VERDI: Ernani — Florence 1957

Music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after
Victor Hugo’s play Hernani.

First performance: Venice, Teatro La Fenice, 9 March

Principal Roles:
Ernani, the bandit Tenor
Don Carlo, King of Spain Baritone
Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, a Spanish grandee Bass
Elvira, his niece and betrothed Soprano
Giovanna, her nurse Soprano
Don Riccardo, the King’s equerry Tenor
Jago. Silva’s equerry Bass

Setting: The Pyrenees, at Aix-la-Chapelle and at Saragossa,
in 1519


Act I

Mountains of Aragon

The bandits demand the reason for Ernani’s gloom. (Chorus: Eviva!
Beviam! Beviam! / “To you we drink” and Ernani pensoso! /
“Ernani, so gloomy? Why, oh strong one, does care sit on your
brow?”). Ernani replies (Recitative: “Thanks, dear friends”;
Cavatina: Come rugiada al cespite / “As the flower turns to the
sun”) that he loves Elvira, who is about to be married against her will
to old Gomez de Silva (O tu che l’alma adora). He asks the bandits to
abduct her.

In Elvira’s chamber

Elvira worries about her upcoming marriage (Scene: “Now sinks the sun
and Silva does not return”; Cavatina: Ernani, Ernani involami /
“Ernani, Ernani, save me”) as servants deliver Silva’s
wedding presents to her. She reaffirms her love for Ernani (Tutto sprezzo che
d’Ernani / “I scorn everything which does not speak to my heart of
Ernani”). King Carlos, disguised as a peasant, enters, but Elvira
recognizes him and rejects the love that he offers her. As he attempts to use
force, she grasps a dagger, but Ernani suddenly arrives and stops Carlos (Trio:
“A friend comes quickly to your aid”). Carlos recognizes Ernani as
the leader of the bandits. Ernani replies that Carlos robbed him of his lands
and forced him into a life of banditry. As he invites Carlos to fight, Silva
appears and sees Ernani (Infelice!..e tu credevi..che mai vegg’io! /
“Dreadful sight”; Silva’s cavatina: “Unhappy man! You
thought this lovely…was yours”). Ernani offers to fight them both when
Riccardo approaches and recognises the king. Ernani whispers to Elvira to
prepare to flee.

Act II

A hall in Silva’s palace

Ernani enters disguised as a pilgrim. He asks for shelter, which Silva
grants him, and then learns from Silva that he about to marry Elvira who
believes Ernani to be dead. Ernani reveals his true identity to Elvira and she
tells him that she plans to kill herself at the altar (Duet: Ah, mourir potessi
adesso / “Ah, if I could die now”). unfortunately, Silva walks in
at that moment, discoveres the pair, but agrees to keep his word to Ernani and
protect him from the king, for which Ernani will owe him a perpetual debt.
(Trio: No, vendetta piu tremenda / “No, I want to keep a greater
revenge”). Carlos arrives and wishes to know why the castle is barred.
Silva refuses to surrender Ernani (Carlos’ aria: Lo vedremo, veglio
audace / “We shall see, you bold old man”) while Don Carlos’
men cannot find Ernani’s hiding place. Silva keeps his word, even when
the king secures Elvira as a hostage. Silva releases Ernani, and then
challenges him to a duel. Ernani refuses to fight with his saviour, but unites
with Silva in his plans to free Elvira from the king. Ernani swears to appear
at the summons of Silva, wherever he may be at that time (Odi il voto o grande
Iddio / “Oh God, hear the vow”) and the act ends with
Ernani’s aria of vengeance (Sprezzo la vita ne pi˘ m’alletta /
“Life means nothing to me, only hope of vengeance”).


In the burial vault of Charles the Great at Aachen

Carlos visits the grave of the emperor (Cavatina: Oh,
de’verd’anni miei/ “Oh, the dreams and deceits of my
youth”). Hiding behind the vault, he overhears a gathering of
conspirators including Silva and Ernani. Ernani swears to murder Carlos. The
conspiracy is foiled when Carlos’s attendants enter and surprise the
conspirators. The king commands that all the traitorous noblemen be executed.
Ernani steps forward, declaring that thus he must die too; he is not the bandit
Ernani, but Don Juan of Aragon, whose lands were taken from him. Elvira begs
mercy for her lover, and Carlos, whose mood has changed, forgives them both and
places Elvira’s hand in that of Ernani.

Act IV

Ernani’s Castle

Elvira and Ernani have just been married, when, in consternation, Ernani
hears a bugle call. Silva arrives and silently hands Ernani a dagger. Ernani
asks for time to “sip from the cup of love” (Ascolta, ascolta un
detto ancor/ “Listen, just one word…”) but, cursed by Silva as
coward, Ernani keeps his oath and stabs himself in the heart. (Trio with Silva:
E’ vano, o donna, il piangere, e vano / “Your weeping is in vain,

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image_description=Scene from Ernani
first_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani (m3u playlist)
second_audio_name=Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani (pls playlist)
product_title=Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani
product_by=Ernani: Mario Del Monaco; Don Carlo: Ettore Bastianini; Silva: Boris Christoff; Elvira: Anita Cerquetti; Giovanna: Luciana Boni; Riccardo: Athos Cesarini; Jago: Aurelian Neagu. Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Dimitri Mitropoulos, conducting. Florence, 14 June 1957.