La testa di bronzo - History

First performance

Teatro alla Scala, Milan - 3 Sept. 1816


Filippo Galli (Rome 1783 - Paris 1853) began his career in 1801 as a tenor. After an illness in 1810 he changed to bass (basso cantante). In the year 1812 he was already a star: it was because of his recommandation that Rossini could write La pietra del paragone for La Scala, and his performance of the "Sigillara" aria was the hit of the hugely successful opera. His wide range and versatility made him an interpreter of choice for Rossini, who wrote many roles for him, ranging from Mustafà in L'italiana in Algeri to Assur in Semiramide. He also created the role of Enrico VIII in Donizetti's Anna Bolena.

Claudio Bonoldi (Piacenza 1773 - Milan 1846) was a celebrated tenor with baritonal voice. In the same year of 1816 he sang two other roles at La Scala: Mayr's Ginevra di Scozia (Polinesso) and the title role (!) in Mozart's Don Giovanni. He was the creator of many of Rossini's roles: Giocondo (La pietra del paragone), Ladislao (Sigismondo), Gernando and Ubaldo (Armida), and Contareno (Bianca e Falliero).

Giuseppina Fabbrè (as written on the original program, or Fabré, or Fabre) was a French soprano who studied in Milan and had an Italian career. She made her debut in the year 1814: Stendhal writes that she was 20 years old in 1816, with a beautiful but small voice, and that she was "amoureuse de l'amour", being an enchanting and passionate actress - but also with inconsistent motivation. The ideal cast of his favorites (with their salaries) is indicative of the esteem the young Fabre enjoyed at the time:

Galli, trente mille francs; Donzelli, quinze; Monelli, dix; Remorini, douze; Pacini, dix; la Fabre, seize; la Marcolini (Fedele), douze. Voilà, pour cent cinq mille francs, une troupe telle qu'il n'en exista jamais en France.
She had a short career, possibly because of her capriciousness. She was the prima donna who refused to sing just before the premiere of Donizetti's La lettera anonima (Napoli,1822). It was a cast of choice, including Rubini. Donizetti wrote of her: "the voice is the only good thing she has".

After its great success of Milan (47 repeat performances in the season 1816-17) La testa di bronzo was staged with varying success at many of the major Italian theaters. It was also performed in Dresden (1818) and Munich (1821).

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