are then joined by Albina E vinto il nemico, domato l'audace. As Rodrigo, Malcolm and the Highland warriors prepare to depart for battle the everyone joins in singing Su... amici! guerrieri! / "Go on, friends and warriors, Go on, let's march, let's fight". All leave for battle.


Scotland under King James V (reigned 1513–1542) was in a state of unrest. Amongst the rebels were Douglas (Elena's father), Rodrigo (to whom she has been betrothed) and Malcolm (whom she loves). The King is in the habit of going about his lands disguised as Uberto. Seeing Elena he instantly falls in love with her, but she repels his advances stating that he is confusing hospitality and friendship for romantic interest. In the meantime he has realised that she is related to his enemies. The clans gather to overthrow the king, and Rodrigo and Douglas discover Elena's secret love for Malcolm. She tries to keep the peace, but the call to arms diverts the soldiers. The battle does not go well, and Rodrigo is killed. Again the king in disguise encounters Elena and gives her a ring to take to the king if she is ever in trouble. She decides to use it and goes to Stirling Castle where she finds that both Malcolm and Douglas are prisoners. She pleads their cases, and the king magnanimously pardons them and blesses the union, now unimpeded by Rodrigo, between Elena and Malcolm.

James V of Scotland

Rossini - La donna del lago - Acto I (Muti)



Scene 1: A thick wood with a cave

In the woods, Uberto/King James has come to find Elena, hoping to save her from the coming battles (Cavatina: Oh fiamma soave, che l’alma mi accendi! pietosa ti rendi a un fido amator. / "Oh sweet flame. Show compassion To a faithful lover"). Meanwhile, Elena asks Serano to find her father, whom she expects to see before he goes off to fight; Serano leaves. Uberto/King James then approaches Elena and declares his love, but she tells him she loves Malcolm: (Duet, leading to a trio: Elena and Uberto: Alla ragion deh rieda / "Ah! may your agitated and overburdended soul Return to reason's control"). Nevertheless, Uberto gives Elena a ring he says the King gave him, and emphasizes that it will see her through any danger. He prepares to leave, but Rodrigo steps forward, having overheard their exchange: (Duet: Qual pena in me già desta / "What distress in my fatal misfortune"". This becomes a trio with Rodrigo's: Misere mie pupille! / "O my wretched eyes!".) Overwhelmed with rage and jealousy, Rodrigo orders his men to reveal themselves and kill this stranger. Elena pleads with Rodrigo's men, and Rodrigo decides to duel with Uberto himself. The two exit; Elena, trying in vain to calm them, follows.

Scene 2: The interior of the cave

Malcolm enters, looking for Elena, but finds only Albina. Serano joins them, explaining that Elena has gone in search of her father, Douglas, who is on a peace mission to the King's palace. Despondent at losing Elena, Malcolm seeks his own death: (Aria: Ah! si pera: ormai la morte! fia sollievo a’ mali miei / "Ah! Let me perish; death now Would be a relief for my ills. But if she comes to me she will bring eternal happiness to my life"). However, he is confronted by the arriving clansmen who announce that Rodrigo has been slain and the Highlanders face certain defeat. Malcolm leaves for the palace, determined to rescue Elena even if it means his life.

Scene 3: A room in the King's palace

Douglas begs his former student King James for forgiveness, not for himself but for his daughter and those who helped him on the field of battle. The King refuses, and orders him imprisoned. As Douglas is led away, the King is saddened by having to act so severely. Meanwhile, Elena has gained entry to the palace by showing her ring from "Uberto", and hopes to save her father, Malcolm and Rodrigo (of whose death she is unaware). Suddenly, in the next room, she hears the voice of "Uberto" expressing love for her: (Aria: Aurora! ah sorgerai avversa ognor per me? D’Elena i vaghi rai mostrarmi. / "Dawn! Ah! will you always Arise inauspiciously for me? Oh God! Why show me Elena's fair eyes?"). When "Uberto" comes in, Elena is thrilled, certain he will help her gain an interview with the King.

Scene 4: The King's Throne Room

The two enter the throne room as members of the court join them: (Chorus: Imponga il Re: noi siamo servi del suo voler / "Let the King give us his orders"). Elena, puzzled by the courtiers' behaviour towards "Uberto", suddenly she realises that Uberto and King James are one. King James, softened by his affection for Elena, decides to forgive Douglas; but he makes a show of severity by condemning Malcolm. Finally, he relents and brings the young couple together. In her rondo finale, Elena rejoices to have saved both her father and her true love, while everyone else rejoices that peace has been restored: (Rondo: Tanti affetti in tal momento! mi si fanno al core intorno, che l’immenso mio contento / "So many emotions at such moment / Come clamouring about my heart / That I cannot explain to you / My immense happiness")


Rossini - La donna del lago - Acto II (Muti)

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