Gemma di Vergy

Gemma di Vergy is an 1834 tragedia lirica (tragic opera) in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti from a libretto by Giovanni Emanuele Bidera. It is based on the tragedy Charles VII chez ses grands vassaux (Charles VII and His Chief Vassals) (1831) by Alexandre Dumas père,[1] which was later to become the subject of the opera The Saracen by the Russian composer César Cui.

The heroine is the childless wife of the Count of Vergy, and the plot deals with her jealousy and grief as her husband arranges an annulment of their marriage in preparation for the arrival of his new bride, Ida, and her despair following the murder of her husband by a slave, Tamas, who is secretly in love with her.

Gemma di Vergy was first performed on 26 December 1834 at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan. The leading role was taken by the Italian soprano Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis, Donizetti's favourite prima donna at the time,[2] for whom he had previously composed Fausta (1832 ), and for whom he was later to compose Roberto Devereux (1837).

Performance history

The opera remained very popular in Italy until at least the 1860s.[2] It was not performed at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples until 4 March 1837, but it remained popular there and appeared every year until 1848.[3] Productions were also staged in London on 12 March 1842, Paris, New York City on 2 October 1843, Lisbon, St. Petersburg, Vienna and Barcelona. While initially popular, it had disappeared from the repertoire by about 1900,[1] although before its 20th-century revivals, it was staged in Empoli in 1901.

Gemma di Vergy was revived for the soprano Montserrat Caballé in a production at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples in December 1975. Subsequently, the same soprano performed the work in concert in several other cities. A number of live recordings exist of the Caballé performances from Naples, Paris and New York.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 26 December 1834
(Conductor: - Eugenio Cavallini)
Earl of Vergy baritone Giovanni Orazio Cartagenova
Gemma soprano Giuseppina Ronzi de Begnis
Ida di Greville mezzo-soprano Felicita Baillou-Hillaret
Tamas tenor Domenico Reina
Guido bass Ignazio Marini
Rolando bass Domenico Spiaggi
Knights, archers, soldiers, bridesmaids


Year Cast
(Gemma, Ida, Tamas, Conte di Vergy)
Opera House and Orchestra
1975 Montserrat Caballé,
Biancamaria Casoni,
Giorgio Lamberti,
Renato Bruson
Armando Gatto
Teatro San Carlo,
Naples Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Cat: OPD 1379
1976 Montserrat Caballé,
Natalya Chudy,
Luis Lima,
Louis Quilico,
Paul Plishka (Guido)
Eve Queler,
New York Opera Orchestra,
Schola Cantorum (New York)
Audio LP: Columbia,
(first issue on CD Sony 2017)[5]
1987 Adriana Maliponte,
Nucci Condò,
Ottavio Garaventa,
Luigi De Corato
Gert Meditz
Teatro Gaetano Donizetti,
RAI Milano Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: House of Opera
Cat: DVDCC 601



  1. Ashbrook & Hibberd 2001, p. 236.
  2. Ashbrook 1982, p. 373
  3. Black 1982, p. 33
  4. Source for recording information:
  5. BBC Music Magazine March 2018 "An uneven opera with wonderful passages, and perhaps Montserrat Caballé’s finest recording, with stunning singing from the underrated Argentine tenor Luis Lima, and excellent supporting cast."

Cited sources

  • Ashbrook, William (1982), Donizetti and His Operas, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23526-X
  • Ashbrook, William and Sarah Hibberd (2001), in Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4. pp. 224–47.
  • Black, John (1982), Donizetti’s Operas in Naples, 1822–1848. London: The Donizetti Society.

Other sources

  • Allitt, John Stewart (1991), Donizetti: in the light of Romanticism and the teaching of Johann Simon Mayr, Shaftesbury: Element Books, Ltd (UK); Rockport, MA: Element, Inc.(USA)
  • Ashbrook, William (1998), "Gemma di Vergy" in Stanley Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. Two, p. 373. London: Macmillan Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
  • Loewenberg, Alfred (1970). Annals of Opera, 1597-1940, 2nd edition. Rowman and Littlefield
  • Osborne, Charles, (1994), The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press. ISBN 0-931340-71-3
  • Sadie, Stanley, (Ed.); John Tyrell (Exec. Ed.) (2004), The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. 2nd edition. London: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-19-517067-2 (hardcover). ISBN 0-19-517067-9 OCLC 419285866 (eBook).
  • Weinstock, Herbert (1963), Donizetti and the World of Opera in Italy, Paris, and Vienna in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century, New York: Pantheon Books. LCCN 63-13703 OCLC 601625
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