Rossini’s first opera while residing in Napels had its overture in that city in 1815. It was a tremendous success, the first of many success of the ‘Northerner from Pesaro’. It is a delightful opera seria and a good performance as well.
This box always was known to me as Barber of Seville II. From the first notes in the overture to the highlights in the introducing arias for the main characters, the melodies are known and recognised from the famous opera of the same composer. This was standard practice at the time: composers used and reused popular tunes.
If you think this story is about politics you will be disappointed. This is Italian opera! So it is about love and its dramatic consequences. Queen Elisabeth’s favourite Earl of Leicester wants to marry Matilde, who he believes is the daughter of a Scottish shepherd, but is actually the daughter of Elisabeth’s rival, Mary, Queen of Scots.
All this comes to the attention of the Duke of Norfolk, who is desperate to find favour with his Queen. He betrays the pair, leading to their imprisonment in the dungeon. With some intervention of the people, and a silly act of betrayal by Norfolk, they are pardoned and all ends well.
Don’t listen to this opera for the story though. Listen to it for the beautiful lyricism and bell canto arias. This is really a treat for the ears.