1801 - 1835
Vincenzo Salvatore Carmelo Francesco Bellini (3 November 1801 – 23 September 1835) was an Italian opera composer, who was known for his long-flowing melodic lines for which he was named "the Swan of Catania". Many years later, in 1898, Giuseppe Verdi "praised the broad curves of Bellini's melody: 'there are extremely long melodies as no-one else had ever made before'."
(b. Catania, November 3, 1801; d. Puteaux, September 23, 1835)
Qicilian-born composer. He studied Owith his father and grandfather, both professional musicians, and entered the Naples Conservatory at the age of 18, under the tutelage of Rossini’s archrival Niccolo Zingarelli. The triumphant 1827 premiere of his third opera, Il pirata (The Pirate), at La Scala made him a celebrity overnight and laid the foundation for his brilliant and unfortunately short-lived career. With IlI pirata, Bellini began what was to be an extraordinarily fruitful collaboration with the librettist Felice Romani. The premiere of their I Capuleti ei Montecchi, based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, followed in 1830, and in 1831 came La son-nambula (The Sleepwalker) and Norma, both featuring the celebrated soprano Giuditta Pasta in the title role. Composer and librettist had a falling-out over Beatrice di Tenda, which failed at its premiere in Venice in 1833. But the 1835 Paris premiere of Bellini’s final opera, I Puritani (The Puritans)—with a stellar cast that included Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini, and Luigi Lablache—was a huge success. At the peak of his powers, and with the operatic world at his feet, Bellini succumbed later that year to an intestinal infection, at the age of only 33.
Bellini’s operas remain the purest examples of the art of BEL CANTO. Products of a refined and sensitive musician with an unparalleled gift for melody and romantic expressiveness, their influence can be felt not only where one would expect—in the works of Verdi and Wagner—but in the beautifully spun-out melodies of Chopin’s piano music, even in the Italianate lyricism of Stravinsky’s Apollon musagete (1928). During the past half century, they have served as marvelous vehicles for interpreters such as Maria Callas, Joan Montserrat Caballe, who have had the resourcefulness, imagination, and vocal flexibility needed to sing them.
Bianca e Fernando
Vincenzo Bellini = BIANCA E FERNANDO
Bianca: Yasuko Hayashi -
Fernando: Antonio Savastano -
Filippo: Enrico Fissore
Carlo: Mario Macchi -
Viscardo: Pietro Tarantino -
Eloisa: Maria Gabriella Onesti
Clemente: Eftimios Michalopoulos -
Uggero:Ignazio del Monaco
Orchestra e coro della Rai di Torino - Direttore Gabriele Ferro
Registrazione del 29 maggio 1976
Bianca e Fernando (Bianca and Fernando) is an opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini.
The original version of this opera was presented as Bianca e Gernando and was set to a libretto by Domenico Gilardoni, based on Bianca e Fernando alla tomba di Carlo IV, duca di Agrigento (Bianca and Ferdinand at the Tomb of Charles IV, Duke of Agrigento), a play by Carlo Roti which is set in Sicily. In 1826, use of the name Fernando in the title was forbidden because Ferdinando was the name of the heir to the throne, and no form of it could be used on a royal stage.
The 1826 work—Bellini's first professionally staged opera—had its first performance at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples on 30 May 1826. Its success resulted in the offer to the young composer from Domenico Barbaja, the Intendente at the San Carlo and also part of the management of La Scala opera house in Milan, of a commission to write a new opera for La Scala.
The revival of Bianca e Gernando, with the title reverting to the original one proposed for the opera, came about after the success of Il pirata in Milan in October 1827. A commission came from Genoa in early 1828, too late for Bellini to write anything new. However, he did re-arrange the music to suit the singers' voices and in addition (as Galatopoulos states), Romani took on the re-construction of the libretto with the result that "out of the whole of Bianca, the only pieces entirely unchanged are the big duet and the romanza; everything else is altered, and about half of it is new". For this later production, Bellini specifically rejected a request by Gilardoni to revise the libretto, preferring instead Felice Romani, whom he regarded as the superior poet.
Late 14th/15th century
Background The ambitious Filippo has secretly imprisoned Carlo, Duke of Agrigento and usurped his throne. Carlo's son Fernando was accordingly forced into exile although he was still only a child. Carlo's daughter, Bianca, the widow of the Duke of Messina, unaware of Filippo's plots agrees to become his wife. Fernando, now an adult, returns home with a desire to avenge his father, who he thinks is dead.
Using a false name and pretending to be a soldier of fortune, Fernando comes to the palace of Agrigento and offers his services to the new Duke. He convinces Viscardo, a follower of Filippo, that he saw Fernando die and Filippo receives this news with joy. He hires Fernando without hesitation, thinking of entrusting the task of killing Carlo to him.
Bianca comes to the palace to meet her prospective bridegroom. Here she meets Fernando, but after so many years, she does not recognize him. Indeed, she suspects him. Fernando, for his part, is convinced that his sister is an accomplice of the usurper.
Filippo orders Fernando go to the prison to kill Carlo. At the same time, he announces his approaching wedding to Bianca. The old and trusted henchman of Fernando, Clemente, informs Bianca that Fernando wants to see her and brother and sister finally meet face to face. But when they recognize each other, Fernando tells Bianca of Filippo's plots. Together, they go to the prison to free Carlo, followed by Fernando's companions in arms. Filippo also arrives at the palace, bringing with him Bianca's infant son whom he threatens to kill if Fernando will not give himself up. But the trusty Clemente disarms him, and the tyrant is finally ousted.
Bellini - Il pirata - Jesi 1984
Filippo Zigante - Maria Dragoni (Imogene) -
Rockwell Blake (Gualtiero) -
Franco Sioli (Ernesto) -
Manlio Rocchi (Itulbo)
l pirata (The Pirate) is an opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini with an Italian libretto by Felice Romani which was based on a three-act mélodrame from 1826: Bertram, ou le Pirate (Bertram, or The Pirate) by Charles Nodier and Isidore Justin Séverin Taylor). This play was itself based upon a French translation of the five-act verse tragedy Bertram, or The Castle of St. Aldobrand by Charles Maturin which appeared in London in 1816.
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 soprano
A little boy, son to Imogene and Ernesto silent
Fishermen and women, pirates, knights
Time: 13th century
Scene 1: The seashore near Caldora Castle
On a stormy sea-shore, fishermen watch a ship foundering in a huge storm. They help the crew come ashore and among the survivors is Gualtiero, who recognises his old tutor Goffredo, now appearing dressed as a hermit. He explains that he has lost everything. Gualtiero tells him that, in spite of his hatred for his persecutor Ernesto, he drew strength from his continuing love for Imogene. (Aria: Nel furor delle tempeste / "In the fury of the storm / in the slaughter of a pirate's life / that adored image appears in my thoughts"). When the fishermen arrive to inform both men that the noble lady who lives close by is coming to help the shipwrecked men, Gualtiero is urged to hide himself since he will be alone among enemies. He enters Goffredo's hut.
It is Imogene who arrives to offer hospitality to the shipwrecked strangers, but Gualtiero does not reveal himself. She tells her companion Adele that she dreamed that he had been killed by her husband. (Aria: Lo sognai ferito, esangue / "My duty is the compassion / that sends me to the aid of strangers"). From what Itulbo has told her about the pirate ship, she assumes that he is dead. When he comes out of the hut, Gualtiero recognises her, but the hermit makes him re-enter. Imogene is urged to return to the castle, but to herself, she imagines that she sees Gualtiero everywhere she looks. (Aria: Sventurata, anch'io deliro / "Hapless one, I too am delirious / obsessed by a vain love").
Scene 2: The Castle terrace at night
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 the mysterious stranger who enters covered in a cloak. He soon reveals to her who he really is. Gualtiero learns that she had married Ernesto only because he had threatened her father's life. (Extended duet, first Gualtiero: Pietosa al padre! e meco / eri si cruda intanto! / "Pity for your father! But you / were so cruel to me! / And I, deceived and blind, lived, / lived for you alone!"; then Imogene: Ah! qui d'un padre antico / tu non tremasti accanto / "Ah, you never trembled / for an aged father). When Imogene's ladies bring her son into the room, he is angry and almost removes his dagger from his belt, before handing the boy back. He then leaves.
Scene 3: The Castle grounds
Ernesto and his men celebrate victory over the pirates (Sì, vincemmo, e il pregio io sento / "Yes, we conquered and I feel proud of such a noble victory"), but he is annoyed that Imogene is not celebrating too. He asks her if she has found out who the shipwrecked men are, telling her that he expects to question the hermit and the man who is described by the hermit as their leader: Itulbo. Itulbo describes himself as being from Liguria and, upon questioning him, Ernesto recognises by his dress and accent that he is not from the local area. He continues to press Itulbo on the whereabouts of Gualtiero, knowing that pirates have come from Ligurian shores; he is reluctant to accept the group until they can provide greater proof of who they are. Meanwhile, they must remain as prisoners. Beginning with a duet, which initially includes Gualtiero, who declares his readiness to fight, Ernesto somewhat suspicious, Imogene and Adele in anguish, then the hermit (Goffredo) and the women, it extends to include all the principals who express their conflicting emotions, though the hermit manages to restrain Gualtiero from giving his identity away.
Scene 1: The entrance to Imogene's apartments
Adele tells Imogene that Gualtiero wishes to see her before he leaves. She is reluctant, but she recognises that she must do it. As she is about to leave, Ernesto arrives and accuses Imogene of being unfaithful to him: (Ernesto, aria: Arresta / Ognor mi fuggi / "Stay! You continually avoid me! Now the time has come for me to have you at my side"; then duet.) 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 a message is delivered in which he is told that Gualtiero is being sheltered in his own castle, he is consumed by rage, demands to know where his enemy is, and then storms out. Imogene follows.
Scene 2: The Castle terrace
Gualtiero and Itulbo meet on the terrace at daybreak, the latter encouraging him to flee with all his men. But Gualtiero stands firm and, as Itulbo leaves, Imogene comes onto the terrace. She urges him to be brief, to leave immediately, but he tries to comfort her before they part (Aria: Per noi tranquillo un porto / l'immenso mare avrà / "For us the vast sea / will have a calm port") at the same time as he urges her to come with him to the safety of one of his two ships which have arrived. But she tries to leave, encouraging him to forgive and forget. Their acceptance of the situation alternates with passionate declarations of love, and Ernesto, arriving, conceals himself and overhears the end of their duet. As the couple part, Ernesto reveals himself, but Imogene rushes between them, trying to convince Gualtiero to flee. Defiant, he ignores her, proclaiming to Ernesto that his thirst for his blood has not diminished over ten years. The two men demand blood and, in a trio finale as they exit, they continue in this vein while Imogene pleads that they kill her. The two men depart to fight, and Imogene follows.
Scene 3: The courtyard of the Castle
A funeral march is heard as Ernesto's knights enter followed by Adele and the ladies. All grieve over Ernesto's death at the hands of "a traitor, a vile pirate". Gualtiero, to the amazement of Ernesto's retainers, gives himself up to the knights and, as he is taken away, he prays that Imogene may forgive him (Tu vedrai la sventurata / "You will see the unhappy lady / whom I caused so many tears / and tell her if I wronged her / I also knew how to avenge her"). 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 / "With the smile of innocence / with the glance of love / pray speak to your father of clemency and pardon"). Meanwhile, from the Council chamber, the Knights condemn Gualtiero to death and, as the scaffold is erected, Imogene is raving: (Finale: Oh, sole! ti vela / "Oh sun, veil yourself / in darkest gloom / hide the cruel axe / from my sight"). Her ladies lead Imogene from the courtyard.
Vincenzo Bellini is today honoured by a museum that stands in his birthplace of Catania in Sicily. He seemed destined to become a composer, and guided by his grandfather, also a composer, wrote his first piece at the age of six.
In 1819 he went to Naples to the San Sebastiano Conservatoire, but for a boy of such promise he was slow to develop. Various minor pieces date from these student days, but it was only when he turned to opera and wrote Adelson e Salvini that he discovered the form that was most congenial to him.
The work had a tremendous impact on the impresario Barbaia, who in 1827 commissioned Il pirata tor La Scala, Milan. Il pirata demonstrates well Bellini's style, which favours a pure, simple vocal line. This delighted his teacher Zingarelli, who had always warned his pupils against Rossini's music, claiming that the overly florid vocal lines were physically dangerous! Bellini also expected the librettos for his operas to have simple plots with fast-moving action, and the brilliant dramatist Felice Romani was an ideal partner. Their next collaboration was in 1830 on the opera I Capuleti ed i Montecchi. This version of Romeo and Juliet was made exaggeratedly melodramatic by Romani to suit the popular tastes of the day.
The partnership was again fruitful with La sonnambula (The Sleepwalker). This time the inclusion of just a hint of contemporaneous popular song made the opera an instant hit. Norma, premiered later the same year of 1831, was again very well received, largely for the clearly rebellious sentiments it contained, particularly in the final-act chorus "Guerra, Gucrra" (War, War). Today its best-known aria is "Casta Diva", in which the pure soprano solo line soars above the chorus.
Opera composition did not debar Bellini from affairs of the heart, and after he failed to win his first love due to opposition from her parents, he turned his attentions to Giuditta Turma. The relationship lasted five years, although for all that time the young woman was married to someone else.
After Norma, Bellini and Romani argued and Bellini wrote his final opera, I puritani (The Puritans) with Carlo Pepoli. Although the libretto was poor, the weaknesses were more than compensated for by the beauty of the melodies, the development of Bellini's style, and the magnificence of the premiere production: the opera was another triumph. After the exhausting task of composing and staging I puritani, Bellini was suddenly struck down with a fatal illness, and died in 1835 aged just 34. His place in the history of opera is assured, not only for the beauty of his own operas but also as a forerunner to the genius of Giuseppe Verdi.
Bellini - 1830
Bellini's tomb in the Catania Cathedral in Sicily
La straniera (The Foreign Woman) is an opera in two acts with music by Vincenzo Bellini to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on the novel L'Étrangère (2 vols, 1825) by Charles-Victor Prévot, vicomte d'Arlincourt, although writer Herbert Weinstock also adds that it is "more likely [based on] a dramatization of [that novel] in Italian by Giovan Carlo, barone di Cosenza" since he then quotes a letter from Bellini to his friend Francesco Florimo in which he says that Romani "certainly will not follow the play"
The opera was composed in the autumn of 1828 and premiered on 14 February 1829 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan.
Alaide, the stranger soprano
Arturo, Count of Ravenstel tenor
Valdeburgo, Baron, secret brother of Alaide baritone
Isoletta, fiancée of Arturo mezzo-soprano
Osburgo, confidant of Arturo tenor
Il signore di Montolino, father of Isoletta bass
Il Priore degli Spedalieri bass
Time: 14th century
Scene 1: Central courtyard of the Castle of Montolino
A chorus of local people on boats proclaims the upcoming wedding of Isoletta, daughter of Montolino, to Count Arturo of Ravenstal: (Men: Voga, voga, il vento tace........e l'alma pace / Messaggiera dell'amor / "Row, row, the wind has dropped......this blessed peace is the message of love".) But, together on the shore, Isoletta tells Baron Valdeburgo that she fears her Arturo has changed his attitude toward her and believes that he has fallen in love with a mysterious woman living as a hermit in a hut by the lake: (Duet: Isoletta to Valdeburgo: Agli atti, al volto / non mortal, divina imago / "From her gestures, her expression, she did not appear to be mortal, but rather a divine image". Valdeburgo, to himself: Giovin rosa, il vergin seno / schiudi appena al ciel sereno / "A newly bloomed rose has scarce opened / her virgin breast to the serene sky, / and already she wilts in pallor".) In the distance a crowd is heard following "La straniera" who has been seen from the lake shore. They curse her as a witch.
Count Montolino enters, supporting his daughter Isoletta's concerns, but is reassured by his friend Osburgo who promises to bring Arturo to his senses. Together, Isoletta and Valdeburgo share her concern as to what has transpired: (Duet and ensemble: Isoletta, then Valdeburgo, then chorus, as Montolino returns: Oh tu che sai gli spasimi / "Oh you who know the quakings of this wounded heart of mine"). Valdeburgo offers his services as someone from whom she may find comfort, while her father and his retinue urges calm and that she adopt a happier expression. Montolino and Osburgo discuss the situation, the former fearing that Arturo lacks concern for his intended bride while the latter describes Arturo's interest in other hermit-like people as part of his character, but promises to do his best to return Arturo to his intended bride.
Scene 2: La straniera's cabin
Furtively, Arturo enters "The Stranger" Alaide's hut, desiring to know the identity of this mysterious woman. Inside, he sees a portrait of her dressed in royal robes, wearing jewels. He hears a voice in the distance, singing a lament which expresses the joys of solitude and of a lowly life. He realises that it is she and, when she comes into the room, she chastises him for entering her hut. He continues to demand that he is there only to help her and that he loves her, while she keeps pressuring him to leave her in peace expressing the feeling that there is "an insuperable barrier between us".
He persists with his questions, asking if she has been banished long ago and, finally, apologises for his intrusion. In an extended duet, first he, then she, then together proclaims: Serba, serba i tuoi segreti / "Keep, keep your secrets....but it is in vain to forbid me to love you", while she responds with Taci, taci, è l'amor mio / condannato sulla terra / "Hush, hush, my love is condemned upon this earth; I cannot associate you with a destiny that is so hostile towards me". She tells him that she will reveal nothing about her past and begs him never to return. However, as the duet continues, she exclaims: "Ah! would that I could so easily / Erase you from [my heart]", admitting an attraction to Arturo. He says that he will continue to follow her "even into a desert" while she responds: "Your wish will prove your undoing".
Then the sound of huntsmen is heard in the distance. Alaide urgently urges Arturo to leave. In the scene finale duet, the couple each expresses his or her feelings and anxieties, hers being to continue to warn him, his being to insist that "your fate will be mine / In life or in death".
Scene 3: A forest near Montolino
During a hunting expedition, Osburgo and Valdeburgo encounter Arturo, but are aware that Alaide's cabin is close by. Osburgo begs him to return for his wedding to Isoletta, but he refuses, declaring that he does not love her. He asks Valdeburgo to meet his true love, after which he promises that he will never see her again if Valdeburgo judges her unworthy. The pair approach the cabin, from which Alaide emerges. Upon seeing her, Valdeburgo hails her and almost calls out her real name, but Alaide stops him. Valdeburgo tells Arturo that —for reasons he cannot reveal— Arturo must renounce any intentions toward Alaide. She cannot ever marry Arturo. Thinking Valdeburgo is his rival for Alaide's affections, Arturo is about to attack him with his sword, but he declares that he is not a rival. (Trio: first Valdeburgo No: non ti son rivale; / non io ti tolgo a lei / "No: I am not your rival; then Arturo "Ah, if he is not my rival, / What does he wish of me"; then Alaide "No, you have no rival".) Alaide begs Arturo to leave, promising that she will see him again: "Your life, Arturo, matters to me as my own". Both Alaide and Valdeburgo urge Arturo to leave.
Scene 4: A remote place, with Alaide's cabin to see seen in the distance
Arturo is alone, still mistakenly crazy with jealousy directed at Valdeburgo: (Aria: Che mai penso? Un dubbio atroce / Mi rimane e il cor mi preme... / "Whatever am I to think? My heart is heavy / and I am left with an atrocious doubt..."). When Osburgo and his entourage enter, they tell him that he is betrayed because they have overheard Valdeburgo and Alaide planning to flee together.
The couple comes out of the cabin, observed by Arturo, who overhears that they plan to leave together the next day. Arturo concludes that they are lovers, and after Alaide has returned to her cabin, he confronts Valdeburgo furiously and demands revenge. The men fight a duel, Valdeburgo is wounded, and he falls into the lake. Alaide then appears and Arturo declares that he has killed his rival, but Alaide, heavily shocked, reveals that Valdeburgo is actually her brother. Upon hearing that news, Arturo jumps into the lake in an effort to save Valdeburgo. Attracted by the shouting, a crowd finds Alaide standing with Arturo's bloody sword, and they accuse her of murdering Valdeburgo. She is dragged off as a prisoner.
Scene 1: The great hall of the Tribunal of the Hospitallers
Alaide is brought to trial before the assembled judges, but concealed beneath a heavy veil. Osburgo testifies against her. When asked her name by the presiding Prior, she responds only with La straniera. The Prior feels that he has heard her voice before, and he demands that she prove her innocence. She is reluctant to say much more. Suddenly, Arturo rushes in and proclaims her innocence and confesses his own guilt, stating that he killed someone whom he assumed was a rival. All appears to doom both Alaide and Arturo when, into the chamber Valdeburgo suddenly appears, announcing that Arturo is innocent and that it was in single combat with Arturo that he fell into the lake.
The Prior again demands that Alaide reveal her identity, but she refuses. However, she does agree to lift her veil for the Prior alone and he gasps upon seeing her face. Immediately, he sends her away with Valdeburgo. Arturo is left alone, while the Prior chastises Osburgo for his false testimony against Alaide, stating that his actions will be watched.
Scene 2: In the forest but close to Alaide's cabin
Arturo comes to beg Alaide's forgiveness and confess his love, and, as he is about to enter the cabin, he encounters Valdeburgo, who again pleads with Arturo to desist in his attentions toward his sister, demanding that he draw his sword: (In an extended duet, first Valdeburgo —Si...Sulla salma del fratello / T'apri il passo, a lei t'invia / "Yes, over the corpse of her brother / Clear your way and approach her"—then Arturo—Ah, pietà... non io favello; / È un amore disperato / "Ah! have pity.... It is not I who speaks; / It is a love that is desperate, / It is the grief of a wounded heart".) Arturo continues to describe the "torturing madness of a burning heart" while Valdeburgo explains that, for Alaide's peace of mind, Arturo must leave her in peace and that he should fulfill his promises to Isoletta by marrying her. Reluctantly, Arturo agrees to return to marry Isoletta, but asks that Alaide attend his wedding so he can see her one last time. Valdeburgo agrees.
Scene 3: Isoletta's apartment in the Castle of Montolino
Isoletta, truly unhappy and understandably feeling ignored and unloved, prepares for her wedding. (Aria, Isoletta: Nè alcun ritorna?....Oh crudel. / Dolorosa incertezza / "And not a soul returns? Oh cruel, / Grievous uncertainty! All leave me in / Ignorance of what has happened"). In her grief and misery she speaks to Arturo's portrait until the wedding party joyfully appears proclaiming that Arturo is in the castle and that he wants to marry her that very day.
Scene 4: A courtyard leading to the church
Knight and ladies assemble and Montolino welcomes them, but Arturo is confused, then seeing Valdeburgo, he approaches him. Meanwhile, Alaide has entered and concealed herself. Valdeburgo tells Arturo that Alaide is present, but hidden. (Quartet: Arturo, Isoletta, Valdeburgo, and Alaide, aside). Isoletta greets Arturo who ignores her and remains in an anxious state, to the point where she realises that he does not love her and, essentially, releases him from his obligations. Then Alaide suddenly reveals herself, declaring that she has come to give Isoletta courage. As "La straniera", she begs Isoletta to continue with the wedding, and, taking the prospective bride and groom by the arm, begins to lead them into the church.
She then leaves the church in deep anguish: "I have abandoned, not love, but hope", she cries. (Aria: Ciel pietoso, in sì crudo momento, / Al mio labbro perdona un lamento / "Merciful Heaven, in such a cruel moment, / Forgive my lips if they utter a lament"). Then religious music is heard from within the church with the choir singing blessings to the couple. Alaide's torment continues, until—suddenly—there is silence, followed by chaotic sounds from within.
Arturo burst out from inside the church, takes Alaide's hand, begging her to run off with him as he tries to drag her away. At that moment, the Prior rushes from the church and recognises Alaide as Queen Agnes. He announces that he has just learned that the Queen's rival for the throne, Isemberga, has died and now Alaide must return to Paris. Arturo, rendered mad by this news, throws himself on his sword and dies. Finally, La Straniera/Alaide/Agnes is in total despair. (Aria, then choral finale: Or sei pago, o ciel tremendo... / Or vibrato è il colpo estremo / "Now you are glutted, O fearful Heaven... / Now you have dealt your direst blow...... I ask for death, I await death")
Bellini - Zaira
Catania 30/3/1976 - Daniele Belardinelli
Renata Scotto (Zaira) -
Giorgio Casellato Lamberti (Corasmino) -
Maria Luisa Nave (Nerestano) -
Luigi Roni (Luigi Roni) -
Mario Rinaudo (Lusignano) -
Giovanna Collica (Fatima)
Zaira is a tragedia lirica, or tragic opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini set to a libretto by Felice Romani which was based on Voltaire's 1732 tragedy, Zaïre. The story takes place in the time of the Crusades and the opera's plot involves the heroine, Zaira, struggling between her Christian faith and her love for Orosmane, the Muslim Sultan of Jerusalem.
Zaira, favourite of Orosmane soprano
Orosmane, Sultan of Jerusalem bass
Nerestano, brother of Zaira mezzo-soprano
Corasmino, vizir tenor
Lusignano, father of Zaira and Nerestano bass
Castiglione tenor Francesco Antonio Biscottini
Time: 14th/15th century
Scene 1: A gallery leading to the Sultan's harem
There is celebration in the Sultan's court over the impending marriage between Sultan Orosmane and Zaira, the orphaned Christian slave girl. But some of his courtiers resent the marriage, seeing the installation of a Christian woman as sacrilegious. Corasmino, the Sultan's vizier vows to seek a way that this will not happen.
Zaida herself is happy, but is reminded by Fatima, another slave girl, that she will have to give up her religion upon marriage, and this causes Zaira to declare that from then on, her religion will be that of love. When the Sultan appears, each expresses their mutual love.
The Frenchman Nerestano, a former slave, has returned from France to plead for the release of ten French knights still held captive. Orosmane quickly agrees to release all the captives, who number around one hundred, but insists on retaining Prince Lusignano whom he has condemned to death. Zaira pleads for Lusignano to be released from his death sentence.
Scene 2: A subterranean prison leading to the prisoners' cells
Nerestano and Zaira go down to the prisoners' cells to see the French knights who are to be freed. There they see Prince Lusignano who, upon seeing the couple, actually recognises them as his long-lost children who were taken prisoner during the time he was battling with Syria. Zaira is disturbed by Lusignano's concern that she must renounce her religion and, although called away, pledges to do what she can to avoid taking that action.
Scene 3: The Sultan's harem
The French prisoners are ordered to leave in spite of Corasmino's concern that their poor physical condition might not be well received when they arrive in France. Orosmane allows Zaira to say farewell to Narastano, but he is upset because he misconstrues the relationship between the two, especially when Zaira asks for a short postponement of the marriage. Orosmane declares that he will kill any man who would be his rival in love.
Scene 1: Zaira's quarters
Fatima tries to persuade Zaira not to marry Orosmane and not to give up her religion. Zaira pleads for the postponement of her wedding when the sultan enters; at that time, she promises to tell him why. Generously, he agrees.
Scene 2: Near the French knights' cells
Count Lusignano has just died and the sultan allows the French knights to bury him with full Christian honours and then the knights are to be escorted to their ships. However, all are unhappy when they learn that Zaira cannot attended the funeral, since they had planned to abduct her at that time.
Scene 3: The harem
Corasmino has found what he believes to be evidence of Zaira's treachery in appearing to love Nerestano. It has reached him through the interception of a letter from brother to sister demanding that she meet him in the garden that night or he states that he will kill himself. He shares this information with Orosmane who agrees that the message should get through to her.
Conflicting emotions overwhelm Zaira when she reads the letter. At that moment, she hears the sounds of a funeral and, looking from the balcony and realising that it is her father who is dead, collapses in a faint, an action which amazes the other slaves and guards.
Scene 4: The harem gardens at night
Humiliated, Orosmane hides in the garden along with Corasmino. They await Zaira's arrival. When she does so, accompanied by Fatima, Nerestano appears and, to him, she renounces her love for Orosmane and expresses her desire to return with him to her homeland. In a fit of jealousy, the sultan rushes at Zaira and fatally stabs her. Dying, she explains her relationship to Nerestano at which the grieving Orosmane, ordering all to leave, stabs himself in the heart.