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Carlos Gomes Composer

Il Guarany (opera)

Performances: 2
Tracks: 2
Musicology (work in progress):
  • Il Guarany (opera)
    Year: 1870
    Pr. Instrument: Voice
    • Senza tetto, senza cuna
    • Sebti yba firza ubdinuta
Il Guarany is a Romantic grand opera in the Italian tradition, the first written by a composer of the Americas to become a major success in Europe. It left the repertory but was successfully revived in the 1990s by the star tenor and opera company director Plácido Domingo.

The composer, Carlos Gomes, was born on July 11, 1836, in Campinas, Brazil. His father was Manoel José Gomes, a local bandleader who began the boy's musical education at the age of ten. After several successful compositions and tours with his brother Pedro (a violinist), Carlos went against his father's wishes in 1861 to study at the Music Conservatory in Rio de Janeiro.

By the next year he had his first opera, Joana de Flandres, produced in Rio. (He sent his father a ticket.) The opera and other successes prompted the Emperor of Brazil, Dom Pedro II, to become Gomes' patron. He sent Gomes to Italy for further studies in 1863. Unfortunately, the Conservatory of Milan rejected his application on the grounds that he was too old. But after being accepted as a private composition student of Lauro Rossi, he was allowed to sit for a composition examination at the Conservatory in 1866. He passed the examination and was awarded the title of maestro.

He began a successful composing career in Milan. By 1867 he was planning the opera Il Guarany, based on a novel by the Brazilian writer José de Alencar, with a libretto in Italian by Antonio Scalvini, with whom Gomes had already frequently collaborated.

It is a large scale opera-ballet in four acts. It is known for its fast paced, high-energy music, which is said to quote songs of the Guaraní tribe of Brazilian Indians, for whom the opera is named.

The story is a complex one, set in the area near Rio de Janeiro in 1560. The heroine, Cecilia (or Ceci), is the daughter of the Portuguese governor. Although betrothed to Portuguese explorer Dom Antonio, she is in love with Peri, the Guaraní chief, and flees to be with him. Since the Guaraní are at war with the rival Aymoré tribe, and their leader also falls in love with Ceci, numerous captures, rescues, and other complications occur before the love triangle—make that love rectangle—is resolved in a dénouement that included Ceci's father sacrificing himself for her by blowing up his castle while he is still in it.

The opera was premiered at the Teatro alla Scala (La Scala) in Milan on March 19, 1870. It was a great success, but Gomes made the mistake of selling his rights to it outright during the intermission for 3,000 lire to publisher Francesco Lucca, who profited greatly as it was played in major opera houses all over Europe for decades to come.

Gomes did receive great fame and honors; he was made a Knight of the Italian Crown and received a hero's welcome when he returned to Brazil to produce the opera on Dom Pedro's birthday on December 2, 1870.

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