Inspired by Their Favorite Melodies: Pieces Inspired by La favorite

Written by AVA Administrative Associate Stephen J. Trygar
Cover photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash

The Academy of Vocal Art’s production of Donizetti’s La favorite opens tomorrow! The building has been filled with its soaring melodies and lush orchestration the past few weeks, and we are excited to be bringing it to AVA for the first time! The opera is opening this weekend on February 15th and followed by productions on February 18th, 20th, and 22nd. While there are a few sold-out performances, there are still tickets available for this beautiful opera. Tickets can be purchased on the Academy of Vocal Arts’ website or by calling (215) 735-1685. All performances are held at the Academy of Vocal Arts’ Helen Corning Warden Theater.

The main topic of today’s blog is the significant contribution La favorite has made to the musical world. Although it is a rarely performed opera (considering Donizetti’s breadth of success). Several composers were inspired by the music of La favorite, and they took it upon themselves to borrow melodies from Donizetti’s glittering score to make works of their own.

Before delving into today’s main topic, we want to test your knowledge of La favorite! A quiz was designed to see what you know about this opera! It compiles ten questions chosen from the opera’s history and plot! Don’t worry if you get one wrong! For questions that are not self-explanatory, an explanation is provided. Feel free to share your results on Facebook or Twitter!

As previously mentioned, Donizetti’s music from La favorite was influential, and it often inspired several works by different composers. There are several compositions based on melodies from this breathtaking opera, so if we forget any, please tell us some of your favorites!

Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883)

Arrangements from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera La favorite, WWV, 62B

Between 1840 and 1842, Richard Wagner made several arrangements of La favorite for solo piano, for flute, and for violin duet. Below is a recording of the violin duet arrangements featuring Matthias Wollong and Jörg Fassmann with German narration by Daniel Morgenroth. The YouTube video of the arrangement is of the Overture. I have also provided the full album via Spotify.

Antonio Pasculli (1842 – 1924)

Concerto sopra motivi dell’opera ‘La favorita’ di Donizetti (Concerto on Themes from Donizetti’s La favorita), IAP 3

Originally intended just for oboe and piano, Antonio Pasculli composed a concerto on a series of themes from La favorite. As an oboe player, most of his compositions featured the oboe as a solo instrument with accompaniment of some kind. Furthermore, most of his compositions were based on themes from operas, including a few from other Donizetti operas. Below is a YouTube video of Francois Leleux performing the solo oboe with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.

Jean Baptiste Singelée (1812 – 1875)

Opern-Fantasien, Vol. 3: Fantaisie sur des motifs de ‘La favorite’ (Fantasy on Themes from La favorite), Op. 27

Spanning most of his career, composer Jean Baptiste Singelée composed a series of fantasies based on themes of popular operas at the time. In the third volume of six, Singelée uses several themes from La favorite to make up a fantasy for violin and piano. Below is a recording of his Fantasy with Thomas Wood on the violin and Brian Dykstra on piano. (The recording’s cover art states it is from Volume 1, however the 1906 Litolff edition suggests the order I mentioned previously.)

Julián Arcas (1832 – 1882)

La Favorita

Spanish classical guitarist and composer was inspired by La favorite’s wonderful melodies to write a fantasia for solo guitar. The fantasia is structured in a theme and variations with an extended introduction. Arcas was inspired to write several fantasias on themes from other Donizetti operas as well as other operas in the bel canto style. The recording below is performed by María Esther Guzmán (fitting for the heroine of the opera) on the solo guitar.

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