Ernani, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi is known as a master of the complete dramatic experience, and his dramma lirico Ernani offers an early example of his finely tuned skill. The opera was commissioned by Teatro La Fenice and enjoyed a highly acclaimed premiere on 9 March 1844. Even though the creative process was fraught with friction and uncertainty, the outcome was a performance for the books that solidified Verdi’s reputation in Italy and abroad. This season Teatro dell’Opera di Roma is staging a revival of this early classic from the composer’s rich catalogue.
Riding high on the success of Nabucco, Verdi was spoilt for choice when it came to commissions for new operas. When he took La Fenice’s offer, he set his own rules, including full creative control over the subject, the libretto, and the vocal cast. Despite getting his way, the creative process for this Venetian commission quickly started stalling. A young and still inexperienced Francesco Maria Piave continuously delivered dissatisfactory librettos on a variety of subjects, and Verdi insisted on having a final version of the book before he started composing. Eventually the pair landed on the right track and picked Hernani, the controversial play by Victor Hugo, as their source. Condensing the complex narrative to four opera acts proved a laborious task, yet the results speak for themselves even to this day. Thus, Verdi’s Ernani was born.
As is the case with many Verdi masterpieces, the plot combines a heated love triangle with a larger-scale political conflict. The bandit Ernani is in love with Elvira who has been promised to the old Don Ruy Gomez de Silva. Don Carlos, the future Holy Roman Emperor, breaks this triangle, only to claim Elvira for himself. Ernani and Silva form a pact to free the young woman from the monarch-to-be’s claws, but the bandit with a heart of gold will have to make an oath with fateful consequences to win the freedom of his beloved. Whether the two lovers find their happily ever after hangs in the balance, and only audiences at Teatro Costanzi will find out the answer.