I Puritani, Opera by V. Bellini
Vincenzo Bellini died too young at the age of 33, but he left us a number of wonderful operas. I Puritani was his final masterpiece which he debuted in Paris at the Théâtre-Italien on 24 January 1835. At the premiere, the Parisian audience went mad with excitement and approval and gave Bellini a final big win before his untimely passing later that same year. Teatro dell’Opera di Roma stages I Puritani this season and brings the political intrigue and rapid-pace action to audiences in Rome.
In the summer of 1833, Bellini was passing through Paris and planning to move on quickly, but the city charmed him so much that he stayed over a year longer than intended. The salon culture and the many musical events of the big European capital agreed with his curious and gregarious nature. In early 1834, a commission from the Théâtre-Italien came, and soon after the Italian composer had teamed up with Count Carlo Pepoli to adapt the historical play Têtes Rondes et Cavaliers by Jacques-François Ancelot and Joseph Xavier Saintine for the opera stage. The task proved difficult for Pepoli who had never before produced a libretto, so Bellini found himself working on both the text and music for I Puritani. Despite the creative difficulties, however, the final product enjoyed great and lasting success.
The subject of I Puritani is the English Civil War from the 17th century and the clash between the Puritans and the Royalists. Against the scenes of political struggle, a love triangle forms between Lord Arturo Talbo of the Royalist faction, the Puritan Sir Riccardo Forth, and Elvira, the daughter of Lord Gualtiero Valton. As the men clash their political and personal ambitions and seem to trade the young lady’s heart as a commodity, she slowly loses her mind at the thought of being separated from her one true love amid the violent uprising. Bellini’s music and Pepoli’s verses present a rare example of strong political statements that were otherwise a rarity, especially for the composer. Rome’s Teatro Costanzi stages this exceptional piece from the short but powerful Bellini catalogue this season.