From Klopstock to Goethe, from Stendhal, to George Sand, the lake represents a place reach in charm: maternal thumb, or entrance to kingdom of the dead (the Avernus lake of Romans). The Britons ancient legends among the Lancelot childhood contain the roots on which are construct both La donna del lago’s and La Straniera’s plots, respectively by Rossini and Bellini. Landscapes showing water images are recurrent in Rossini’s opera in the double shape of sea and fresh water.
Nearby to geographical correct and exact representation of Kathrine lake in La donna del lago, in others works we can see the water flowing vitality, its foaming in torrents and streams to change in a masse of energy, ready to overflow all that it founds long its way; a nature primitive strength, favourite in preromantical aesthetic of sublime and horrid. By a comical or parodistic point of view, this interpretation is employed by Rossini in Matilde di Shabran’s end, when Corradino, repented for turning Matilde out of the home, and having ordered to kill her, he threats the suicide in a torrent’s precipice.
Element of exuberant nature, together the vegetation, water becomes a cardinal image in Rossini’s Guillaume Tell. Realistical sign of Swiss landscape, it evokes the concept of connection, of link, of interconnetion: in the oath’s scene (II Act) is defined by the main character as the “chemin qui ne trahit pas”1. is the element warranting freedom. In Schachental torrent, Tell safes Leutholdo from the Austrians; nearby the Achsenberg the lake joins the inhabitants of its different sides and it is the place where the opera ends. This lake appears in two very important scenes. The first time is presented view by above and faraway, as a background in the Second Act, where is set the oath’s scene. The second time it appears in the last scene of the last act, and it gains the foreground, like a visual translation of the appropriation made by Suiss towards their land. Guillaume, thanks to his ability in shipping in the middle of the storm too (methaphorical significance is evident) impresses a resolutive issue at the events. He tames the elements with his experience in a familiar environment, with his respectful familiarity and trust in the Nature so he succeeds in killing the tyrant. Thus by the sides of the calmed down lake the opera ends.
Through the descriptions contained in set’s captions concerning the urban backgrounds, we can see the town concept suggested to spectators. Paris, as a great european metropolis, is one of the images which appears, with more insistence in the XIX Century Italian librettos. A town of perdition, above all for female characters, in Linda di Chamounix and in La Traviata, is evokated in the dialogues, but it never appears. We can find realistic datas from a geographical point of view in Donizetti’s Maria di Rohan first scene, where we can discerne the Louvre palace beyond the windows. In Umberto Giordano’s Mme Sans Gêne first act, the urban guerilla takes place in the street beyond the laundry’s windows. Cilea’s Adriana Lecourvreur second act reveals a bridge and the Seine in the background beyond the Grande Battelière cottage. Some town’s detailed descriptions are met in Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier second act, where Feuillants terrace appears, with Hottot café, and the Péronnet Bridge. In Puccini’s Bohème we can see The Latin Quartier, and the d’Enfer barrier.
The elements appearing in the background, besides having a great importance for the action, are the most significative shapes for an age imagination. The water, for instance, in its different declinations represents one of the most considerable examples from this point of view. The sea is a familiar presence in Donizetti’s opera (Maria Stuarda, Dom Sebastien, Lucia di Lammermoor, Lucrezia Borgia, Furioso all’isola Santo Domingo); in Verdi’s production, (Vespri Siciliani, Simon Boccanegra, Otello) and in the one of the end of Nineteenth Century composers (Ponchielli, Puccini, Bottesini, Pizzetti). For Simone Boccanegra and Otello, this natural element is not a simple landscape frame, but a decisive place in characters’ identity construction. For the genoese Doge, the sea is an object of contemplation, a memory place. In the Grimaldi’s garden, it is the background for private meeting between Amelia and Gabriele, between the first and the Doge in the ricognition scene. In the third act, it appears beyond the city. In the room where the third scene takes place, Simone is istinctively searching for the contact with “his” sea, while is reflecting and believing while he is feeling the syntoms of the desease provocated by the poison, which he ignores to have drunk.
Doge: M’ardon le tempia…un’atra/vampa sento/serpeggiar per le vene…Ah! ch’io respiri/l’aura beata del libero cielo!/oh refrigerio!…la marina brezza!…Il mare!… Il mare!…quale in rimirarlo/di glorie e di sublimi rapimenti/mi si affaccian ricordi! – Il mare!…il mare!…/perché in suo grembo non trovai la tomba?…