Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: I Puritani
Radio Broadcast of Saturday, May 3, 1 P.M.
Riccardo, Arturo and Giorgio listen to Elvira, below (Franco Vassallo as Riccardo, Gregory Kunde as Arturo, Oren Gradus as Giorgio, Netrebko)
© Johan Elbers 2014
The 2013–14 Metropolitan Opera broadcast season is sponsored by
Toll Brothers, America's luxury home builder®, with generous long-term support from
The Annenberg Foundation, The Neubauer Family Foundation,
the Vincent A. Stabile Endowment for Broadcast Media,
and through contributions from listeners worldwide.
Music by Vincenzo Bellini
Libretto by Carlo Pepoli
|| (in order of vocal appearance)
||ten., EDUARDO VALDES
||bar., MARIUSZ KWIECIEN
||sop., OLGA PERETYATKO
||bass, MICHELE PERTUSI
||tenor, LAWRENCE BROWNLEE
||bass-baritone, DAVID CRAWFORD
||mezzo, ELIZABETH BISHOP
Conducted by MICHELE MARIOTTI
The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Production: Sandro Sequi
Set designer: Ming Cho Lee
Costume designer: Peter J. Hall
Lighting designer: Gil Wechsler
Stage director: Sara Ina Meyers
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Jane Klaviter, Steven
Eldredge, Gareth Morrell, Carol Isaac
Assistant stage director: Jonathon Loy
Italian coach: Loretta Di Franco
Prompter: Jane Klaviter
Production a gift of
Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Crawford
||(Plymouth, England, 1650s)
| Sc. 1
| Sc. 2
| Sc. 3
||A hall in the castle
Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
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This performance is also being broadcast
live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
SiriusXM channel 74.
The English civil war in the 1640s has divided the land between the supporters of Parliament under Oliver Cromwell (the Roundheads) and the Royalists faithful to the Stuart monarchy (the Cavaliers). King Charles I has been beheaded.
ACT I. Plymouth, a Puritan stronghold, is threatened by siege from the Royalist troops. Distant voices herald the wedding day of Elvira, daughter of Gualtiero (Lord Walton), the fortress's commander. Riccardo (Sir Richard Forth) enters lamenting that his promised bride, Elvira, loves another man - a Stuart partisan ("Ah, per sempre, io ti perdei"). Her father will not force her to marry against her will, it seems, so Riccardo's friend Sir Bruno urges him to devote his life to leading the Parliamentary forces.
Elvira tells her uncle, Giorgio (Sir George Walton), that she would rather die than marry Riccardo ("Sai come arde"). Her uncle reassures her that he has persuaded her father to let her marry her lover, Arturo (Lord Arthur Talbot). Although Arturo is a Royalist, he is heralded as he approaches the castle ("A quel suono").
Everyone gathers for the wedding celebration and Arturo greets his bride ("A te, o cara"). He learns that King Charles's widow, Queen Enrichetta, is a prisoner in the castle and soon to be taken to trial in London. Alone with the queen, Arturo offers to save her even if it means his death. Elvira returns with the bridal veil ("Son vergin vezzosa"); she capriciously places the veil over Enrichetta's head. When he is alone again with the queen, Arturo explains that the veil will provide the perfect disguise for escape from the castle. As they are about to leave, Riccardo stops them, determined to kill his rival. Enrichetta separates them and reveals her identity. Riccardo lets them flee, knowing this will ruin Arturo. The others return for the wedding, and Riccardo tells of Arturo's escape with Enrichetta. Soldiers rush off in pursuit. Elvira, believing herself betrayed, is beset by madness.
The Puritans in the fortress near Plymouth
© Beth Bergman 2014
ACT II. The townsfolk mourn Elvira's mental breakdown. Her uncle, Giorgio, explains that she continues to long for Arturo. Riccardo arrives to announce that Arturo has been condemned to death by Parliament. The Puritans depart.
Elvira wanders in, reliving her happy past ("Qui la voce"). In her madness, she mistakes Riccardo for Arturo and dreams of her wedding ("Vien, diletto"). When she leaves, Giorgio tries to convince Riccardo to save Arturo. At first indignant, Riccardo is finally moved to help Elvira, and the two men unite in patriotism: if Arturo returns as a friend, he shall live - if as an armed enemy, he shall die ("Suoni la tromba").
ACT III. In Elvira's garden, Arturo reveals that love for her has brought him back to Plymouth. He overhears her sing their old love song ("A una fonte afflitto") and is torn between his love and his loyalty to the Stuarts. Elvira herself appears, and Arturo reassures her that she is his only love ("Vieni fra questa braccia"). Soldiers rush in to arrest Arturo. Just then, a diplomat arrives with the news of the Royalists' final defeat and a general amnesty for all the offenders. The shock of this news restores Elvira's senses ("Sento, o mio bell'angelo"), and all rejoice in the peace as Elvira and Arturo embrace in their new happiness.
Enrichetta wears Elvira’s bridal veil, inset (Maria Zifchak, Netrebko)
© Beatriz Schiller 2014
The premiere of I Puritani di Scozia at Paris's Théâtre Italien in 1835 was a smash, with a cast hard to equal for elegance of style or opulence of tone - Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Battista Rubini, Antonio Tamburini and Luigi Lablache. Bellini's unreasonable rivalry with Donizetti was coming to a head at the time, with the latter's Marino Faliero following I Puritani into the Théâtre Italien seven weeks later.
Count Carlo Pepoli's libretto, based on a French play, was even more foolish than the standard Italian fare of the 1830s, but the glorious singing of what came to be called "the Puritani quartet" won everyone over to the work.
Marcella Sembrich sang Elvira once in the Met's first season; the second Met performance came thirty-five years later, with Maria Barrientos and Hipolito Lazaro. An occasional revival in Italy kept the work in living memory until the bel canto recrudescence spearheaded by Maria Callas, who re-created the genre's dramatic values as well as its vocal tradition. Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Sherrill Milnes and James Morris introduced the Met's current I Puritani on February 25, 1976, with Richard Bonynge conducting.
Oren Gradus and Anna Netrebko as Giorgio and
Elvira in I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera
© Beth Bergman 2014
WHAT TO READ AND HEAR
John Rosselli's The Life of Bellini (Cambridge) is a good, concise introduction. In his chapter on Bellini in The New Grove Masters of Italian Opera, Friedrich Lippmann offers a brief but illuminating look at the man and his work.
The enduring beauty of Maria Callas's Elvira and the intense devotion of Tullio Serafin's conducting make EMI's 1953 Puritani an essential recording, despite abundant cuts in the score. Of Sutherland's two recordings with Bonynge (both Decca), the second is preferable, with the soprano and her Arturo, Pavarotti, both in glorious form. This version includes all of the printed score, with the addition of Elvira's final cabaletta and other material. Riccardo Muti's EMI reading is sensitive, serene and scrupulous in observing the details of the Ricordi vocal score; Montserrat Caballé is Muti's radiant Elvira. Anna Netrebko includes an accomplished account of Elvira's mad scene on her recital disc, Sempre Libera (DG).
On DVD, Edita Gruberova, then in her fourth decade as a star, was at the center of Andrei Serban's production, taped in 2001 at Barcelona's Liceu (TDK); the veteran soprano sounds consistently professional and occasionally inspired. Anna Netrebko and Eric Cutler star in a 2007 Live in HD transmission of the Met's current production, which had its premiere in 1976.
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