Giovanna d’Arco, Opera by G. Verdi
The story of Joan of Arc has inspired a number of artistic adaptations, but few rise to the grandeur of Giovanna d’Arco, the dramatic opera by Giuseppe Verdi. In this dramma lirico, the Maestro traces the meteoric rise of the French village girl who followed her God-given visions and reinvigorated the depleted French army to triumph over the English invaders in 1429. Among the most famous classical renditions of the famous story, Giovanna d’Arco had its debut performance on 15 February 1845 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. It returns to Italy this season for a faithful revival at Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.
Verdi’s librettist Temistocle Solera claimed the opera was his original effort. However, many scholars trace Giovanna d’Arco back to Friedrich von Schiller’s play Die Jungfrau von Orleans (or The Maid from Orleans). The narrative opens with Charles, soon-to-be king of France, and his desperation at the powerful English invaders. While he is about to lay down his arms, he comes upon Giovanna, a peasant girl whose religious visions move her to lead the French army into victory. In the process, she also conquers Charles’ heart but does not return his feelings because her dedication is to God and France alone. Meanwhile, her father Giacomo enters a secret pact with the English Commander Talbot, believing his daughter to be possessed by the devil. Will Giovanna manage to fulfil her mission and bring victory and peace to France against the odds?
Verdi’s score for Giovanna d’Arco does not rank among his most famous or universally lauded works, and yet it carries the Maestro’s signature elements of dramatic narration and emotional swells. The musical focus falls squarely on Giovanna and offers a great study in operatic character development. Guests of Rome’s Teatro Costanzi are in for one of Verdi’s hidden gems.