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I Normanni a Parigi



I Normanni a Parigi

Saverio Mercadante

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With Rossini in retirement, Mercadante was then in competition with Bellini and Donizetti for the crown of Italian opera. As this work demonstrates, he was easily in the running. Mercadante expert Michael... read more

BUY TRACKS
Song title Time Format Price
playstop01 I Normanni a Parigi: Act I scene 1-9: Introduction: Una Reggent debole 06:24
playstop02 I Normanni a Parigi: Act I scena IX: Duet: Tu lo volesti 04:20
playstop03 I Normanni a Parigi: Act I scena IX: Duet: Cielo, non v'ha fra gli uomini 05:24
playstop04 I Normanni a Parigi: Act I scena IX: Duet: Regina!! ? ancor ti supplico 01:23
playstop05 I Normanni a Parigi: Act I scena IX: Duet: Tergi le amare - Act II scene 1-5: Tutti siam noi? - Act III scene 1-5: Siam giunti 04:04
playstop06 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena V: Ah! mai non fia 01:52
playstop07 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena V: Aria: Prendi tu la spada mia 03:10
playstop08 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena V: Aria: Custodito in carcer cia 01:27
playstop09 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena V: Cabaletta: Se dar fede a' miei nemici - scena VI: Farmati, Odone 03:27
playstop10 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena VI: Duet: Una preghiera ascolta 06:01
playstop11 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena VI: Duet: Conte, l'onor to e reso - scena VII: Morte! 01:25
playstop12 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena VII: Trio: Che tento? che spero? 04:25
playstop13 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena VII: Trio: Francesi ? ascoltate ? - scena VIII: Cavalieri, accorrete, volate 03:51
playstop14 I Normanni a Parigi: Act III scena VIII: Trio: Vieni, Osvino: sol puo la vittoria 03:33
playstop15 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena I: Buresca00:48
playstop16 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena I: Ove fuggo? e perche? 03:55
playstop17 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena I: Rigetti il cielo - scena II: Qual voce! ? 02:29
playstop18 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena II: Duet: Io t'amai: m'offriva Osvino 04:24
playstop19 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena II: Duet: Io ti lascio, e al con non oso 02:49
playstop20 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scene 2-4: Duet: Giunge alcun. Ah! fuggi! 01:53
playstop21 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena IV: Ul tuo sangue a me recasti! 02:15
playstop22 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena IV: Aria: Ah! non mai ? si ria non sono ? 03:26
playstop23 I Normanni a Parigi: Act IV scena IV: Aria: Chi serbar puo asciutto il ciglio 04:15

With Rossini in retirement, Mercadante was then in competition with Bellini and Donizetti for the crown of Italian opera. As this work demonstrates, he was easily in the running. Mercadante expert Michael Rose describes it as ‘one of the highlights of this period’, scoring ‘a triumph’ at its premiere before circulating widely. The libretto (by Felice Romani, the finest practitioner of the art in his day) is set in Paris, following the death of the mighty King Charlemagne, with the city threatened and eventually besieged by Norman invaders. The complex plot centres on Charlemagne’s widow, Berta (sung by Judith Howarth), who was previously secretly married to Ordamante (Riccardo Novaro) in a relationship that produced her equally secret son, Osvino (Katarina Karnéus), now guarded by the loyal Odone (Barry Banks). When Ordamante leads the Normans against the Carolingian forces, father and son are pitted against each other, though the latter initially knows nothing of their relationship. The scene is set for personal and political drama of the highest order in this gripping work from the heart of the bel canto repertoire.

This is the seventh opera in the Essential Opera Rara series and, once again, a vivid impression of the work is captured on a single disc, accompanied by a complete libretto and article by the eminent 19th century musical scholar, Jeremy Commons.

'Barry Banks contributes an energetic cleanly sung performance' - George Loomis, Opera magazine

Judith Howarth (Berta), Barry Banks (Odone), Riccardo Novaro (Ordamante), Katarina Karnéus (Osvino), Graeme Broadbent (Tebaldo), Aled Hall (Ebbone), Philharmonia Orchestra, Stuart Stratford – conductor

Paris, under Carolingian rule, late in the 9th century A.D.  Many years before the opera begins, Egremont[1] Count of Tours planned to increase his power at court by marrying his daughter, Berta (Berthe in Arlincourt), to King Carloman II (879-884), the great-great-grandson of King Charlemagne.  He discovered, however, that Berta had secretly entered into a relationship with a knight, Roberto of Poitiers (Robert in Arlincourt), and had in fact borne him a son, Osvino (Osvin in Arlincourt).  In his wrath upon making this discovery, he plotted to assassinate Roberto, kidnap the child and force Berta to go through with the royal marriage.  He offered to restore the child to her if she promised never to reveal to him the secret of his birth (an oath she effectively breaks at the end of the opera).

Believing Roberto dead, Berta succumbed to these pressures and agreed to marry the king.  In due course, after the birth of several children who died young, and several still-births, she bore her husband a male heir, Prince Terigi (Thierri in Arlincourt).

Roberto, however, had escaped assassination and, hearing of Berta’s royal marriage, considered himself betrayed.  His thoughts turned to revenge and, quitting the Carolingian army, he deserted to the hostile Normans, at that the time the terror of Europe, and, assuming the name of Odomante (Ordamante in the libretto), in due course became their leader and laid siege to Paris.

King Carlomano died in 884 A.D., and Berta found herself Queen Regent to her infant son, King Terigi.  In a political situation which was anything but secure, she and Terigi were threatened by the scheming of a would-be usurper, Prince Tebaldo, but were protected by a faithful knight and patriot, Odone, Count of Paris.

Ordamante, it should be added, on one occasion managed to infiltrate the city in disguise, and had discovered that Osvino, now grown to manhood and widely respected as a valiant knight, was his son.  He had also confronted Berta, so that from that moment on she was aware that he was still alive.

It is at this point that the action of the opera begins.

ACT ONE.  SCENE ONE.  A Gothic hall in the Palace of the Carolingians, where, in council, the Frankish knights deplore the exhausted and demoralised state of the country and express their wish that Berta should strengthen their position by marrying again.  Ebbone, an elderly knight, realises that Tebaldo, who acts as the councillors’ spokesman, is motivated by personal ambition, but his efforts to counteract his evil intentions are in vain.  When Berta hears of the general determination that she should remarry, she reminds Ebbone, who is clearly conversant with her history, of her earlier marriage to Roberto.  She reveals that Roberto is still living, narrating how one evening he interrupted her at her prayers and threatened dire revenge for what he regarded as her betraying him.

Odone and Osvino return victorious from a skirmish with the Normans, and Odone tells how Ordamante, when he had Osvino at his mercy and might have killed him, appeared confused and allowed him to escape.  Berta realises that Ordamante can be none other than Roberto, and for this reason gently but steadfastly refuses to accept an offer of marriage from Odone, even though she realises that he genuinely loves her.

SCENE TWO.  A gallery decorated with arms.  Tebaldo reports that an ambassador has come from the Normans, threatening that unless Paris surrenders forthwith, a fierce assault will be launched and all will be put to the sword.  All the knights elect to fight to the bitter end, but Osvino, who is eager to seek the thickest of the fray, is dismayed when the Queen holds him back and appoints him guardian of the court and her son Terigi.  To prevent him from openly disobeying her, she is forced to reveal that she is acting for his own good: if he confronts the Normans, he will, she tells him, be in danger of killing his own father.  She resolutely refuses to inform him of his father’s name, though she insists that he is a Frank, not a Norman.  When Osvino asks about his mother, she utters the pious lie that his true mother is dead, but that he should seek a surrogate mother in her.

ACT TWO.  A vestibule in the Palace, with a Gothic chapel to one side.  Tebaldo has secretly allied himself with Ordamante, who, with his followers,  stealthily enters the palace.  Tebaldo’s plan is that he himself should murder Terigi, and then accuse Osvino of the actual deed and Odone of the overall conspiracy.  Ordamante, now fully aware that Osvino is his son, finds himself playing a double game since, while ostensibly the ally of Tebaldo, he is really intent upon protecting Osvino.  He still, however, believes Berta guilty of betraying him, so he is more than happy that the rest of the Franks should perish. 

Osvino, momentarily absent from his post as guardian of the child king Terigi, encounters Ordamante, whom he recognises as the Norman ambassador.   Ordamante, in an attempt to coax him from his extreme hatred of the Normans, reveals that he is himself the Norman leader, though he as yet suppresses the fact that he is also Osvino’s father.  He tries to convince the hot-headed young man that he should think more kindly of his father, whom he speaks of simply as a Frank in the Norman ranks.  

While they are conversing a tumult is heard in the palace: Terigi has been murdered.  Osvino, believing that Ordamante has deliberately detained him from his duty, draws his sword to slay him, so obliging him to declare that he is his father.  As Frankish soldiers make their appearance, Ordamante makes his escape.  Osvino, on the other hand, is arrested.  Tebaldo, declaring that he was seen speaking to a suspect stranger, accuses him of conspiring with the Normans and of murdering the infant king.  Berta, already grief-stricken over Terigi’s murder, is even more distressed when Osvino is unable to deny either his desertion of his post or his conversation with the stranger[2].

ACT THREE.  A subterranean dungeon where Osvino is being held prisoner.  Ordamante, admitted by Tebaldo, reveals, as soon as he is alone, that his allegiances and motives continue to be complex.  His collaboration with Tebaldo is simply one of convenience: while he is prepared to let his treacherous ally seize the Frankish throne, he has every intention of promptly throwing him off it thereafter.  His real concern continues to be for Osvino, for whom his love is genuine and deep. 

He goes to release Osvino, but immediately finds himself repulsed: a very idealistic young man would rather perish where he is than entrust himself to such a father.  Ordamante tries to convince him that they are both equally the victims of Osvino’s (still unnamed) mother, and forcibly drags him away.

SCENE TWO.   The Council Chamber.  Tebaldo informs the Council of Knights of Osvino’s escape and accuses Odone of organising it.  As proof he produces a letter, which he claims was written by Odone and inadvertently dropped by Osvino: if genuine, it would convict Odone of aiming for the throne.  He is unable to make these accusations stick, however, since Osvino himself appears, declaring his readiness to give himself up and return to his imprisonment.  He dismisses the letter as a forgery perpetrated by whoever it is who wishes Odone dead.  A thwarted Tebaldo is obliged to acknowledge Odone exonerated, but he still determines to encompass Osvino’s downfall and death. 

A new advocate for Osvino now appears in the form of Berta.  She suggests that the young man may not be guilty, but when even her regal intervention proves insufficient to save him from impending condemnation, she is on the brink of declaring him her son when news is brought that the Normans have entered Paris.  Odone, Ebbone and all the French knights are about to race to battle when Osvino places himself at their head, pleading to be allowed to prove his innocence by shedding his blood for his country.

ACT FOUR.  A vestibule in the Palace, as in Act Two.  Ordamante has withdrawn from the battle, demoralised since he sees his son in every French opponent.  He finds Berta at her prayers.  Learning that she did not willingly betray him, but was, quite as much as he, a victim of circumstances, he is reconciled with her. 

The Franks under Odone and Osvino succeed in routing the Normans, but not before Tebaldo treacherously and mortally wounds Osvino.  The young man is carried in, and before he dies learns from Berta that she is his mother.  Berta is left to deplore his loss, and Ordamante-Roberto to expiate his desertion from the Franks in a life of exile and penance.



[1] In the Preface to his printed libretto, Romani gives the name as ‘Egmonte’, and in Arlincourt’s play he is ‘Egmont, comte de Tours’.

[2] There is a discrepancy in the libretto here.  Earlier in the scene Ordamante had declared that ‘he and none other’ was Ordamante, yet now, when accused of conversing with a stranger, Osvino insists that, though he did indeed hold such a conversation, he does not know the name of the man he was speaking to.   It may be possible to explain away this discrepancy if we imagine that Osvino, his reactions and allegiances confused by the discovery that Ordamante is his father, is unwilling to mention his name.


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