Reminiscenze dell'opera

Don Sebastiano

Op. 149, PP.143.6

Donizetti composed Dom Sébastien, Roi de Portugal in the manner of French grand opera in 1843. Premiered in Paris, it was his last opera completed before syphilis reduced him to insanity. The subject matter of the loss of Portuguese independence (to Spain) and the defeat and destruction of the last Portuguese king, Sebastiano.

This very late score has the two flugelhorns that mark it as one with Ponchielli's "ideal" ensemble. One anomaly in its performance history is its appearance in programs with the Concerto per flicorno basso, whose actual premiere is clouded by having four closely-spaced concerts (March-April, 1872) that may not have all actually taken place. In one of the more puzzling "short-term" memory problems, the title page of the score reads "Reminiscenze" while the top of the first page of the score reads "Pout-pourri." Both titles appear in the published programs.

The tragic nature of the opera is evident from the very beginning, which is drawn from the opera's prelude. However, in place of timpani, the tubas intone the threatening, funereal drumbeats. The prominent trumpet (in low E-flat) solos are from the convention, adopted by Ponchielli, to place such vocal solos in the lower-pitched (and darker) trumpet.  

There are many passages of thin orchestration that indicate Ponchielli's confidence in the abilities of his ensemble.

Date on score: 1869

Performances: Sunday, April 3, 1870, Piazza Garibaldi; Thursday, May 26, 1870, sull'area della chiesa demolita di San Domenico; Sunday, April 2, 1871, Piazza Cavour; Sunday, June 11, 1871, Pubblico passeggio; Sunday, March 17, 1872, Piazza Roma; Sunday, March 24, 1872, Piazza Roma; Sunday, March 31, 1872, Piazza Roma; Sunday, April, 7, 1872; Thursday, June 12, 1873, Piazza Cavour; Sunday, September 14, 1873, Piazza Garibaldi; Sunday, December 7, 1873, Piazza Cavour.


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