La campana sommersa

La campana sommersa (The Sunken Bell) is an opera in four acts by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi. Its libretto is by Claudio Guastalla, based on the play Die versunkene Glocke by German author Gerhart Hauptmann. The opera's premiere was on 18 November 1927 in Hamburg, Germany. Respighi's regular publisher, Ricordi, was displeased by his choice of subject, and refused to publish the opera. This led to its being published by the German publisher Bote & Bock, and a German premiere.

La campana sommersa
Opera by Ottorino Respighi
Respighi 1934.jpg
Respighi in 1934
LibrettistClaudio Guastalla
Based onDie versunkene Glocke
by Hauptmann
27 November 1927 (1927-11-27)
Stadttheater Hamburg

The fairy-tale world of Hauptmann's play inspired Respighi to create his most lavishly and imaginatively orchestrated operatic score, which frequently reminds the listener of his famous symphonic poems. Since the opera's anti-hero Enrico is a bell maker, Respighi fills the music with many chiming and ringing effects.


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type Premiere cast, 18 November 1927[1]
Conductor: Werner Wolff
Rautendelein, an elf girl soprano Gertrud Callam
Ondino, a water spirit baritone Josef Degler
A faun tenor Paul Schwartz
Enrico, a bell maker tenor Gunnar Graarud
An old witch, Rautendelein's grandmother soprano Sabine Kalter
A priest bass Rudolf Bockelmann
A schoolmaster baritone Herbert Taubert
A barber baritone Karl Wasehmann
Magda, Enrico's wife soprano Emmy Land[n 1]
The spectres of Enrico's two children speaking roles
  1. ^ Emmy Land was the wife of Werner Wolff, the conductor


La campana sommersa is scored for the following instruments:[2]

3 flutes (3 doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 tenor trombones, bass trombone, bass tuba, timpani, bass drum, handbells, cymbals, tam-tam, triangle, Basque drum, xylophone, anvils and drum sticks, harp, celesta, organ, bell, strings.


Act 1Edit

Enrico, a bell maker, has built a bell for a new church, but the Faun has thrown it to the bottom of a lake. Enrico falls into despair. Overwhelmed with compassion, Rautendelein, an elf, decides to enter the human world. The water spirit Ondino tries in vain to dissuade her.

Act 2Edit

Enrico is overwhelmed by the misfortune, and his wife Magda worries that he would never work again. Rautendelein, in the form of a little girl believed to be dumb, is introduced to the family by a priest to help Magda. Her presence manages to magically bring back Enrico's strength and vigor.

Act 3Edit

Enrico and Rautendelein fall in love. Enrico abandons Magda, and even intends to found a new religion, for which he is designing a temple. In vain the priest tries to dissuade him: "It is easier that the bell submerged at the bottom of the lake rings", replies Enrico. Magda, distraught, kills herself by jumping into the lake. As his children announce the tragedy, the tolling of the bell from underwater is heard. Enrico, horrified, abandons Rautendelein.

Act 4Edit

Rautendelein has now become the wife of Ondino. Enrico, close to death, meets a witch who grants his wish to see Rautendelein for a final time. She appears to him "as white as the Angel of Death". At first, she pretends not to recognize him, then answering to his pleas, kisses him gently as he dies.


Year Cast
opera house and orchestra
1956 Margherita Carosio,
Rina Malatrasi,
Umberto Borsò,
Tommaso Frascati
Franco Capuana,
Orchestra e Coro della RAI di Milano
CD: Great Opera Performances[3]
2003 Laura Aikin,
Alessandra Rezza,
John Daszak,
Kevin Connors
Friedemann Layer,
Opéra et Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon
CD: Accord
Cat: 4761884[4]


  1. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "La campana sommersa, 18 November 1927". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  2. ^ "La campana sommersa, P 152 – work details". l'Orchestra Virtuale del Flaminio (in Italian). Retrieved 9 August 2020.
  3. ^ "Ottorino Respighi – La campana sommersa – Franco Capuana (1956)". operaclass. Retrieved 7 January 2015.
  4. ^ Barker, Anthony. "Respighi The Sunken Bell ACCORD 2 CD 476 1884". MusicWeb International. Retrieved 7 January 2015.

External linksEdit

  • "Italian libretto" (PDF). Fondo Ghisi, Faculty of Musicology, University of Pavia. Retrieved 7 January 2015.