Vincenzo Bellini: Zaira

Music composed by Vincenzo Bellini. Libretto by Felice Romani based on
Voltaire’s ZaÔre (1732).

First Performance: Parma, Teatro Ducale, 16 May 1829

Principal Roles:
Zaira, slave of the Sultan Soprano
Orosmane, Sultan of Jerusalem Bass
Nerestano, brother of Zaira Mezzo-soprano
Corasmino, vizier Tenor
Lusignano, father of Zaira and Nerestano Bass
Castiglione Tenor
Fatima Soprano
Meledor, official of the Sultan Bass


Act I

A magnificent gallery leading into the Harem; underground hall leading
into the prisons; the inside of the Harem.

The beautiful slave Zaira is about to marry Orosmane, the Sultan of
Jerusalem; there is a celebration in the harem, and odalisks and eunuchs dance
and sing in his honor. The vizier Corasmino sees the Sultan’s decision to
marry a Christian woman as an insult to Koranic law, especially at a time when
their French enemies are about to descend on them; he therefore intends to
prevent the wedding. Fatima, another slave in the harem, asks Zaira how she
could have forgotten France and the French warrior who swore to free her, and
renounced her Christian faith: but Zaira reminds her that she has had no news of that
warrior since he returned to France, and that she now loves Orosmane, who loves
her in return . Meanwhile the French knight Nerestano arrives at the
Sultan’s court with the intention freeing Zaira: he was himself a prisoner of Orosmane but he was released: he learns however that the woman
now loves Orosmane and has chosen the Muslim faith. and that the Sultan intends
to release only the French knights who are still in his prisons but neither
Zaira nor old Lusignano, a prince descended from the ancient Christian kings of
Jerusalem and therefore hated by the Muslims. When they learn this, the
prisoners decide to forego their freedom and accept the same fate as Lusignano.
Zaira appears with Lusignano, whose freedom she has managed to obtain from
Orosmane. By a necklace and a scar Lusignano recognizes Zaira and Nerestano as
his daughter and son, who survived the massacre of Cesarea as children and were
enslaved by the Muslims. When he discovers that Zaira has renounced her faith
and is about in marry Orosmane, he orders her to repent and re-embrace
Christianity: Zaira swears that she will do so.

Corasmino alerts the Sultan to the dangers which could arise from Lusignano
return to Europe, but Orosmane does not want to refuse Zaira’s request.
Meanwhile Nerestano in his turn attempts to persuade Zaira to end her liaison
with the hated Sultan, reminding her that her old father is about to die of
grief. Zaira does not wish to betray her love and Orosmane’s trust, but
in the end she embraces her brother and decides to return to the Christian
faith. The Sultan arrives and. when Zaira requests a postponement of the
wedding, he suspects that Nerestano is a seducer and orders him. to leave the

Act II

Zaira’s rooms; a remote place near the quarters of the French
knights; a hall of the Harem; a remote part of the Harem gardens.

Fatima encourages Zaira to forget Orosmane, who is so indignant at
Zaira’s refusal that he wants to send her back among the slaves in the
harem and find a woman more worthy of his love. Faced with Zaira’s tears,
he asks for an explanation which she, bound by her promise to her brother,
cannot give him at that moment. Orosmane agrees to wait one more day. Lusignano
has died, and Nerestano blames his sister. The French knights ask Orosmane to
postpone their departure so that they can comply with Lusignano’s wish to
be buried in that land; the Sultan, out of love for Zaira, grants the request
and pays no heed to warnings from Corasmino, who suspects that the request
conceals a trick and who shows him a message in which Nerestano asks Zaira to
meet him secretly. Orosmane is still doubtful and decides to test her: he will
however have the secret message delivered to her. Zaira reads her
brother’s letter and is torn between torment at having to betray the
trust of her beloved and grief over her father’s death, for which she
feels guilty. She faints into Fatima’s arms.

In a remote part of the harem gardens Orosmane and Corasmino are waiting to
see if Zaira will go to the appointment with Nerestano. The pair arrive and
Orosmane, seeing them ready to flee and believing them to be lovers, fatally
wounds Zaira. At the revelation that they are brother and sister, he is
overcome with grief and kills himself.

image_description=Vincenzo Bellini [Source: Wikipedia]
first_audio_name=Vincenzo Bellini: Zaira
product_title=Vincenzo Bellini: Zaira
product_by=Zaira: Ermonela Jaho; Nerestano: Varduhi Abrahamyan; Corasmino: Shalva Mukeria; Orosmane: Wenwei Zhang; Lusignano: Gezim Myshketa; Castiglione: Franck Bard; Fatima: Marianne Crebassa. Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc Roussillon. Choeur de la Radio Lettone. Conductor: Enrique Mazzola. Live performance, Montpellier, Le Corum, OpÈra Berlioz, 13 July 2009.
product_id=Above: Vincenzo Bellini [Source: Wikipedia]