Rita, ou Le mari battu (Rita, or The Beaten Husband) is an opéra comique in one act, composed by Gaetano Donizetti to a French libretto by Gustave Vaëz. The opera, a domestic comedy consisting of eight musical numbers connected by spoken dialogue, was completed in 1841 under its original title Deux hommes et une femme (Two Men and a Woman). Never performed in Donizetti's lifetime, Rita premiered posthumously at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 7 May 1860.
In 1841, while Donizetti was in Paris waiting for the libretto to be completed for a commission by La Scala, he had a chance encounter with Gustave Vaëz, who had co-written the libretti for two of his earlier operas, Lucie de Lammermoor (the French version of Lucia di Lammermoor) and La favorite. He asked Vaëz if he could provide a libretto for a short opera to keep him busy while waiting for the La Scala project to advance. Vaëz quickly created Deux hommes et une femme (Two Men and a Woman), a comic piece in one act consisting of eight musical numbers connected by spoken dialogue. According to Vaëz, Donizetti completed the score in eight days. However, the Opéra-Comique rejected it and Donizetti then had the libretto translated into Italian for an intended performance at the Teatro del Fondo in Naples. Following the death of the Teatro del Fondo's impresario, Domenico Barbaja, the Naples performance fell through. The score, still unperformed, was found in Donizetti's effects when he died in 1848.
On 7 May 1860, twelve years after the composer's death, the opera premiered at the Opéra-Comique with the title Rita, ou Le mari battu (Rita, or The Beaten Husband).
Although not a great success at the time and only sporadically performed in the 100 years following its premiere, it was revived and warmly received first in Rome in 1955 and then at the Piccola Scala in Milan in 1965. In the ensuing 50 years Rita (both in the original French and its Italian translation) has become one of Donizetti's most frequently performed operas.
In 2009 Casa Ricordi published a new critical edition of the score, which restored the original spoken French dialogue and removed the changes which had been made to the work for its posthumous premiere and in subsequent revivals. The original French version was reconstructed by the Italian musicologists, Paolo Rossini and Francesco Bellotto, from a recently discovered manuscript libretto with autograph annotations by Donizetti.
In March 2014 Opera Rara released Rita in the original French. Conducted by Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder, this was the first studio recording of the newly restored critical edition of the score. It features Katarina Karnéus as Rita, Barry Banks as Pepé and Christopher Maltman as Gasparo.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 7 May 1860|
(Conductor: - )
|Rita, landlady of the tavern||soprano||Constance-Caroline Faure-Lefèbvre|
|Peppe, her husband||tenor||Victor Warot|
|Gaspar, her former husband||baritone||Barielle|
|Bortolo, a servant||spoken role||Jean-Baptiste Faure|
At an inn belonging to Rita, the tyrannical and abusive wife of the timid Peppe, the couple finds that their lives are thrown into turmoil with the unexpected arrival of Gaspar, Rita's first husband, whom all believed to have drowned. In reality, Gaspar had run away to Canada. Believing that Rita has died in a fire, Gaspar has returned to obtain her death certificate so that he can remarry. When the two meet, Gaspar tries to run away. Peppe, however, sees this as an opportunity to free himself from Rita's slaps because Gaspar is her legitimate husband. The two men agree to a game such that whoever wins has to remain with Rita. Both try to lose, but ultimately the winner is Gaspar. Yet Rita, who had suffered frequently from the hand of Gaspar, refuses to return to be his wife. Gaspar, pretending he has lost the hand, induces Peppe to declare his love for Rita and his firm intention to remain as her husband. The crafty Gaspar, having achieved his purpose, takes his leave from the reconciled couple.
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- Rossini, Paolo; Francesco Bellotto (eds.) (2009), Gaetano Donizetti, Deux Hommes et une femme (Rita): Opéra comique in One Act by Gustave Vaez, The Critical Edition of the Operas of Gaetano Donizetti, Chicago: University of Chicago Press Books. ISBN 978-88-7592-753-0
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- 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.
- Loewenberg, Alfred (1970). Annals of Opera, 1597-1940, 2nd edition. Rowman and Littlefield
- 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).
- Donizetti Society (London) website
- Score of Rita, ou le mari battu (Paris 1860)
- Libretto in Italian
- Rita (opera): Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)