“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).
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)
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.”
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
Dimitri Hvorostovski as Don Carlo, Angela Meade as Elvira.
NY Metropolitan Opera Live in HD, 2012.