VERDI"S SICILIAN VESPERS
Radio New Zealand Concert network
Sunday 24th of June 2007 at 3pm
Vienna State Opera, (September 2006)
The Italian version
Nucci, Casanova, Scandiuzzi, Radvanovsky
Monforte, French Governor of Sicily, Baritone
Arrigo, his long-lost son, Sicilian patriot, Tenor
Elena, Sicilian noble lady, a patriot, Soprano
Procida, patriot leader, Bass
This opera was composed for the Paris Opéra, as Les Vêpres Siciliennes (libretto by Scribe), at the time of the Great Exhibition in 1855. It was immediately translated into Italian, and this is now the usual version. It has the 5 acts of a typical French opera, including a ballet.
Setting: Palermo (in Sicily) in 1282
The French are occupying Sicily
Duchess Elena, the sister of a patriot who has been executed, is mourning his death. When ordered to sing for the French soldiers in the Square, she raises a riot with her patriotic song. The tyrannical French Governor, Guy de Montfort (Monforte in Italian), appears at the door of his palace and quietens the crowd; they disperse, leaving Monforte with Elena. Arrigo rushes in to report that he has been freed from prison. Monforte feels a strange sympathy with Arrigo (not knowing it is his son by a woman he had abandoned; Arrigo has been brought up to hate Monforte); he offers the young rebel a position in the French service (the foreign legion?!), but Arrigo refuses and goes into Elena's palace.
Giovanni da Procida, a banished Sicilian doctor, has returned, and he is now stirring up resistance. Elena and Arrigo greet him, and they plot. Arrigo tells Elena he loves her, and desires to avenge her brother's death; she asks him to kill the governor. Arrigo is arrested. A scene of confrontation ensues, including a tarantella and French soldiers getting fresh with Sicilian women.
Scene 1 Monforte has received a death-bed letter from Arrigo's mother. He shows it to Arrigo, who is dumbfounded, and he escapes in confusion.
Scene 2 At a masked ball (originally with the wonderful 'Four Seasons' ballet) Elena and Procida are intent on assassinating Monforte. Arrigo tries to warn his father, and ultimately interposes his own body to shield him. The conspirators are arrested, and Arrigo is denounced by the Sicilians.
Arrigo visits them in prison, as they await execution. When he explains the father-son relationship to Elena, she softens, and they move into a love duet. At the place of execution, Arrigo declares that he wants to die with them; but when he publicly acknowledges Monforte as his father (three times), he is given permission to marry Elena that very evening. Although Procida is also freed he continues to prepare an insurrection.
The wedding is happening, and Procida tells Elena that when the bells ring it will be a signal for the Sicilians to rise up and smite the French. Elena calls the wedding off in horror. Monforte comes in, dismisses her objections, and marries them. The wedding bells ring out, and the French are massacred.
This event, on 3oth of March 1282, led to the downfall of the empire of Charles of Anjou.
The NYMetropera archives have failed us this time; there are no study guides for this one because it has not been done there in the period 2000-2007. Never mind. Of course, some one has suggested to me that I should get a life (or some sleep) and not spend so much time on my blogs, and let everybody do their own searching. But I believe in sharing my own research, freely and gratis, on all the subjects that interest me: the origin of the alphabet, mysticism, mythology, and opera.
You can see the progress of my work and the places where I publish my jottings by visiting http://collesseum.googlepages.com/