La Wally

About this work

La Wally was premiered at a time when Italian verismo was emerging, but this opera was not a part of that school. Rather, it reflected its composer's interest in the works of Wagner and other figures of the late Romantic period. Although it is seldom performed outside of Europe (especially in Italy), the work is known to many opera enthusiasts through its Act One aria for the heroine, "Ebben?...No andrò ;ontano," a haunting reverie on the theme of traveling alone and far from home. The aria, aside from its popularity as a concert piece among prominent spinto and dramatic sopranos, was introduced to viewers of the cult film Diva.

Catalani lived a short life. He was dead at the age of 39, only a year and a half following La Wally's premiere at Milan's La Scala on January 20, 1892. This opera was his final stage work. Earlier, Catalani had enjoyed some success with Elda (1880), more so in its revised form as Loreley, first performed in 1890. La Wally enjoyed the presence of such celebrated singers as Emmy Destinn and Pasquale Amato when the Metropolitan Opera presented it for the first time in 1909. On the podium for those four performances was Arturo Toscanini, whose advocacy was important to such success as was enjoyed by Catalani's works. The setting for La Wally poses some difficulties in staging. The Swiss mountain scenes must give a sense of both height and depth. The conclusions of both the third and fourth acts fail if the audience cannot believe that the ravine, in the former, and the mountain pass, in the latter, are real and dangerous. Still, for the company with modern stage facilities, which can pull together a rich-voiced star soprano, a dramatic tenor, a baritone who exudes villainy and a conductor who can build and maintain a high level of tension, La Wally can be a rewarding venture.