La Favorita Synopsis

The Story of Gaetano Donizetti 4 Act Opera

Verrett & Pavarotti In 'La Favorita'
Verrett & Pavarotti In 'La Favorita'. Robert R. McElroy/Getty Images

Composer Gaetano Donizetti's 4 Act Opera, La Favorita premiered on December 2, 1840, at the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris, France. The story of the opera takes place in Spain during the early 14th century.

La Favorita, ACT 1

As monks begin preparing for worship, Superior Balthazar (the Queen of Castile’s father), enters the Monastery of St. James with Fernand. Balthazar notices that Fernand can barely keep focused on his tasks so he asks Fernand what is troubling him. Fernand confesses that he has fallen in love with a beautiful woman. Though he doesn’t know her name yet, he tells Balthazar that he would like to leave the monastery to search for her. Even after assuring Balthazar his faith in God is unchanged, Balthazar angrily kicks him out of the monastery with advice that the world outside is full of dangers. Despite feeling upset with Fernand, Balthazar knows that one day he will return to the monastery, perhaps beaten by the world, but wiser because of it.

Some time later, Fernand finds the woman whom with he fell in love. He learns her name is Leonor, and she returns his love in equal proportions. Even though they love each other, Fernand has yet to learn Leonor’s true identity. She arranges to meet with him on a small isle, but he must agree to wear a blindfold while on his journey there. After agreeing, he is later met by on of Leonor’s companions who blindfolds him and escorts him to a boat to take him out to the isle. Once there, he is met by another of Leonor’s companions, Ines. Ines stresses to him that this meeting with Leonor must remain a secret. Feeling a bit worried, Fernand is relieved with Leonor enters the room. To his dissatisfaction, Leonor tells him that they will never be able to marry each other. In fact, after they leave the isle that night, they are never to see each other again. To help ease the pain of separation, Leonor hands Fernand a letter which will help provide him with a better future. Before he can read the document, Leonor tells him goodbye and rushes out of the room. Fernand is left alone to wonder about why he can never see her again; he speculates it might be due to her social position. Fernand reads the document and discovers that he has been commissioned to join the army with an opportunity for advancement.

La Favorita, ACT 2

Alphonse, the King of Castille, returns having just defeated the Moors and gained the city of Alcazar. Alphonse converses with his courtier, Don Caspar, and makes a comment about being pleased with Fernand’s bravery. When Alphonse is left alone, he dreams about divorcing his wife in order to be with Leonor. Despite what his heart says, his mind tells him that should he divorce the Queen, he will surely draw great ire from Balthazar, who in turn is backed by the Pope. Moments later, Leonor enters the room with apparent concern. She is upset that she still remains the King’s mistress. She’d much rather be his queen. Alphonse is weary that her love for him is diminishing. Just then, Don Gaspar bursts into the room with a letter revealing that Leonor has another lover. When confronted, Leonor doesn’t deny the allegations. Before their discussion can progress, Balthazar enters the room demanding Alphonse to call off the divorce.

La Favorita, ACT 3

Alphonse has decided to award Fernand for his great bravery in the war. When Fernand is brought in front of the King, Alphonse asks Fernand what he would like to receive as his reward. Fernand quickly replies that he would like to marry the woman who inspired his heroic efforts. Delighted, the King asks Fernand to reveal the identity of this woman. Fernand turns around and points to Leonor. At first, Alphonse is furious to learn that Fernand is his rival who has obviously been more successful at capturing Leonor’s love and attention, but then changes his mind and tells Fernand he must marry Leonor within the next hour. Leonor quickly leaves the room, both happy and uneasy. She concludes that she must inform Fernand about her past so that he doesn’t marry her under false pretenses. She calls in Ines and gives her instructions to meet with Fernand. Before Ines is able to meet with him, she is captured and arrested. Leonor prepares for the wedding and meets with Fernand at the alter, unaware he has yet to be informed of her past. After the ceremony is complete, Fernand finally learns of Leonor’s past and becomes irate. Feeling he was dishonored by the King, Fernand draws his sword and breaks it. He leaves Leonor and decides to return to the monastery under Balthazar’s guidance.

La Favorita, ACT 3

In light of the turmoil, the Queen’s jealousy and grief has driven her to death. Her body has been sent to the monastery and monks gather around her to say their prayers. Meanwhile, Fernand prepares himself to rejoin his former religious life. Leonor enters the monastery and faints at the foot of the cross. She is exhausted and heartbroken. The monks tend to her and aid her back to health. She approaches Fernand, but he hotly rejects her offers. She begs for his forgiveness and compassion. Finally, he realizes her love for him is true and sincere, and he resolves himself to leaving the monastery for her once more. Sadly, his heart is shattered when Leonore collapses once again, only this time she is unable to recover and dies in Fernand’s arms.

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