Gioachino Rossini was already in contact with Angelo Anelli during the spring of 1815. Rossini wanted him to write a libretto for the Carnevale season of Teatro Valle of Rome. However, they didn't find an agreement and Rossini chose Cesare Sterbini (who would later write the libretto of Il barbiere di Siviglia), although on the choice of the subject and the writing of the libretto of Torvaldo, Rossini had no authority. When he finally arrived in Rome, during the autumn of 1815 and after the success of Elisabetta regina d'Inghilterra, the libretto was ready. Sterbini had chosen a semi-serious subject, which was at the time quite popular in the capitol and was quickly put in music.
Synopsis Torvaldo e Dorliska
Giorgio, keeper of the Castle of Ordow, and his fellow-servants are awaiting the return of his master, the Duke. He arrives and is angry because, in spite of having fought and killed his rival in love, he didn’t capture the woman. Dorliska, distressed by what has happened and exhausted by her long wandering, knocks at the castle doors looking for help. Carlotta, Giorgio’s sister, invites Dorliska in and they are joined by Giorgio. The girl tells them that she is Polish and that, after her marriage to Torvaldo, she had been attacked by a man whom she had rejected several times. Giorgio assumes this man to be his master and reveals it to Dorliska. The girl tries to run away but in that moment the Duke comes in and overjoyed at seeing her, he reveals that he himself has killed Torvaldo. Meanwhile Torvaldo himself, who has escaped from the Duke’s ambush, reaches the castle: he intends to free Dorliska disguising himself as a shepherd. Giorgio opens the door and Torvaldo, considering him trustworthy, reveals his true identity and describes his plan. Meanwhile the Duke arrives, demanding to know who the newcomer is. The supposed shepherd now shows the Duke a letter, in which Torvaldo himself, before dying, urges Dorliska to marry the Duke. The Duke sends the shepherd himself to deliver the letter to Dorliska. Meanwhile Carlotta is trying to comfort the desperate girl. They are joined by the Duke, Torvaldo and Giorgio. Giorgio gives Dorliska the letter: she reads it and faints. However, when it is Torvaldo’s turn to speak, she recognizes her husband’s voice and lets slip a cry of joy. The Duke realizes the situation at once and orders Torvaldo to be arrested.
Giorgio and the servants have agreed to turn their back at the Duke. Torvaldo, who is locked up in the dungeons, is told about Giorgio’s plan and he begs Giorgio to protect Dorliska. The Duke decides to confront Dorliska face to face. She is brought before him and although the Duke speaks to her violently, she reacts with equal vigour to his threats. Carlotta has taken the dungeon keys from Giorgio and is secretly preparing to lead Dorliska in the cell with her husband. However, the Duke comes back in: he has decided to have Torvaldo put to death, and asks Giorgio for the keys to his cell. Giorgio confesses that he does not have the keys with him. The Duke, furious, drags Giorgio along with him to the prison cells. Meanwhile, in the dungeons, Torvaldo tries to comfort and reassure Dorliska. When the Duke bursts in, he threatens to kill them all but stops when he hears the ringing of an alarm bell. Ormondo arrives with the Duke’s guards: the people have risen against the Duke and are marching on the castle to seize him. The Duke tries to attack the insurgents, leaving Ormondo to guard the prisoners but Ormondo, however, decides not to follow his master’s orders. The Duke is raving but he is arrested and led away.