La Fattucchiera was perhaps the biggest event in Spanish nineteenth century opera. It premiered at the Teatro de Santa Cruz of Barcelona on July 23, 1838, and was a tremendous success. At the time, the operas of Bellini were all the rage of the operatic world in Spain, and La Fattucchiera shows, especially in its vocal writing and its passionate subject matter, the Italian master's influence. The libretto was originally by Felice Romani, and set a story taken from French literature. Ismalie, ou le mort e l'amour by Charles Victor d'Arlincourt takes elements from Torquato Tasso's Jerusalem Liberata and weaves them into a story filled with magic, witchcraft, diabolic powers, and the redemptive power of romantic love. The score features rich harmonies, eloquent melodic lines, volcanic passions, and virtuosic fioritura. Cuyas shows a predilection for modulations by thirds, deft manipulation of harmonic pedals, and Bellini-esque melodies and bel canto writing. There are many highlights to the opera, for the score contains a wealth of fine music. There is a slow build to a dramatic climax at the central finale of the first act, through a multi-sectional, multi-thematic symphony, Ismalia's cabaletta of the third scene, and an emotionally powerful duet for Oscar and Ulrico. The second act opens with a choral number and the spectacular ending is preceded by a phantasmagoric wedding and two moving preghieras, one for Ismalia, and one for Oscar. The lovers are wafted up to heaven in a protective cloud, sent down by the deities to shield them from evil. Other influences on Cuyas' music include Mercadante, with his brilliant instrumentations, and the music of Donizetti and Rossini.
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Description by Rita Laurance