Maria Tudor

Opera in 4 acts by A. Carlos Gomes
Libretto by: Emilio Praga, completed by Giuseppe Zanardini and Ferdinando Fontana, after a novel by Victor Hugo.
First performance: 17 March 1879, Milano.

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Characters and first performers

Maria Tudor.....................Anna D'Ageri
Conte Fabiano Fabiani...........Francesco Tamangi
Giovanna........................Emma Turella
Don Gil Fernando................Giuseppe Taschmann
Gilberto........................Edouard de Reszke
Lord Clinton
Lord Montagu Un paggio
Un araldo
Anna d'Ageri (Maria), Emma Turella (Giovanna), Francesco Tamango (Fabiani), Giuseppe Kaschmann (Don Gil) and Edouard de Reszke (Gilberto).


Setting: London, c. 1555

Act I: A square, with the city of London visible across the Thames
A group of nobles, among them the Spanish Ambassador, Don Gil de Tarragona, laments the excesses of the Queen, Maria Tudor, and her lover, Fabiano Fabiani (La reggia tripudia nell' orgia e nel sangue). Don Gil tells them that soon Fabiani's influence will be removed, but declines to elaborate on his statement.

As the nobles steal away, Giovanna, an orphan who lives near the square, enters, awaiting her lover, "Lionel" (Quanti raggi del ciel). Instead, she encounters Gilberto, a stonemason who has raised her, but whose feelings toward her are considerably more than fatherly now that she is of marriageable age. He pleads for her to return the love he bears her, but she can love him only as a father or brother. She returns to her house, leaving Gilberto alone with formless fears and intense ardor (Tanto il mio cor, bell'angelo). Don Gil enters, hailing Gilberto as a "triena" who has come to warn him that Giovanna has a lover, named Lionel, who will soon arrive. "Lionel" is in reality Fabiano Fabiani, the Queen's lover who, like Verdi's Duka of Mantua (Rigoletto) and Halévy's Prince Leopold (La Juive) has disguised himself in order to woo a commoner. Giovanna runs to meet him. In the extended duet that ends Act 1, she confesses to a strange hesitation begs him to leave her, fears for his life if Gilberto should surprise them, and finally, overcome by his unceasing ardor, embraces him (Mio dolce amor, ripensa a me). Suddenly, Gilberto and Don Gil confront them, but Fabiani escapes. Don Gil reveals to Giovanna the real identity of her lover, and promises Gilberto that he will have vengeance on the seducer.

Act II: The Royal Park at Windsor Castle
Nobles and their ladies, dressed for the hunt, sing the praises of the Queen, who presides over the festivities from her pavilion, with Fabiano sitting at her foot (Viva il re della fulgida mensa). Lord Montague, in an aside to Lord Clinton, observes that the Queen is paying less attention to the crowd's compliments than to the whisperings of her lover. Fabiani thanks the crowd for its honor to the Queen, who, bantering momentarily with Clinton and Montague, descends to join the nobles. Fabiani loudly denounces the commoners who call their queen "Bloody Mary;" how can they say it of such a smiling face? Maria replies that woman is as changeable as the sea, and reminds Fabiani that she has just had the Duke of Suffolk executed.

A page announces the day's entertainment, singers from Avignon, who perform a madrigal (Corse Cipringa a rintracciar Cupido) and a chanson (La Provenza - la terra dei canti). The Queen announces the commencement of the hunt, but asks Fabiani to stay with her. They declare their love for each other in a long duet (Colui che non canta), in the middle of which Mary reminds him that the Spanish Ambasssaclor is urging her to wed King Philip of Spain. Fabiani curses the thought of the wedding as Maria pleads with him to tell her once again that he loves her.

The page returns to inform the Queen that Don Gil seeks an audience, and that he is accompanied by a stranger. Maria dismisses Fabiani and is confronted by Don Gil and Gilberto, who tell her of Fabiani's duplicity. Giovanna is brought in, and she confirms the story, telling how she mistook the song of an unknown singer for honesty in the man himself (Nell'ora pia del vespro). In the ensuing ensemble, Maria sees in the destruction of Giovanna's dream of love the end of her own; Gilberto thinks only of vengeance, while Don Gil exults in the imminent fall of Fabiani from power.

Maria cries for vengeance. Gilberto asks to be her instrument, and Don Gil, producing a hidden sword, promises him that at the banquet he is hosting on the following night, Gilberto will have his wish. With a glance, Maria dismisses them, then gives way to her emotions. Maria the woman seeks no punishment of her unfaithful lover, but Maria the Queen cannot tolerate such behavior.

Act III: Scene 1: The Queen's Apartments
In the presence of Don Gil and Lords Montague and Clinton, Maria is selecting her adornment for the evening's banquet and ball. Fabiani enters, seeking to speak to her privately. She recoils, chastises him for his forwardness in the presence of others and leaves, followed by the nobles, who taunt Fabiani as they depart. Left alone, he convinces himself that the Queen is merely being capricious (Sol chi ti sfiori). After all, she loves him to distraction; he is safe from the courtiers' taunts. His complacency is punctured by Don Gil, who quotes to him the song that he had sung to Giovanna. Fabiani responds with ferocious self-confidence, and exits to the Grand Hall. Don Gil admits Gilberto from a secret door and tells him to await the signal that will accomplish his vengeance.

Scene 2: A Great Hall in Windsor Castle
Lords Clinton and Montague suggest to Fabiani that the Queen intends to create him a prince during the ball. Lord Clinton announces the Queen, and the nobles, knights, and ladies sing the royal anthem as she advances, escorted by Don Gil (Dio, salvi I'eccelsa regina). She circles the ball, pausing momentarily in front of Fabiani to comment on his agitated state.

The orchestra commences a burlesca, which the nobles try to dance to, without notable success. At its conclusion, the page announces that the banquet is about to begin. The Queen commands that the guests precede her, then receives an envoy from King Philip, who gives Don Gil a jewelled box to present to Maria. It contains a ring. To himself, Don Gil murmers "If Fabiani dies, I will become the Prince of Ceuta" (Questo cerchietto splendido). The Queen accepts the ring, then orders Don Gil to produce Gilberto, who enters and, at Maria's order, draws the sword Don Gil had given him. She cries for help, but in an aside whispers to Gilberto to remain silent; he will have his revenge.

The courtiers rush in from the dining hall. Maria accuses Gilberto of having attempted to assassinate her, and calls Fabiani to her side. She tells him she has prepared a special surprise for him, at which point Giovanna is brought in. The Queen then accuses Fabiani of having armed the assassin. In a concluding ensemble (Su te, sciagurato) the courtiers curse Fabiani. He responds with proud indignation, until Don Gil reveals that Gilberto's sword has the Fabiani crest on it. Gilberto reveals himself as Giovanna's protector, at which Fabiani finally crumbles. Maria exults, while Gilberto and Don Gil thank the fates that have brought them this moment. Only Giovanna expresses horror at the evening's surprise.

Maria orders Lord Clinton to fetch the executioner. At the Queen's command Don Gil asks Fabiani if he knows Gilberto. The executioner enters and Maria addresses him: you are old. You have watched three reigns pass in I wish to reward your service. Behold this tender, young head, which was the charm and splendor of the I give it to you." As Maria mounts the throne, Don Gil conducts Giovanna out, sheriffs escort Fabiani and Gilberto to the Tower of London, and the chrous reprises its hymn to the Queen.

Act IV: The Hall of Justice in the Tower of London

The Queen is alone, torn between pardoning Fabiani out of love and allowing his execution because of his betrayl of that love (Pit) intensamente io l1amo). She calls in trumpeters, sheriffs, and Don Gi 1, who announces from the balcony that within the hour Count Fabiano Fabiani will die, but that to spare the blood of a man of the people., the Queen has pardoned Gilberto. As the crowd roars its approval, Maria promises Don Gil a dukedom and other rewards if, instead of Fabiani, he will see that the head under the black hood that the axeman lops off is that of Gilberto instead.

After she leaves, Don Gil muses on his choices (in poter mio tengo due teste). If he has Gilberto executed, he becomes a rich English duke; if he removes Fabiani as the Queen's lover, the King of Spain will reward him with the principality of Ceuta. Making up his mind, he swiftly leaves.

Maria returns. In the background a chorus of monks pray pardon for the guilty ones. Giovanna rushes in to thank the Queen for pardoning Gilberto. Maria, upset, tries to get rid of Giovanna. The procession bearing the condemned prisoner to the block passes the chamber. Maria reveals to Giovanna that it is Gilberto who goes to his death in Fabiani's place. Giovanna begs her in vain to deny this latest blow to her heart, then suddenly struck by a thought, demands of Maria: "But what if you, the betrayer, have been betrayed?" Maria calls frantically for the jailer to halt the execution. Someone approaches from the hallway. Both Maria and Giovanna cry frantically for the identity of the intruder. Gilberto appears; as Giovanna throws herself at his feet in gratitude, the Queen screams and faints. The curtain falls.

Notes on Maria Tudor

After a period of limited success after Il Guarany, Gomes reestablished himself with his most thoroughly Italian work, Salvator Rosa (Genova, 21 March 1874), and with Maria Tudor (Milano, 27 March 1879). The premiere coincided with the height of a war between rival music publishing houses which controlled the two major theaters in Milano, la Scala and the Teatro dal Verme. A public divided on extramusical issues insured that anyone's opera, at either theater, would be subjected to a highly vocal rejection. Thus the first night of Maria Tudor was a fiasco, despite the efforts of a brilliant cast: Anna d'Ageri (Maria), Emma Turella (Giovanna), Francesco Tamango (Fabiani), Giuseppe Kaschmann (Don Gil) and Edouard de Reszke (Gilberto).

Though the ensuing performances were given to increasing warmth from the audiences, the news of the opera's rejection on its first night killed its chances for the kind of success Salvator Rosa had enjoyed throughout Italy. Years later, Hariclea Darclée, the creator of Tosca and Iris (and of Odaleia i n Gomes' last opera, Condor) attempted to popularize it, but with little success. In Brazil, however, it has become the most popular of the composer's works after Il Guarany and Lo Schiavo.



Recorded in São Paulo, 11 September 1977

Maria Tudor.............Mabel Veleris
Conte Fabiano Fabiani...Eduardo Alvares
Giovanna................Adriana Cantelli
Gilberto................Wilson Carrara
Lord Clinton............Luis Orefice
Lord Montagu............Assadur Kiultzian
Un paggio...............Leila Tayer
Un araldo...............Odnilo Romanini
Orchestra & Chorus, Teatro Municipal, São Paulo, Brazil
Performance conducted by Maestro Simon Blech

A. Carlos Gomes
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