Аn der Wien: La Wally

Театр Ан дер Вин: Валли

Fatal love amidst the impending, uncontrollable Alps

Cast & Crew

Wally – Izabela Matula
Giuseppe Hagenbach – Leonardo Capalbo
Vincenzo Gellner, Stromminger's estate manager – Jacques Imbrailo
Walter – Ilona Revolskaya
Stromminger, Wally's father – Alastair Miles
Il Pedone – Zoltán Nagy
Afra – Sofia Vinnik
Director – Barbora Horáková Joly
Conductor – Andrés Orozco-Estrada
Set and costume designer – Eva-Maria Van Acker


Alfredo Catalani chose highly unusual material for his opera: the successful novel Die Geier-Wally (1873) by Wilhelmine von Hillern tells the story of a young woman who does not fit any of the gender clichés of the time and whose only friend is a tame vulture. Raised like a boy by her father, Wally is strong and uncompromising and is unable to obey her father when he wants to marry her to a man she does not love. Unlike many earlier operatic heroines commanded to marry against their will, Wally does not look for a solution in society, but instead runs away to the crags and ravines of the mountains. Her husband must be her equal, someone unafraid to face both a bear and her father. Hagenbach is the opposite of the elderly Stromminger: initially arrogant he then proves to be a true friend to Afra and a man who can love a woman like Wally. But whereas a couple like this can appear in a novel in around 1892, it is not possible in an opera. Any hope of happiness is dashed by the forces of nature so that the final chord can resonate with monumental tragedy. First performed on 20 January 1892 at La Scala in Milan, the opera is often classified as verismo. Catalani, however, was inspired more by Wagner, German Romanticism and the operas of his contemporary Massenet. Great attention is paid to the orchestra, which is given nuanced harmonies and colourful instrumentation: the score includes leitmotifs but almost no fixed demarcation of numbers and virtually no arias, only Wally’s “Ebben, ne andrò lontano”. Catalani wrote the title role for the Romanian soprano Hariclea Darclée, famed at the time as the “Carpathian nightingale”. She was also Puccini’s first Tosca. Catalani was not interested in evoking the Tyrolean mountains with his music: naturalistic elements such as the rustic waltz in the kissing dance scene are always executed in keeping with the characters’ circumstances. For that reason the music does not portray any genre scenes, but rather emotional processes. Only the edelweiss song at the beginning creates local colour. The zither player Walter, who sings the song first even though it was written by Wally, serves as her poetic alter ego. He embodies what she suppresses: the language of love, art, light-heartedness and femininity. Sadly, Wally’s original friend, the vulture, was replaced by Walter during the adaptation of the novel as an opera libretto.


The story is set in the Austrian Tyrol, where the free-spirited but vulnerable Wally is in love with the handsome Giuseppe Hagenbach. However, her father, Stromminger, wants her to marry Vincenzo Gellner. The opera concludes with Hagenbach and Wally pledging their love for each other but being killed by an avalanche.

Act 1
The village of Hochstoff

A shooting contest is being held to celebrate the 70th birthday of Wally's father, Stromminger. A hunting party arrives from the nearby village of Sölden led by Hagenbach. Old enmities quickly surface, and a quarrel develops between Stromminger and Hagenbach, who trade threats and insults before Hagenbach is drawn away by his companions.

Vincenzo Gellner has his own heart set on Wally and quickly notices that she is clearly infatuated with her father's enemy during the quarrel. When left alone with Stromminger, he tells the older man of his suspicions. Recognising that Gellner is in love with his daughter, he insists that Wally agree to marry him within a month or leave his house forever. Wally retorts that she would rather take her chances in the Alpine snows than marry Gellner.

Act 2
The Eagle Tavern at Sölden

A year has passed; Stromminger has died, and Wally has inherited his fortune. However, Hagenbach has become engaged to Afra, the landlady of the Eagle Tavern, and is apparently not interested in Wally.

A festival is taking place in Sölden, and Wally is drawn to the tavern knowing Hagenbach will be there. Hagenbach is persuaded to accept a challenge to try to win a kiss from Wally. What begins as a game quickly develops into something more serious, and Hagenbach easily wins his wager. When Wally realises she has been the victim of a cynical bet, her jealousy and fury boil over. She turns to Gellner, who is also at the festival, and insists that if he loves her, he must kill Hagenbach.

Act 3
A ravine

La Wally returns to her home. Her anger has now subsided, and she wishes she could take back her words. At that moment, there is a knock at her door. It is Gellner, who describes how, under cover of darkness, he was able to set upon Hagenbach and hurl him into a deep ravine.

Wally is horrified and hurries to the ravine in the hope of saving Hagenbach, even though she believes he loves Afra. She herself goes down a rope to rescue him and successfully raises his unconscious body back to the surface.

Act 4
High in the Alps

Lonely and depressed, Wally has climbed into the mountains above the village. Her only friend, Walter, has followed and urges her to come down for the Christmas festivities, reminding her of the dangers of avalanches. She sends him away and contemplates her imminent death.

Wally hears another voice. It is Hagenbach, who has recovered from his injuries and come to confess his love. The lovers are reconciled, and Hagenbach goes to find a safe path back down the mountain. He shouts up to Wally, but the noise of his call sets off an avalanche that carries him away. Wally stands momentarily on the edge of the precipice before hurling herself down to her death.



2 h. 15 min.no interval


Recorded screening: Italian, russian subtitles