Gioachino Rossini La donna del lago
Melodramma in two acts (1819)
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after the epic poem The Lady of the Lake by Sir Walter Scott
Print programme (PDF)
Situated where the Lowlands transition into the Highlands, Loch Katrine lies surrounded by wooded hills and slopes. In August 1809, Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott spent his holidays at this idyllic location and began working on his narrative poem The Lady of the Lake. The lakeshore forms a scenic backdrop for the story of Ellen (Elena in Rossini’s Italianisation), the titular lady of the lake, who is caught between three men: Roderick (Rodrigo) has been betrothed to her by her father, Malcolm loves her, and the King of Scotland disguised as a hunter falls passionately in love with Ellen when he meets her. Amid this delicate scenario, amorous entanglements and a political drama unfold.
This poem made Scott one of the most widely read authors of his time. In 1819 Gioachino Rossini, hitherto known as a master of opera buffa, set the melodramatic story to music and concentrated the action into picturesque, mysterious natural scenes, drama which quickly snowballs, and sinister moments of romantic eeriness which anticipate Weber’s Freischütz. The mystical atmosphere of Scott’s poetry gave rise to a whole kaleidoscope of emotions – from tender yearning through to pained jealousy, sensuous sadness and warlike wrath – which light up Rossini’s music. With this score, the composer ushered in a flowering of operas with Scottish themes.