Guglielmo Ratcliff (‘William Ratcliff’)
- Michele Girardi
Tragedia in four scenes by Pietro Mascagni to a text based on Andrea Maffei’s Italian translation of Heinrich Heine ’s novel William Ratcliff; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 16 February 1895.
Mascagni was captivated by William Ratcliff during his first year at the Milan Conservatory (1882), and he decided to set to music the words of Maffei’s Italian translation virtually as they stood; this is accordingly one of the earliest Italian examples of the Literaturoper genre. He wrote part of the opera rapidly, but finished it only in 1894; the stupendous success of Cavalleria rusticana was an influential factor in his completing a work that looked back to the principles of the Scapigliatura (opera) movement in vogue between 1870 and 1890. Ratcliff is a story of spirits and crimes set in northern Scotland in 1820.
In his castle MacGregor (bass) blesses the betrothal of his daughter Maria [Mary] (soprano) and Count Douglas (baritone). Meanwhile William Ratcliff (tenor) waits for an opportunity to kill Douglas in a duel, as he has done to Mary’s two earlier fiancés. But he comes off worse, escaping only with his life. Meanwhile the nurse, Margherita [Margaret] (mezzo-soprano), tells Mary of the unhappy love between William’s father, killed by the jealous MacGregor, and her mother, who died of a broken heart as a result. Ratcliff bursts in, obsessed by the ghosts of the two former lovers, and kills Mary in his delirium; he then kills MacGregor and, finally, himself....