Donizetti – Viva La Diva
Salzburg State Theatre

An Opera buffa always promises high spirits on stage. In the case of “Viva la Diva”, this is even doubly true: Donizetti’s opera, whose original title translates as “Conventions and Inconveniences of the Stage”, tells the story of a theatre company trying to mount an opera. The evening’s performance thus encompasses two levels: that of the opera to be staged and that of the opera company with all its typical personalities. The singers are continually fighting with Italian temper over who has the most important role. The librettist and the composer are arguing over their own work with the becoming title “Romulus and Ersilia”. Everything is threatening to descend into chaos. The plot centres on Agata, an ageing diva, who announces at the height of the fighting that she herself will take on a role. Donizetti wrote the lead role of Agata for a baritone, which opens up another level of comedy. As the drama unfolds and the jealousies come to a head, it is up to la diva Agata to rescue the evening.

Donizetti chose a material that allowed him to compose both virtuosic and parodistic music. By shining a spotlight on the fights, vanities, financial difficulties and jealousies behind the scenes of the theatre he was able to combine and mock various traditional formats and contents. The opera became a great success after its world premiere in 1827 but was soon forgotten. Regular performances did not resume until 1963.