Les vêpres siciliennes, Opera by G. Verdi
As many of his other Parisian works, Les vêpres siciliennes presented a number of creative difficulties for Giuseppe Verdi. Nevertheless, the Italian composer persevered and, after putting several years of continuous hard work into the opera, saw to its premiere at the Paris Opéra on 13 June 1855. Fresh off the success of earlier masterpieces like Rigoletto or Il Trovatore, Verdi was ready to tackle the challenging genre of the French grand opera again and produced an enthralling five-act score. The subject matter of the Sicilian Vespers from the late 13th century and the Maestro’s inspired music make Les vêpres siciliennes a true hidden gem that graces the stage of Teatro dell’Opera di Roma in Italy’s fair capital city.
Verdi meant for Les vêpres siciliennes to be his great return to the genre of grand opera, a special form invented by the French that allowed for bold experimentation and innovation in an extended performance length. True to his roots, the Italian composer finally set his sights on the Sicilian Vespers, a proud moment in Italian history which saw Sicilian rebels overthrow the rule of the French monarchy in 1282. The libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier stemmed from a previous script they had produced for Gaetano Donizetti’s Le duc d’Albe. After protracted negotiations, during which Verdi insisted on numerous plot and character revisions, Les vêpres siciliennes had its Paris premiere that won audiences over immediately. A post-unification Italian version, I vespri siciliani, was prepared in 1861 as well.
In crafting the score for this new grand opera, Verdi explored new musical horizons. He employed a more versatile musical vocabulary in order to convey his characters’ different emotions. His melodies shone with new and more complex rhythmic quality, too. Overall, Les vêpres siciliennes shows Verdi in search of new musical horizons. The results, as guests of Teatro Costanzi will ascertain, were more than intriguing.