Chatterton (opera)
Chatterton is a dramma lirico or opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in three acts (four acts in its original 1876 version) by Ruggiero Leoncavallo. The libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 was written by the composer himself and is freely adapted from the life of the young English poet from Bristol
Bristol is a city, unitary authority area and ceremonial county in South West England, with an estimated population of 433,100 for the unitary authority in 2009, and a surrounding Larger Urban Zone with an estimated 1,070,000 residents in 2007...

, Thomas Chatterton
Thomas Chatterton
Thomas Chatterton was an English poet and forger of pseudo-medieval poetry. He died of arsenic poisoning, either from a suicide attempt or self-medication for a venereal disease.-Childhood:...


Considered by the romantics as the perfect archetype of the accursed poet, Chatterton became famous for his brilliant pastiches of medieval poetry, which he attributed to an imaginary 15th-century monk whom he called Thomas Rowley. At the age of 18, to escape his misery, he committed suicide in London by taking poison.

The plot of the opera is based on Alfred de Vigny
Alfred de Vigny
Alfred Victor de Vigny was a French poet, playwright, and novelist.-Life:Alfred de Vigny was born in Loches into an aristocratic family...

's Chatterton (published in 1835)—a successful drama in three acts derived from the second of the trio of short stories contained in his philosophical novel Stello (1832).

Chatterton, composed in 1876, is the debut opera of a young Leoncavallo freshly graduated from the Naples conservatory
Music Conservatories of Naples
The Music Conservatory of Naples is a music institution in Naples, southern Italy. It is currently located in the complex of San Pietro a Majella.-San Pietro a Majella:...

. However, the composer failed in his attempt to get his work performed because the promoter of the planned production disappeared with Leoncavallo's money shortly before the premiere. Leoncavallo would have to wait until after the financial success of his best known opera, 1892's Pagliacci
Pagliacci , sometimes incorrectly rendered with a definite article as I Pagliacci, is an opera consisting of a prologue and two acts written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It recounts the tragedy of a jealous husband in a commedia dell'arte troupe...

, to see Chatterton produced.

The opera finally premiered on March 10, 1896, at the Teatro Drammatico Nazionale
National Dramatic Theatre
The National Dramatic Theatre or National Theatre was a theatre in Rome, now demolished to build Via Nazionale....

, Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

, in a revised version of the original four-act opera. The work was not successful even after another revision which was completed in 1905. Today, Chatterton is rarely performed.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, March 10, 1896
(Conductor: Vittorio Podesti)
Thomas Chatterton tenor
The tenor is a type of male singing voice and is the highest male voice within the modal register. The typical tenor voice lies between C3, the C one octave below middle C, to the A above middle C in choral music, and up to high C in solo work. The low extreme for tenors is roughly B2...

Benedetto Lucignani
Jenny Clark soprano
A soprano is a voice type with a vocal range from approximately middle C to "high A" in choral music, or to "soprano C" or higher in operatic music. In four-part chorale style harmony, the soprano takes the highest part, which usually encompasses the melody...

Adalgisa Gabbi
John Clark bass
Bass (voice type)
A bass is a type of male singing voice and possesses the lowest vocal range of all voice types. According to The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, a bass is typically classified as having a range extending from around the second E below middle C to the E above middle C...

Raffaele Terzi
Giorgio baritone
Baritone is a type of male singing voice that lies between the bass and tenor voices. It is the most common male voice. Originally from the Greek , meaning deep sounding, music for this voice is typically written in the range from the second F below middle C to the F above middle C Baritone (or...

Giuseppe Cremona
Skirner tenor Aristide Anceschi
Lord Klifford baritone
Young Henry soprano Cremona


Chatterton lives as a lodger in a wealthy home. Unable to live by his writing, he has to look for a job to support himself. Unfortunately, he can only get a job as a servant. The other aspect of the situation is his thwarted and concealed love for Jenny Clark (Kitty Bell in Vigny's play), the wife of the industrialist who is his landlord. Finally, faced with an impossible love and a menial job, a despairing Chatterton kills himself. He is followed immediately in death by Jenny.


  • Chatterton is notable for being one of the first complete operas ever recorded (in May 1908, by HMV
    His Master's Voice is a trademark in the music business, and for many years was the name of a large record label. The name was coined in 1899 as the title of a painting of the dog Nipper listening to a wind-up gramophone...

    's predecessor the Gramophone Company
    Gramophone Company
    The Gramophone Company, based in the United Kingdom, was one of the early recording companies, and was the parent organization for the famous "His Master's Voice" label...

     on multiple 78-rpm discs). The fact that this recording was conducted by the composer himself makes it an outstandingly valuable acoustic document. It has been skilfully restored by the American audio engineer Ward Marston and distributed on CD by his label, Marston Records (52016-2). The orchestral playing under Leoncavallo's direction is unpolished and the quality of the cast of singers uneven, with by far the best contribution coming from a renowned La Scala
    La Scala
    La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

     dramatic tenor of the era, Francesco Signorini, who delivers his allotted music with a fine voice and real dramatic conviction. (The 1908 Chatterton is coupled on the Marston reissue with a 1907 recording of Pagliacci
    Pagliacci , sometimes incorrectly rendered with a definite article as I Pagliacci, is an opera consisting of a prologue and two acts written and composed by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It recounts the tragedy of a jealous husband in a commedia dell'arte troupe...

    in its entirety, featuring a different cast.)

  • Another complete recording of the work exists, released by the label Bongiovanni with the following cast: Renato Zuin, Tiziana Scaciga della Silva, Maurizio Zanchetti, Enrica Bassano, Fabrizio Neri - Orchestra dell’Opera Ucraina di Dniepropetrovsk, Coro Filarmonico di Pesaro - Silvano Frontalini

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.