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Scene from Ernani
12 Aug 2010

VERDI: Ernani — Florence 1957

Ernani: Dramma lirico in four parts.

Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani

Ernani: Mario Del Monaco; Don Carlo: Ettore Bastianini; Silva: Boris Christoff; Elvira: Anita Cerquetti; Giovanna: Luciana Boni; Riccardo: Athos Cesarini; Jago: Aurelian Neagu. Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Dimitri Mitropoulos, conducting. Florence, 14 June 1957.

 

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after Victor Hugo’s play Hernani.

First performance: Venice, Teatro La Fenice, 9 March 1844

Principal Roles:
Ernani, the bandit Tenor
Don Carlo, King of Spain Baritone
Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, a Spanish grandee Bass
Elvira, his niece and betrothed Soprano
Giovanna, her nurse Soprano
Don Riccardo, the King’s equerry Tenor
Jago. Silva’s equerry Bass

Setting: The Pyrenees, at Aix-la-Chapelle and at Saragossa, in 1519

Synopsis:

Act I

Mountains of Aragon

The bandits demand the reason for Ernani’s gloom. (Chorus: Eviva! Beviam! Beviam! / “To you we drink” and Ernani pensoso! / “Ernani, so gloomy? Why, oh strong one, does care sit on your brow?”). Ernani replies (Recitative: “Thanks, dear friends”; Cavatina: Come rugiada al cespite / “As the flower turns to the sun”) that he loves Elvira, who is about to be married against her will to old Gomez de Silva (O tu che l’alma adora). He asks the bandits to abduct her.

In Elvira’s chamber

Elvira worries about her upcoming marriage (Scene: “Now sinks the sun and Silva does not return”; Cavatina: Ernani, Ernani involami / “Ernani, Ernani, save me”) as servants deliver Silva’s wedding presents to her. She reaffirms her love for Ernani (Tutto sprezzo che d’Ernani / “I scorn everything which does not speak to my heart of Ernani”). King Carlos, disguised as a peasant, enters, but Elvira recognizes him and rejects the love that he offers her. As he attempts to use force, she grasps a dagger, but Ernani suddenly arrives and stops Carlos (Trio: “A friend comes quickly to your aid”). Carlos recognizes Ernani as the leader of the bandits. Ernani replies that Carlos robbed him of his lands and forced him into a life of banditry. As he invites Carlos to fight, Silva appears and sees Ernani (Infelice!..e tu credevi..che mai vegg’io! / “Dreadful sight”; Silva’s cavatina: “Unhappy man! You thought this lovely...was yours”). Ernani offers to fight them both when Riccardo approaches and recognises the king. Ernani whispers to Elvira to prepare to flee.

Act II

A hall in Silva’s palace

Ernani enters disguised as a pilgrim. He asks for shelter, which Silva grants him, and then learns from Silva that he about to marry Elvira who believes Ernani to be dead. Ernani reveals his true identity to Elvira and she tells him that she plans to kill herself at the altar (Duet: Ah, mourir potessi adesso / “Ah, if I could die now”). unfortunately, Silva walks in at that moment, discoveres the pair, but agrees to keep his word to Ernani and protect him from the king, for which Ernani will owe him a perpetual debt. (Trio: No, vendetta piu tremenda / “No, I want to keep a greater revenge”). Carlos arrives and wishes to know why the castle is barred. Silva refuses to surrender Ernani (Carlos’ aria: Lo vedremo, veglio audace / “We shall see, you bold old man”) while Don Carlos’ men cannot find Ernani’s hiding place. Silva keeps his word, even when the king secures Elvira as a hostage. Silva releases Ernani, and then challenges him to a duel. Ernani refuses to fight with his saviour, but unites with Silva in his plans to free Elvira from the king. Ernani swears to appear at the summons of Silva, wherever he may be at that time (Odi il voto o grande Iddio / “Oh God, hear the vow”) and the act ends with Ernani’s aria of vengeance (Sprezzo la vita ne più m’alletta / “Life means nothing to me, only hope of vengeance”).

Act III

In the burial vault of Charles the Great at Aachen

Carlos visits the grave of the emperor (Cavatina: Oh, de’verd’anni miei/ “Oh, the dreams and deceits of my youth”). Hiding behind the vault, he overhears a gathering of conspirators including Silva and Ernani. Ernani swears to murder Carlos. The conspiracy is foiled when Carlos’s attendants enter and surprise the conspirators. The king commands that all the traitorous noblemen be executed. Ernani steps forward, declaring that thus he must die too; he is not the bandit Ernani, but Don Juan of Aragon, whose lands were taken from him. Elvira begs mercy for her lover, and Carlos, whose mood has changed, forgives them both and places Elvira’s hand in that of Ernani.

Act IV

Ernani’s Castle

Elvira and Ernani have just been married, when, in consternation, Ernani hears a bugle call. Silva arrives and silently hands Ernani a dagger. Ernani asks for time to “sip from the cup of love” (Ascolta, ascolta un detto ancor/ “Listen, just one word...”) but, cursed by Silva as coward, Ernani keeps his oath and stabs himself in the heart. (Trio with Silva: E’ vano, o donna, il piangere, e vano / “Your weeping is in vain, woman”).

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

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