Maria Padilla

Maria Padilla is a melodramma, or opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Gaetano Rossi and the composer wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot's play. It premiered on 26 December 1841 at La Scala, Milan. The plot is loosely based on the historical figure María de Padilla, the mistress of Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile.

Performance history

The American premiere took place in 1990 when the young Renée Fleming made her major debut with Opera Omaha.[1] Among other performances, the opera was presented by the Buxton Festival in 2003[2] and by the Minnesota Opera in 2005.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 26 December 1841
(Conductor: Eugenio Cavallini)
Donna Maria Padilla, Ruiz' daughter[4] soprano Sophie Löwe
Donna Ines Padilla, Ruiz' daughter soprano Luigia Abbadia
Don Pedro, prince of Castile baritone Giorgio Ronconi
Don Ruiz di Padilla tenor Domenico Donzelli
Don Ramiro, duke of Albequerque bass Gaetano Rossi
Francisca mezzo-soprano Teresa Ruggeri
Don Luigi, count of Aguillar tenor Ranieri Pochini
Don Alfonso di Pardo bass Agostino Berini
Bianca di Francia silent
Gentlemen, Castilian and French dignitaries, hunters, vassals of Padilla, guards, Castilian and French pages


Sophie Löwe, who created the role of Maria Padilla
Place: Castile
Time: 14th century

Maria tells her sister Ines that she hopes to marry Don Pedro, the ruler of Castile. When he sneaks into her room disguised as Mendez, Maria tells him that she knows his true identity and demands marriage to save her honour. Don Pedro acquiesces, although the marriage must be kept secret. After their elopement, a faction of the Don Pedro's court wants him marry Bianca, a Bourbon princess, in order to avoid a civil war. He appears to be negotiating this, despite his secret marriage to Maria.

Meanwhile, Maria's father, Don Ruiz di Padilla, appears at the court. Believing that she is merely Don Pedro's mistress, he challenges the prince to a duel, but is led away in disgrace. Maria visits her father and tries to explain that she is the secret wife of Don Pedro, but her father refuses to listen.

Much to Maria's horror, Bianca arrives at the court, and is welcomed by Maria's enemies there as Don Pedro's bride and their queen. Instead, Don Pedro proclaims Maria as his queen and she dies of joy. (In the original ending which was changed by the censors, Maria grabbed the crown from Bianca's head and then committed suicide.[5])


Year Cast
(Maria, Ines,
Ruiz, Pedro)
Opera House and Orchestra
1980 Lois McDonall,
Della Jones,
Graham Clark,
Christian du Plessis
Alun Francis
London Symphony Orchestra and Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
Audio CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORC6
1990 Renée Fleming,
Stella Zambalis,
Hans Gregory Ashbaker,
Motti Kaston
John DeMain
Opera/Omaha Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a performance in the Auditorium of the Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska, September)
Audio CD: Premiere Opera
Cat: CDNO 8932



  1. ^ Leo Dagambina, "Opera Omaha Presents the American Premiere of Maria Padilla Starring Renée Fleming" on Retrieved 1 November 2013
  2. ^ "Donizett's Maria Padilla". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  3. ^ "Maria Padilla". Retrieved 20 April 2018.
  4. ^ Premiere cast and conductor from Casaglia
  5. ^ Ashbrook 1983, p. 572
  6. ^ Source of recording on


External links