Lyric tragedy in three parts by Salvadore Cammarano
Music by Gaetano Donizetti
First performance: Venezia, Gran Teatro La Fenice, 4 February 1836
Critic edition by Ottavio Sbragia
© Ottavio Sbragia
After his first experience in Paris, Belisario (1836) marked Donizetti’s return to Venice. It gave him the opportunity “to see again the city, where – for better or for worse – I began my musical career”, as he himself observed.
A friend who had not seen him since the time of Pietro il Grande (for 16 years) declared that he was “handsome and robust perhaps more than before”. And not only in his physical appearance. From the time of his first experiences, carried out in the comic genre and under the influence of Rossini, he had acquired his own style, in line with the new times and therefore especially in the serious repertoire: indeed, his plays had become very strong in their romantic or classical subjects.
And Belisario is exactly such a “lyrical tragedy”, with a much-appreciated libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, full of passions and situations rooted in the great classical heritage, which echo the hardships of Oedipus and the gloomy family events of the Atrides. The protagonist’s role was particularly striking, as a reviewer wrote: “very interesting for the audience, moving and full of expression and feeling”, the parable of a hero who plunges from triumph to ruin without losing that greatness of soul that will lead him to a final, tragic redemption.