Ernani, Opera by G. Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi decided to switch opera houses after the success he enjoyed at Teatro alla Scala in Milan with the epic Nabucco and the action-packed I Lombardi. Out of this decision Ernani was born, a dramatic opera that had its world premiere at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 9 March 1844. As was often the case, the creative process was fraught with difficulties, and Verdi frequently interfered with librettist Francesco Maria Piave's work, playing composer and wordsmith all at once. After much deliberation, the pair decided to create an opera based on the acclaimed drama Hernani by Victor Hugo. This season, Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice will host the revival of Verdi's Ernani, in a metaphorical homecoming that is bound to keep repeating through the years.
Ernani’s plot begins with a love square: the bandit Ernani has fallen in love with the stunning Elvira. Her uncle Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, a local lord, has his eye on her as a potential spouse, while Don Carlo, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, intends to use his superior position to claim her for himself. In an initial confrontation, Ernani and Don Carlo clash with words, and it is revealed that the emperor has pushed our hero into a life of banditry. Faced with the prospect of losing Elvira to Carlo, Ernani and Silva forge an unlikely alliance and promise to work together to free her from him. In return for Silva’s assistance, the bandit surrenders his life to him, vowing to make good on his promise at any point in the future. This oath delivers the opera’s bombastic, shocking finale, too.
Verdi never shied away from melodrama, and Ernani delivers that in spades. More interestingly, the score is so inventive and closely intertwined with the action on stage that it becomes a narrative device of its own – a trend that would only grow bigger and stronger in Verdi’s future works. Audiences at Gran Teatro La Fenice can also enjoy the inventive vocal interplay and the masterful character-building, with which Verdi imbues his arias and duets. This season, Venice is welcoming Ernani home.