It was the summer of 1939 when Luigi Dallapiccola came across the story La torture par l'espérance in Paris, one of the Contes cruels by Auguste de Villers de L’Isle Adam. He was moved and, during his return journey, began to reflect on the suggestion made by his wife Laura to create a theatrical work based on the story. The libretto was written during the Second World War: “That was the time” wrote Dallapiccola “in which Europe, which had been surrounded by barbed wire for some time, was reduced to a mass of ruins at an increasingly rapid pace”. The opera was performed for the first time on 3 May 1948 for the XIII Maggio Festival, and was considered one of the cornerstones of 20th century musical theatre which, according to Massimo Mila, “reached an artistic and moral height that Italian musical theatre had not seen since Verdi’s times”.
Libretto by Luigi Dallapiccola from La torture par l'espérance by Villiers de l'Isle Adam, from La légende d'Ulenspiegel et de Lamme Goedzak by Charles de Coster
Music by Luigi Dallapiccola
Premiere: Florence, Teatro Comunale, May 20, 1950