Ernani, 1844
“A youthful, passionate female voice is besieged by three male voices, each of whom establishes a specific relationship with her. The siege is fruitless. The male voices, or rather registers, meet with various fates, and each is granted a relationship with the woman, although on different levels. This relationship varies in intensity of passion according to the distance between the soprano register and the particular male voice. “ (Gabriele Baldini).

Quick Links

Synopsis Libretto (with interesting intro.) Full opera of the production we’ll look at.

The story of the opera

With Nabucco a triumph, Verdi considered plots by Shakespeare (Lear?) and Walter Scott (Donizetti had done it!) but settled for a play by Victor Hugo, Hernani which had caused a famous “battle” between classicists and romantics in 1830. Its romantic plot was about love and honour – and significantly for the music, about a woman loved by three powerful men. “It turned out to be a near-perfect vehicle for a confident young composer looking to let out all the emotional stops. The resulting opera took Venice by storm and set Verdi off on one of the most successful careers in the history of opera.” (NPR) Ernani premiered in 1844, two years after Nabucco. It was disliked by Hugo, and critics were sceptical, but it was a smash hit in its time and still popular. “...from the first the spirit of Hugo is there. Verdi was part of that youthful audience to which the play
Hernani is addressed. The bounding energy of Hugo's alexandrines is reflected in the spirit of Verdi's music, which is far more forceful than anything he had written so far.” (Operaviva)

The music

With glorious music of serious difficulty, Ernani is a benchmark for every generation of Verdi singers. Yes, you do know some of these songs. Compare “Ernani, Ernani involami” from Callas  and Sutherland. It’s also an opera of trios. Listen to the Act I trio between Elvira, Ernani, and Don Carlo  and the Act 1V trio. More about the music here. Ernani offered "a fresh consideration of the fixed forms of Italian opera, in particular an expansion and enrichment of the solo aria and duet together with a more flexible approach to the musical sequences that bind together lyrical pieces.” (Roger Parker)

Friday May 11th

Our production, 1982.  Ernani - Plácido Domingo, Donna Elvira - Mirella Freni, Don Carlo - Renato Bruson, de Silva - Nicolai Ghiaurov. Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, Milan. Conductor - Riccardo Muti.
Dimitri Hvorostovski as Don Carlo, Angela Meade as Elvira. NY Metropolitan Opera Live in HD, 2012.