In Parma, where audiences are considered the most discerning in all Italy, the benchmark for vocal artists is set traditionally high. Operagoers here are intimately familiar with the works of their favourites, from Rossini to Puccini, and know every tricky corner by heart. God forbid any singer who fails to accomplish the task without due seemliness Unsurprisingly, then, this performance attempts no directorial experiments. The main setting for this realistically inspired production both indoors and out is Rosinas house, which is converted as required into its constituent parts.
On 7th February 1857, after a delay of one year due to problems of copyright on a possible production of King Lear, Verdi accepted and signed a new agreement with the Teatro di San Carlo of Naples for an opera to be staged in January or February 1858. Not long after he had put behind the experiences of Simon Boccanegra (June 1857) and Aroldo (August), Verdi, then, had to face the issue of a new subject for Naples, which would no longer be King Lear, discarded for various reasons, and not even El tesorero del Rey by António García Gutiérrez or Ruy Blas by Hugo, to which he had given more serious thought, but Gustave III by Eugène Scribe, a play written in 1833 for Daniel Auber in which the king of Sweden is assassinated, in 1792, by a group of noblemen led by Jacob Ankarström. The composition of the score, between October 1857 and January 1858, went hand in hand with Verdi’s complex relationship with the Neapolitan censors, who would end up distorting the libretto and unnerving the composer to the point that he ended up refusing to stage the opera and breaking his agreement with the theatre.
Von wenigen Ausnahmen abgesehen, stellen die Liedkompositionen Verdis keinen wesentlichen Bestandteil seines musikalischen Schaffens dar. Die meisten Schöpfungen dieser Gattung sind in den Anfangsjahren des Komponisten entstanden, zumeist leichtgewichtige, anmutige Gesangsstücke im Stile Bellinis und Donizettis, es befinden sich darunter aber auch schon die für Verdi charakteristischen Gesänge patriotischen Inhalts. In diesen Frühwerken begegnet man manchmal musikalischen Motiven, die Verdi in seinen Meisterjahren wieder verwendet hat, eine Praxis, die auch von anderen italienischen Komponisten (Puccini ist da ein prominenter Fall) bekannt ist.