From: Dom Sébastien, Roi du Portugal, 1843
By: Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848)
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Arrangement: bass solo, with piano accompaniment
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I decided to add this piece to the collection after reading a discussion in rec.music.makers.choral about the lack of practical audition pieces for a low bass. Most true bass roles in opera have music which doesn't include many songs which readily stand alone, and what bass arias there are tend to be large-scale, bass-baritone works which many choral basses find impractical for their voices. Consequently, they keep returning to the same few exceptions, such as Sarastro's two arias in The Magic Flute.
This cavatina is a short but showy piece with a range and style better suited for basses who find typical bass-baritone arias uncomfortable. Although dramatically the aria has some of the angry histrionics often associated with operatic bass roles, musically it remains lyrical in Donizetti's usual bel canto style. It encompasses a two-octave range; there are several high E's, but the bulk of the song stays inside the staff.
Dom Sébastien is probably best known for the tenor aria "Deserto in terra". It is one of Donizetti's last works, and the one in which he comes closest to the French grand opera style of Meyerbeer. Common critical opinion is that Dom Sébastien includes some of Donizetti's best music, but a poor libretto and lack of integration of the music with the story makes it a weak work on stage. The opera was moderately successful at its opening and is rarely performed today.
Like many of Donizetti's later operas, Dom Sébastien was written to a French libretto, but is now equally well-known in Italian. This edition uses the Italian translation (by Ruffini) printed in Ricordi's score. I've never seen a copy of the French libretto. If I find one, I may offer another version of this aria in the original French.
Released: Dec. 7, 1998
Latest update: June 22, 2009
06/22/09: New address; no other changes.
10/20/06: New address; no other changes.
03/05/06: New address; no other changes.
10/16/05: New address; no other changes.
06/10/05: New address; no other changes.
10/19/03: Address change. Removed alternate version transposed to D. (I noticed that the PDF file was corrupted; since it was produced on a version of Finale four years out of date, it's more trouble than it's worth to correct it.)
Aug. 22, 2001. Address correction (change made in file June 18, 2000, but not uploaded until now).
Feb. 23, 1999 (version in E only). Remade PDF file to correct spacing error in "Dom Juam".
Performance notes: Singers wishing a longer introduction might consider asking the accompanist to improvise something resembling bar 42 to precede the piece. Some singers may wish to ask the accompanist to delay bar 43 until the end of the final syllable in the voice part.
Editorial notes: Adapted for presentation as solo aria. Preceding recitative omitted. Other voices omitted. (In the original, men's chorus joins on bars 26-37, mostly doubling the solo line; Abaialdo also sings with the chorus, on different text.) Minor editing of markings: all original markings are preserved; markings added by editor are enclosed in brackets. Moderate typographical editing. (See also general editorial notes.)
Source material: Vocal score, Ricordi. No date listed, but apparently from late 1800s. Oakland Public Library, main branch, 782 D717ds. Translation by Mark D. Lew.
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June 22, 2009