Small picture of Donizetti




Donizetti's Cantata Canto d'Ugolino

remarks by Ian Caddy on the recent publication of the vocal and orchestral scores
 by Caddy Publishing

The cantata Canto d'Ugolino was written by Donizetti for a benefit concert by the famous bass Lablache.  Lablache was in Naples at the Teatro San Carlo singing Murena in Donizetti's L'esule di Roma, which had its first night on January 1st, 1828. The Canto d'Ugolino was written in January 1828, obviously after Donizetti had written the opera but while it was still in performance, the first few, at least, of which he had to conduct.

Donizetti's Songs Written in the bass clef  - booklet London, 1992  (available from Caddy Publishing), states that :-

"Il canto d'Ugolino is a setting of the first 84 lines of the Canto XXXIII from Dante's L'Inferno.  The first seven bars of the cantata comprise a harmonic progression which Donizetti was to utilise in his Introduzione for five-part strings (also published by Caddy Publishing) and in the Messa di Requiem (published by Ricordi). Comparing the images on the page, of these bars as they appear in the piano reduction of the Requiem and in the cantata, their great similarity adds credence to the suggestion that Canto d'Ugolino was originally orchestrated."

The autograph manuscript of Introduzione is in Naples and the Requiem 'per Bellini' was requested for Naples.  I wonder if Donizetti found that these introductory chords of Canto d'Ugolino produced such an association with grief that they were a death-fanfare, which he could use in Naples to conjure a foreboding of grief instantly, thereafter.

Although, in 1989, I recorded the cantata with Melvyn Tan on a fortepiano (see here for details and excerpt), I had felt sure, in view of its history, that it was originally written for orchestra rather than piano and asked Ian Schofield to orchestrate the piece because of his considerable knowledge and experience of early 19th century music, for example, his editions of many 19th century Italian opera scores for Opera Rara.   Ian took his lead from the orchestral score of Donizetti's L'esule di Roma, an edition of which he has since prepared for publication by the Donizetti Society (see here for details).  Our assumption was that, as it was a benefit concert for Lablache, it would have been at the Teatro San Carlo and thus have used their orchestra. Thus Ian based his orchestration on that of L'esule.


 Both full and vocal scores are available from Caddy Publishing and the parts available for hire.




Page initially  published :  March 2009