Battaglia di Legnano, La (‘The Battle of Legnano’)
- Roger Parker
Tragedia lirica in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano after Joseph Méry’s play La bataille de Toulouse; Rome, Teatro Argentina, 27 January 1849.
The revolutions that swept through Italy and much of the rest of Europe in 1848 – and in particular Milan’s ‘cinque giornate’, when the Milanese forced the Austrian soldiers from their city – inspired Verdi to attempt an opera in which the theme of patriotism would be overt. Together with his librettist Cammarano, he eventually decided to compose an opera set in 12th-century Italy, the epoch of the Lombard league, adapting for the purpose a recent French drama. Work on La battaglia di Legnano took up most of 1848, and by the time it was finished Milan and many other cities were long back in Austrian hands. But Rome was still a beleaguered republic, and the premiére of the opera took place there in what must have been highly charged circumstances. It was a clamorous success, with the entire final act encored. The cast included Filippo Colini (Rolando), Teresa De Giuli Borsi (Lida) and Gaetano Fraschini (Arrigo). However, the opera was extremely difficult to get past the censors in the repressive, counter-revolutionary atmosphere of the 1850s, and never firmly established itself in the repertory. In the mid-1850s Verdi voiced the intention of rehabilitating ...