25 Jan 2009

BELLINI: Il Pirata — New York 1959

Il Pirata: Melodramma in two acts.

Music composed by Vincenzo Bellini. Libretto by Felice Romani after Bertram, ou le Chateau de S.t Aldobrand (1821) by Charles Nodier and Isidore Justin Severin Taylor, a French adaptation of Bertram; or The Castle of St. Aldobrand (1816) by Charles Maturin.

First Performance: 27 October 1827, Teatro alla Scala, Milan.

Principal Roles:
Ernesto, Duke of Caldora Baritone
Imogene, his wife Soprano
Gualtiero, former Count of Montalto Tenor
Itulbo, Gualtiero’s lieutenant Tenor
Goffredo, a hermit, once tutor to Gualtiero Bass
Adele, Imogene’s companion Mezzo-Soprano

Setting: Sicily, 13th Century.


Act I

On a stormy sea-shore, fisherfolk watch a shipwreck. Among the survivors is Gualtiero, who is recognised and offered refuge by Goffredo. Gualtiero tells him that he drew strength from his continuing love for Imogene (“Nel furor delle tempeste”), although she is now married to Ernesto. She arrives to offer hospitality to the shipwrecked strangers, but Gualtiero does not reveal himself, and Imogene assumes from what Itulbo tells her that he is dead. She tells Adele that she dreamt that he had been killed by her husband (“Lo sognai ferito, esangue”).

At night, Itulbo warns the strangers not to reveal that they are the pirates who have been pursued by Ernesto. Meanwhile, Imogene is strangely fascinated by Goffredo’s guest, who soon reveals to her who he really is. Gualtiero learns that she had married Ernesto only because he had threatened her father’s life, and when he sees that she has borne Ernesto’s child, he starts to think of revenge (“Pietosa al padre”).

Ernesto and his men celebrate victory over the pirates (“Sì, vincemmo”), but he is annoyed that Imogene is not celebrating, too. He questions Itulbo (who pretends to be the pirates’ chief) about Gualtiero’s fate, and the act ends with all the principals expressing their conflicting emotions, though Goffredo manages to restrain Gualtiero from giving his identity away.

Act II

Adele tells Imogene that Gualtiero wishes to see her before he leaves. Ernesto accuses Imogene of being unfaithful to him, but she defends herself by saying that her continuing love for Gualtiero is based solely on her remembrance of their past encounters. Ernesto is inclined to take her word for it, but, when he is told that Gualtiero is being sheltered in his own castle, he is consumed by rage.

Despite Itulbo’s pleas, Gualtiero meets Imogene again before he leaves. Their acceptance of the situation alternates with passionate declarations of love, and Ernesto, arriving, conceals himself and overhears the end of their duet. He is discovered, and exits with Gualtiero, each determined to fight to the death.

It is Ernesto who is killed. Gualtiero, to the amazement of Ernesto’s retainers, gives himself up to justice, and, as he is taken away, he prays that Imogene may forgive him (“Tu vedrai la sventurata”). She appears in a state of anguish and sees visions of her dead husband and her son (“Col sorriso d’innocenza ... Oh sole, ti vela di tenebre oscure”). Meanwhile, the Council of Knights has condemned Gualtiero to death.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.