Il diluvio universale

Il diluvio universale (The great flood) is an azione tragico-sacra, or opera, by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written by Domenico Gilardoni after Lord Byron's Heaven and Earth and Francesco Ringhieri's tragedy Il diluvio (1788).[1]

Performance history

19th century

The opera premiered at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples on 6 March[2] It failed to become an instant success.

It is known that for the premiere production to be accepted, it had to be given to the church censors in the form of an oratorio, since its planned production date was within the period of fasting. It was only allowed due to its being a biblical story.

Donizetti revised the opera and a new production opened on 17 January 1834 at Genoa's Teatro Carlo Felice.[3] But after another staging in 1837 in Paris, it disappeared for 147 years.

20th century and beyond

The opera was not presented again until 1985 in Genoa.

The first production in Switzerland took place at St. Gallen where, since 2006, an opera is presented in the open air in front of the Cathedral around the first weekend of July.[4] The production of Il diluvio was also given at the St. Galler Festspiele 2010 when Mirco Palazzi, Majella Cullagh and Manuela Custer appeared.[5]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 28 February 1830
(Conductor: - )
Noè bass Luigi Lablache
Jafet baritone Gennaro Ambrosini
Sem tenor Giovanni Arrigotti
Cam bass Lorenzo Salvi
Tesbite soprano Fabiani
Asfene soprano Cecilia Grassi
Abra mezzo-soprano Edvige Ricci
Cadmo tenor Berardo Winter
Sela, Azael's mother soprano Luigia Boccabadati
Ada, Sela's friend soprano Maria Carraro
Artoo tenor Gaetano Chizzola
Azael, child silent


The opera tells the biblical story of the great flood.


Year Cast
(Noe, Sela, Ada, Cadmo)
Opera House and Orchestra
2005 Mirco Palazzi,
Bernadette Cullen,
Manuela Custer,
Colin Lee
Giuliano Carella,
London Philharmonic Orchestra and Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Audio CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORC 31



  1. Francesco Ringhieri: Il diluvio. Tragedia. Antonio Zatta e figli, Venice 1788 (Online-Resource).
  2. Black 1982, p. 25: Black notes that 28 February was the intended date, but due to illness, the premiere had to be postponed.
  3. Ashbrook and Hibberd 2001, p. 229
  4. Impressions of the St.Gallen production on Retrieved 27 January 2013
  5. Pardo, Daniel, Opera Today, 11 December 2005, online at Retrieved 27 June 2010
  6. Source for recording information: Recording(s) of Il diluvio universale on

Cited sources

  • 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 – 247.
  • 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 (1982), Donizetti and His Operas, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-23526-X
  • Ashbrook, William (1998), "Donizetti, Gaetano" in Stanley Sadie (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One. 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
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