Umberto Giordano’s “Fedora” will never rank with the likes of “Andrea Chénier” in the operatic canon, but the composer’s second most popular work still gets its looks from time to time.
The work premiered on Nov. 17, 1898, with the composer in the pit and a certain Enrico Caruso in the lead tenor role. The work was based on the Sardou play of the same name and the libretto was ultimately adapted by Arturo Coluatti. Giordano was actually rejected by Sardou when he requested permission to adapt the opera, mainly due to his relative status as an unknown at the time. However, after the success of “Andrea Chénier,” the composer finally got his chance to create the opera.
Princess Fedora is engaged to the Count whom she is madly in love with. However, he has betrayed her with another woman and at the sound of sleigh-bells, he is brought in mortally wounded. Many believe that Count Loris Ipanov is the man responsible for the crime and the police set out on an investigation. Fedora swears revenged for her beloved’s death.
She follows Loris to Paris who at a party declares his love for her. She tells him that she is returning to Russia, sending him into desperation as he is exiled. He confesses that he killed Count Vladimir and she tells him to tell her the whole story after the reception. She informs the head of police. Loris tells her that he murdered the Count upon discovering that he and his wife had been lovers. The Count had fired at Loris who shot back in self-defense. Fedora realizes that she too loves Loris and the two spend the night together.
Now in Switzerland, the two are lovers, but Fedora learns that the letter she wrote to the head of police has left Loris’ brother imprisoned and ultimately dead. His death left Loris’ mother heartbroken and she subsequently died as well. The news hurts Fedora deeply and she confesses to Loris who refuses to forgive her. Fedora takes poison and dies in her repentant lover’s arms.
Famous Musical Numbers
The most famous passage in the entire opera is brief tenor aria “Amor ti Vieta” which is recorded by virtually every tenor out there. In just a few minutes Giordano encapsulates the power of love elegantly.
Watch and Listen
Plácido Domingo was one of the champions of the opera in his tenorial prime and here he is with superstar soprano Renata Scotto in a performance from 1988 in Barcelona.