St Petersburg, Mariinsky II

I puritani


opera by Vincenzo Bellini

Performed in Italian (the performance will have synchronised Russian supertitles)
 

Performers

Conductor:

Valery Gergiev

Elvira: Albina Shagimuratova

Full cast to be announced at a later date

World premiere: 24 January 1835, Théâtre-Italien, Paris
Premiere at the Bolshoi (Kamennyi) Theatre: 19 October 1839, Imperial Russian Opera Company, Saint Petersburg
Premiere of this production: 6 February 2024


Running time: 3 hours
The performance has one interval

Age category 12+

Credits

Music by Vincenzo Bellini
Libretto by Count Carlo Pepoli, based on the play Têtes rondes et cavaliers written by Jacques-François Ancelot and Joseph Xavier Boniface, known as Saintine

Musical Director: Valery Gergiev
Director: Vladislav Furmanov
Set Designer, Costume Designer: Galina Filatova
Lighting Designer: Anton Nikolaev
Video Designer: Alexandra Agrinskaya
Stage Plastic Assistant Director: Maria Korableva
Musical Preparation: Grigory Yakerson
Chorus Master: Pavel Teplov

SYNOPSIS

The action unfolds in 1649, amid the English Civil War, near Plymouth.

Act One
The terrace of Lord Walton's castle welcomes the dawn and the guards change shifts. Officer Bruno Robertson joins the guards and morning prayers are heard. Today, Elvira, the daughter of General Governor Walter Walton commanding Cromwell's forces is to be wed. Guests gather for the celebration, including Sir Richard Forth, a colonel, who confesses to Robertson his dismay about the wedding as he was supposed to marry Elvira.
Meanwhile, Elvira in her chambers talks with Sir George Walton, her father's brother. Elvira loves Lord Arthur Talbot and is unaware that her betrothal to Richard Forth has been annulled. She is saddened by the impending marriage. Her uncle brings joyous news: he convinced his brother to give Elvira's hand to Arthur Talbot. Lord Walton's decision wasn't easy: his family are Puritans, whereas Arthur Talbot is a Royalist, a Stuart supporter. Arthur Talbot arrives at the castle with his entourage bearing luxurious bridal gifts, including a splendid bridal veil. Elvira, her father, and uncle accept the gifts and the guests praise the young couple. Among the guests is a noble lady, Walton's prisoner, a Royalist. The General Governor informs her that she must go to London to face Parliament. Arthur sympathizes with the prisoner, realizing she faces death as a Stuart supporter. The hosts and guests depart. The prisoner reveals her true identity to Arthur: she is Queen Henrietta, the widow of King Charles I, executed by the Puritans. Arthur decides to save the queen, hiding her under the bridal veil and attempting to lead her out of the castle disguised as his bride. Suddenly, their path is blocked by Richard. The colonel, mistaking the veiled figure for Elvira but upon seeing Henrietta, lets them pass. The hosts and guests return, shocked by the events. Elvira loses her sanity.

Act Two
A room in the castle. George tells the guests about Elvira's madness. Richard brings news of Parliament's death sentence for Arthur Talbot. Everyone curses the traitor. Elvira appears, mistaking her uncle for her father, and Richard for her fiancé. George believes only a reunion with Arthur can restore Elvira's sanity and convinces Richard to save his rival for Elvira's sake.

Act Three
A garden near the castle. Arthur, having escaped from prison, seeks a reunion with his bride. Elvira appears, still insane. At the moment of their reunion, her sanity returns. Arthur explains his actions: he fled the fortress to save the queen, but his heart belongs to Elvira. Cromwell's soldiers seek the fugitive, and Arthur wants to flee with his bride. The castle guests, George, and Richard gather at the noise. Arthur is captured, and Elvira is prepared to die with him. Suddenly, a messenger arrives, handing George a letter from Cromwell. The revolutionary leader's message proclaims the Stuarts defeated and enemies pardoned. The Puritans praise their wise leader, and Arthur and Elvira rejoice in their happiness.


"To make the listener 'weep, shudder, die' – this is how Vincenzo Bellini defined the essence of opera singing to the libretto Carlo Pepoli. In 1834 in Paris two Italians – a young ambitious composer and an emigrant poet – collaborated on the text for the opera I Puritani, drawing inspiration from the recently staged play by François Ancelot and Joseph Xavier Boniface (known as Scribe), Têtes rondes et Cavaliers. This opera would become the final triumph of the prematurely departed bel canto master. On January 24, 1835 at the Italian Theatre in Paris, as Bellini wrote, 'the whole audience went mad, such noise, such shouts, it was astonishing to witness the temperament of the public.' This marked the start of I Puritani's stage history with a performance in St Petersburg as early as 1840.

I Puritani has everything to captivate the Parisian audience. The plot unfolds against a colorful historical backdrop: mid-17th century England during the civil war, where republican Protestants clash with Catholic royalists. The leading love pair comprises representatives of the warring factions: a soprano – a Cromwell supporter, and a tenor – a Stuart sympathizer. Their happiness hangs by a thread, the path to it thorny: alleged betrayal, escape, madness, arrest, death sentence, a storm; yet, in the nick of time, the authors rescue their protagonists, culminating in a happy ending. A brief synopsis of I Puritani brings to mind Bellini's famous aphorism: 'A good musical drama is something that makes no sense.' I Puritani is an excellent musical drama, where the plot provides the composer with emotionally intense situations. The music of I Puritani not only equals Bellini's previous masterpieces but also takes a step forward, touching upon the new genre of French grand opera. It features not only sublime vocal beauties but also a luxurious differentiated orchestra, powerful choral scenes, and continuous dramatic scene development. I Puritani is one of the most challenging operas to perform in the entire history of the genre. Composed for great voices, for the celebrated 'Puritan quartet' of Giulia Grisi, Giovanni Rubini, Antonio Tamburini, and Luigi Lablache, this music still demands from vocalists extraordinary virtuosity, mastery of the technique of Italian bel canto, and a vast range – just consider the extremely high notes of D and F for the tenor in the third act. The Mariinsky troupe has already demonstrated its prowess in other Bellini works – the operas I Capuleti e i Montecchi, La Sonnambula, Beatrice di Tenda, and Norma, performed in recent years at the Concert Hall of the theatre. Now, with I Puritani on the playbill, another major gem will adorn the Bellinian collection." – Khristina Batyushina


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