Arts & Culture | Walter Scott | Early Romantic | Classical
Sir Walter Scott was perhaps the most popular literary figure in Europe in the 1820s. His adventurous tales set in chivalrous times captured an atmosphere of romance and mysticism, and exploited the vogue for Scottish subjects which was enveloping Europe. Rossini’s La donna del lago (‘The Lady of the Lake’, 1819), was the first successful opera derived from Scott’s works. The score included Scottish dance rhythms, hunting horns and a Chorus of Bards which was to become one of his most famous numbers and something of a patriotic anthem. Inevitably it was necessary to cut and simplify Scott’s often long and involved plots in order to create a coherent opera. Indeed, Scott himself remarked that Ivanhoé (1826), a pastiche concocted from Rossini’s music for the Théâtre de l’Odéon in Paris, was ‘superbly got up … but it was an opera, and, of course, the story sadly mangled’. Composers of Italian opera continued to adapt his novels into the 1830s and 40s, and Donizetti’s setting of The Bride of Lammermoor as Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) is perhaps the best-known Scott opera. The Heart of Midlothian inspired Scottish composer Hamish MacCunn’s (1868–1916) Jeanie Deans (1894). Other works, including Kenilworth and Waverley, inspired further operas, songs, overtures and incidental music.
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