Vincenzo Bellini

I puritani (The Puritans) is an opera in by Vincenzo Bellini. It was originally written in two acts and later changed to three acts on the advice of Gioachino Rossini, with whom the young composer had become friends. The music was set to a libretto by Count Carlo Pepoli, an Italian émigré poet whom Bellini had met at a salon run by the exile Princess Belgiojoso, which became a meeting place for many Italian revolutionaries.
 

The subject was Têtes Rondes et Cavalieres (Roundheads and Cavaliers), written by Jacques-François Ancelot and Joseph Xavier Saintine, which some sources state was based on Walter Scott's novel Old Mortality, while others state that there is no connection.
 

When Bellini arrived in Paris in mid-August 1833, he had intended to stay only about three weeks, the main aim being to continue the negotiations with the Paris Opéra which had begun on his way to London a few months earlier. However, these negotiations came to nothing, but by October he had decided to spend the winter in that city, especially as both Il pirata and I Capuleti e i Montecchi were to be given by the Théâtre-Italien that season.
 

The offer from the Théâtre came in January 1834; he accepted because "the pay was richer than what I had received in Italy up to then, though only by a little; then because of so magnificent a company; and finally so as to remain in Paris at others' expense."
 

Taking from April until its premiere the following January, Bellini had time to ensure that the opera was as close to perfection as possible. After the premiere, Bellini reported to his friend Francesco Florimo in Naples that:
 

The French had all gone mad; there were such noise and such shouts that they themselves were astonished at being so carried away ... In a word, my dear Florimo, it was an unheard of thing, and since Saturday, Paris has spoken of it in amazement.
 

It was to be Bellini's final work; he died in September 1835 at the age of 33.

Vincenzo Bellini - The Puritans

Roles

I PURITANI
(The Puritans)

 

Opera in three acts by Vincenzo Bellini with libretto in Italian by Count Carlo Pepoli based on the French drama Tites Rondes et Cavaliers by Frangois Ancelot and Xavier Boniface Saintine, which was based, in a vague way, on Sir Walter Schott's novel Old Mortality

LORD GUALTIERO VALTON
SIR GIORGIO VALTON, his brother
ELVIRA VALTON, his daughter
SIR RICCARDO FORTO, a suitor
ENRICHETTA, widow of Charles I
LORD ARTURO TALBO, engaged to Elvira


 

Time: 1650’s
Place: Plymouth, England
First performance at Paris, January 25, 1835

Characters

Lord Gualtiero Walton:

 

Bass. A Puritan, father of Elvira. He wants her to marry a Puritan, but she loves the Cavalier Arturo. Created (1835) by Luigi Profeti.

I PURITANI (Murilo Neves - Lord Gualtiero Valton)

Sir Giorgio Walton:

 

Bass. Brother of Gualtiero and uncle of Elvira. He is a retired Puritan colonel. He persuades his brother to allow Elvira to marry the man she loves, the Cavalier Arturo. Created (1835) by Luigi Lablache.

Elvira Walton:

 

Soprano. Daughter of Gualtiero. She loves the Cavalier Arturo, but is being forced to marry the Puritan Riccardo. Arturo in his efforts to save the French widowed Queen, escapes with her. Elvira, thinking he has deserted her, becomes unbalanced. In a famous mad scene she imagines being married to Arturo. When he returns he is sentenced to death. This shocks Elvira into recovery and she and Arturo are united. Aria (Mad Scene): Qui la voce sua soave (‘It was here his sweet voice’). Created (1835) by Giulia Grisi.

Montserrat Caballé - Qui La Voce Sua Soave - I Puritani

Sir Riccardo Forth:

 

Baritone. A Puritan colonel, chosen as Elvira's husband but rejected by her in favour of a Cavalier, Arturo. Created (1835) by Antonio Tamburini.

Enrichetta di Francia:

 

Soprano. Henrietta Maria of France, widowed queen of King Charles I of England. She is helped to escape by Arturo. Created (1835) by Mlle Amigo

Maria Callas - Norma - Casta Diva - Bellini - 1954

Lord Arturo Talbot:
 

Tenor. Lord Arturo Talbot, a Cavalier in love with Elvira, daughter of a prominent Puritan. When he helps the French widowed Queen escape, Elvira thinks he is deserting her and goes mad. As he returns, the shock of hearing he is sentenced to death jolts her back to normality.They are united as the end of the Civil War is announced. Aria: A te o cara ("To you, beloved"). Created (1835) by Giovanni Battista Rubini.

Bellini - I puritani - A te, o cara, amor talora

Elvira - Szűcs Márta
Lord Arturo Talbo - Klein Ottokár
Sir Giorgio - Clementis Tamás
Lord Gualtiero Valton - Andrássy Frigyes

Conductor : Kovács János

Hungarian State Opera House, Budapest
27th January 2003

                                        Synopsis

 

ACT I
 

In the seventeenth-century days of Cromwell the Puritans are fighting the Cavaliers, supporters of the Stuarts. The Puritan Governor General, Lord Gualtiero Valton (that is, Walter Walton) has the widow of Charles I as bis prisoner. Enrichetta (Henrietta) is her name, and her presence in the castle complicates our plot. Its principal theme is a sort of Abie's Irish Rose, or Romeo and Juliet, story: Valton's daughter, Elvira, is in love with a dashing royalist named Lord Arturo Talbo, and in the opening scenes of Act I, Elvira's father is persuaded to let her marry Arturo. Unfortunately, she is already engaged to a Puritan warrior named Riccardo—and Riccardo is a baritone to be reckoned with. Nevertheless, preparations are being made for the wedding, when Valton announces that Enrichetta has been summoned to London. At once Arturo realizes that this means she may meet the fate of Charles, who was beheaded. Despite his pending marriage to Elvira, he resolves to save his Queen, and he gallantly offers her his services when the others have departed. After this duet Elvira enters, accompanied by her beloved uncle Giorgio and others, and sings her happy aria Son vergin yezzosa.

When she leaves her bridal veil with Enrichetta, Arturo sees his chance: disguised in the veil, Enrichetta can escape with him. Just as they are about to leave, Riccardo stops them; but when he sees what is happening—his rival for Elvira running away on his wedding day—he helps them to get out. A minute later the escape is discovered, and great excitement ensues as soldiers are sent after them. As for Elvira—she does as any coloratura soprano of the 1830's would do: she goes completely insane. The act ends with her singing about her imagined wedding while everyone else comments musically on how sad it all is and curses the defaulting Arturo.

I Puritani - Bellini - Ato I - 1ª parte 

Cast:
Elvira: Laryssa Alvarazi
Arturo: Cleyton Pulzi
Riccardo: Vinicius Atique
Giorgio: Savio Sperandio
Enricheta: Andreia Souza
Gualtiero: Murilo Neves
Bruno: Enrique Bravo

Conductor: Federico Sardella

ACT II

There is little dramatic action in Act II, but some of the finest Bellini music. In the opening scene Giorgio describes the distressing symptoms of Elvira's madness to a sympathetic chorus. Presently they are joined by Riccardo, the man she had deserted for Arturo. And then Elvira herself enters to sing the splendid Qui la voce sua soave. “Her face," to quote the stage directions, "her eyes, and every step and gesture reveal her madness." It is quite as fine a mad scene as the more celebrated one in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, an opera produced the same year as I Puritani and also featuring a Scottish maiden who goes mad. Only, this time there is no flute obbligato. Instead Elvira answers questions of her companions, and she identifies her uncle as her father and Riccarao as Arturo.

The balance of the act is given over to a martial duet between Giorgio and Riccarda (Suoni la tromba) in which they swear to fight faithfully on the side of the Puritans against the Cavaliers.

I Puritani - Bellini - Ato I - 2ª parte

ACT III

The fugitive hero, Arturo, has secretly returned to the home of his beloved in Plymouth. He is being hunted by the Puritan

soldiers, who are heard passing by. However, he manages to escape, while off-stage is now heard the voice of the demented heroine singing a plaintive ballad (A una fonta afflitto). Arturo decides to answer, and she responds to his serenade by appearing herselt. A long and very difficult duet follows. Arturo explains why he had deserted Elvira on their wedding day: it was only to save his Queen. Reassured, Elvira's teetering mind begins to regain its balance. Unfortunately, at that moment they are discovered—and she goes mad once more. Practically everyone demands that Arturo be at once arrested and sentenced to death. Only Giorgio and Riccardo try to defend him, for they know that if Arturo should die, the beloved Elvira will not survive him long. Yet—as everyone expresses his own emotions simultaneously, an extraordinarily fine ensemble number develops.

Then—just ninety seconds before the opera is over—a message is received: the Stuarts have been defeated. And so Arturo is pardoned, Elvira regains her senses, and everyone lives happily ever after.

I Puritani - Bellini - Ato II
Bellini's I Puritani in it's Original unabridged version performed at the XVI Amazonas Opera Festival.

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