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La Loca (opera)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

La Loca
Opera by Gian Carlo Menotti
Charles de Steuben - Juana la Loca.jpg
Juana la Loca, 1836 painting by Charles de Steuben
TranslationThe Madwoman
Other titleJuana la Loca
LibrettistGian Carlo Menotti
June 3, 1979 (1979-06-03)

La Loca (The Madwoman), also known as Juana la Loca (Crazy Joanna), is an opera by Gian Carlo Menotti, composed in 1979. It is a romantic drama about the life of Joanna of Castille (1479–1555). It was written as a vehicle for soprano Beverly Sills and received its premiere on June 3, 1979, at the San Diego Opera, followed by the New York City Opera.[1] Critical response was largely negative, so Menotti completely reworked it. The revised version premiered in 1982 at the Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. The American premiere of the revised version took place at the Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 1, 1984.[2]

Composition history

La Loca was Menotti's tenth opera. He wrote the libretto as well as the music, as was his custom.[1] It was written in English, like most of Menotti's work. It consists of three acts with seven scenes.[3] The opera was barely completed in time for the premiere, with revisions being made as late as the dress rehearsal; "pages with handwritten notes would be rushed from (Menotti's) hotel suite to the theater with the ink still wet on the pages."[4]

The opera was written in honor of Sills' 50th birthday.[5] It was the first work written specifically for her and was her last new role, as she retired the following year. It was commissioned by two West Coast opera lovers, Cyril Magnin and Lawrence P. Deutsch, at the urging of then-San Diego Opera director Tito Capobianco.[5] Capobianco directed the production and the designer was Mario Vanarelli.

The role of Juana is a soprano, written for and premiered by Sills. Juana's three male counterparts – her husband Philip, father Fernando, and son Carlos – are all sung by the same baritone.

Historical background

Juana, born November 6, 1479, was the daughter of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. On October 20, 1496, at the age of 16, she married Philip, son of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor. He was known as Philip the Handsome or Philip the Fair. In their nine years of marriage she gave birth to six children. Due to deaths in the family she became the heiress to the two Spanish kingdoms. When her mother died in 1504 she became Queen of Castile and Philip became King Philip I of Castile. Her father Ferdinand of Aragon, attempting to keep control of Castile, argued that Juana was mentally unstable and was named her guardian. Her husband Philip resisted Ferdinand's maneuvering. In 1506 Philip and Ferdinand formally agreed that Juana should be excluded from government. A few months later Philip died of typhoid fever. She attempted to retain power as Queen of Castile but was unable to secure her position, and power was handed over to her father Ferdinand. She refused to sign the abdication papers, so she remained as the titular queen, but was confined to a nunnery. All authority was exercised in her name by her father, and after his death, by her son and heir Charles, who later became Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. She was kept in confinement at the Convent of Santa Clara at Tordesillas, where she died at the age of 75.[6]


Act 1

Juana and Philip, entering into their arranged marriage, dismiss their attendants and sing a love duet. Years later Juana is still passionately in love with Philip, but he engages in numerous infidelities and tries to get her to sign her claim to the Spanish throne over to him. However, Philip dies.

Act 2

While taking Philip's body back to Spain, Juana opens the coffin and sings to him. When she arrives in Spain, her father Fernando attempts to get her to sign over the kingdom. When she refuses, he confines her to a convent and takes away all her children except her daughter Catalina.

Act 3

Juana's father has died, and now her son Carlos is demanding that she sign abdication papers. When she refuses, he takes Catalina away and orders that the window of her cell be boarded up. In the final scene she is dying after 46 years of confinement. The priest Miguel, who had once been a knight in attendance on her, assures her that God is a faithful bridegroom.[3]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, June 3, 1979
(Conductor: Calvin Simmons)[7]
Juana soprano Beverly Sills
Felipe, Fernando, Carlos baritone John Bröcheler
Bishop Ximenes bass-baritone Robert Hale
Doña Manuela mezzo-soprano Susanne Marsee
Nurse mezzo-soprano Jane Westbrook
Miguel de Ferrara tenor Joseph Evans
Chaplain tenor Vincent Russo
Marques de Denia bass Carlos Chausson
Catalina soprano Nancy Coulson
Ladies in Waiting soprano, contralto Marcia Cope, Martha Jane Howe


  1. ^ a b "Opera: Menotti's 'Juana' Performed at Festival". The New York Times. June 3, 1984. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  2. ^ Tim Page (June 3, 1984). "Opera: Menotti's Juana Performed at Festival". =The New York Times. p. 61.
  3. ^ a b Gomez, Maria A., et al., eds (2008). "Juana la Coloratura, by Jan Reinhart". Juana of Castile: History and Myth of the Mad Queen. Rosemont Publishing and Printing Corp. pp. 202–209. ISBN 978-0-8387-5704-8.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Page, Tim (February 2, 2007). "The Melodrama And Melodies Of a Singular Composer". Washington Post. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Rich, Alan (June 25, 1979). "Opera: No Reign in Spain". New York Magazine.
  6. ^ Waldherr, Kris (2008). Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di. Broadway Books. pp. 111–113. ISBN 978-0-7679-2899-1.
  7. ^ "La Loca". Opera America. Retrieved February 17, 2015.
This page was last edited on 18 August 2020, at 21:38
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