Gioachino Rossini’s opera Adelaide di Borgogna was completed quickly even for that quite prolific composer, premiering less than seven weeks after his previous work, Armida, in a different theater (Teatro Argentina) in a different town (Rome). The libretto, by Giovanni Federico Schmidt, is an old-fashioned opera seria about an Italian queen, Adelaide, whose husband has been defeated and killed by the usurper Berengario and his son, Adelberto in 10th-century Italy. Adelaide’s apparent only choice is to be ignobly forced to marry the son to give a degree of political legitimacy to the new regime. She, however, sends out supplications to Otto (Ottone), the Emperor of Germany, who comes south with his forces to rescue her and fall in love with her. Battle ensues, Berengario becomes a hostage for whom the son will not trade away Adelaide, even at his mother’s impassioned pleading. Mom helps the former queen to escape, Otto is triumphant in battle, and Adelaide is restored to her royal station at the side of Otto. So much for turning Italy over to the Germans, they were much more difficult to get rid of.
After being released from a mental hospital, Otto returns to his old job as a butcher. He tries to adjust to his new life, but after a bitter argument with his wife, he accidentally kills her. Fearing he will be sent back to the hospital, he grinds up her body and sells it as sausages. As friends and relatives start asking questions about her disappearance, they too start ending up in the butcher's display case.