The Sicilian Vespers

Synopsis

Place: Palermo, Italy

Time: 1282

 

Prior to the events of the opera, Procida, a leading Sicilian patriot, was wounded by French troops during their invasion of Sicily, and was forced into exile. Montfort, leader of the French troops, raped a Sicilian woman who later gave birth to a son, Henri. Montfort became governor of Sicily, while the Sicilian woman brought up her son to hate him, without revealing to Henri that Montfort was his father.

 

Act 1

Palermo's main square

Thibault, Robert and other French soldiers have gathered in front of the Governor's palace. As they offer a toast to their homeland, they are observed by the local Sicilians, unhappy with the occupation.

Hélène, who is being held hostage by the French governor, Montfort, enters dressed in mourning for her brother, Duke Frédéric of Austria, who had been executed by the French exactly a year before and whose death remains unavenged. Somewhat drunk, Robert, a French soldier of low rank, demands that she sing and she agrees. Her song about the prayers of seamen (Viens à nous, Dieu tutélaire – "Pray, O mighty God, calm with thy smile both sky and sea") and God's reply of "let dangers be scorned" ends with a rallying-cry (Courage!… du courage!) to the Sicilians to rebel against the occupiers. When the governor enters, the crowd calms down. Henri, just released from prison, assures Hélène how deeply he despises the governor. Overhearing this, Montfort orders Hélène to leave and then, alone with Henri, offers him a powerful position with his men as long as he stays away from Hélène. He refuses, and immediately follows Hélène into the palace.

 

Act 2

Beside the sea

Procida lands on the shore from a small fishing boat. It is clear that he is returning from exile and he expresses his joy at returning to his native land and city (Et toi, Palerme – "O thou Palermo, adored land…"). He is surrounded by Mainfroid and other companions and he quickly orders his men to bring Hélène and Henri to him (Dans l'ombre et le silence – "In darkness and in silence"). The three make plans for an uprising during the impending festivities leading to the marriages of a group of young people. After Procida leaves, Hélène asks Henri what reward he seeks. Swearing that he will avenge her brother's death, he asks for nothing but her love.

Béthune arrives with an invitation from Montfort to attend a ball. Henri refuses and is arrested and dragged off. Led by Robert, a group of French soldiers arrive and Procida returns and sees that it is too late to save Henri, since the young people have come into the square and have begun to dance. As the dance becomes more lively, Robert signals to his men, who seize many of the young women, dragging them off in spite of the protests of the young Sicilian men. The dejected young men witness a passing boat filled with French nobles and Sicilian women, all bound for the ball. Procida and others determine to gain entrance to the ball and seek their revenge.

 

Act 3

Scene 1: Montfort's palace

Montfort reads a paper from the woman whom he abducted, which reveals that Henri is his son (Si, m'abboriva ed a ragion! – "Yes, she despised me, and rightly!"). Béthune tells him that Henri has been brought by force, but Montfort exalts in the fact that his son is close by (Au sein de la puissance – "Given over to riches, surrounded by honors, an immense, horrid void…"). The two men confront one another and Henri is somewhat puzzled by the way he is being treated. Finally, Montfort reveals the letter written by Henri's mother. Taken aback but still defiant, Henri insults his father who reacts in anger as the younger man rushes out: "Fatal word!, Mortal insult! The joy has vanished ...".

Scene 2: A ball at Montfort's palace

When Montfort enters, he gives the signal for the ballet to begin. In the crowd, but disguised, are Hélène, Henri, and Procida. Henri is surprised when the two reveal themselves and they declare that their purpose is to save the young man. However, he is disturbed to hear that they intend to kill Montfort and when the father approaches the son, there is a hint of warning given. As approaching assassins close in, Henri leaps in front of his father just as Hélène approaches. The Sicilians are horrified to see that Henri is being spared as the ensemble contemplates the situation. Hélène, Procida, Daniéli and the Sicilians curse Henri as they are dragged away, while he wants to follow, but is restrained by Montfort.

 

Act 4

A prison

Henri arrives at the prison gate and, on Montfort's orders, waits to be admitted. He contemplates the situation that his friends are in (O jour de peine – Day of weeping, of fierce sorrow!"). Hélène is brought out and confronts him. Finally, he admits that Montfort is his father and she begins to be willing to sympathise (Henri! Ah, parli a un core… – "Henri! Ah, you speak to a heart already prepared to forgive") Not seeing Henri, Procida approaches Hélène and reveals a letter telling him of awaiting freedom. But Montfort arrives and orders a priest and the execution of the prisoners while Procida is amazed to discover the truth of Henri's situation. Henri begs for mercy for his friends and Montfort confronts him with one thing: Dimmi sol, di’ “Mio padre” – "Say to me only, say “My father” ...". Henri says nothing as the executioner appears and the couple are led away, followed by Henri. Montfort steps in to prevent him from joining them. As Hélène is led towards the executioner, Montfort steps in and announces a pardon for the Sicilians. Furthermore, he agrees to the marriage of Hélène and Henri and announces to the crowd: "I find a son again!". There is general rejoicing.

 

Act 5

The gardens of Montfort's palace

As knights and maidens gather, Hélène gives thanks to all (Merci, jeunes amies – "Thank you, beloved friends"). Henri arrives, exclaiming his joy (La brise souffle au loin – "The breeze hovers about…"). He leaves to find his father, but Procida arrives, announcing a plan to outwit his enemies with their massacre to take place at the foot of the altar after the vows have been said. She is torn, the more so following Henri's return, between her love and her duty (Sorte fatal! Oh, fier cimento! – "Fatal destiny! Oh, fierce conflict!"). Finally, she can go no further and she tells Henri that they cannot be married. Both men are furious with her for her seeming betrayal. Then Montfort arrives, takes the couple's hands, joins them together, and pronounces them married as the bells begin to ring. This is the signal for the Sicilians to rush in and hurl themselves upon Montfort and the French.

Program and cast

Music: Giuseppe Verdi


Grand-Opéra in fivee acts
Libretto by Scribe and Charles Duveyrier


First performed at Teatro dell’Opéra in Paris, on 13 June 1855
Conductor: Daniele Gatti
Director: Valentina Carrasco

 

CHORUS MASTER: Roberto Gabbiani
SET DESIGNER: Richard Peduzzi
COSTUME DESIGNER: Luis Carvalho                                            
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Peter Van Praet  
CHOREOGRAPHER: Massimiliano Volpini

 
CAST


Guy de Montfort: Roberto Frontali

Le sire de Béthune: Dario Russo

Le comte de Vaudemont: Andrii Ganchuk*

Henri: John Osborn

Jean Procida: Michele Pertusi / Alessio Cacciamani

La duchesse Héléne: Roberta Mantegna

Ninetta: Irida Dragoti*

Danieli: Francesco Pittari

Thibault: Saverio Fiore

Robert: Alessio Verna


* after the project “Fabbrica” Young Artist Program of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma


Teatro dell’Opera di Roma Orchestra, Chorus and Corps de Ballet

New production

sung in French with Italian and English surtitles

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Teatro dell'Opera di Roma - Teatro Costanzi

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The Teatro dell'Opera, from its building (1879), at Domenico Costanzi’s request (1810-1898), and 1926, when it was bought by the then Governor of RomE, bore the name of Domenico Costanzi, building contractor and impresario, who committed the building to the Milanese architect Achille Sfondrini (1836-1900), specialized in theatre building and renovation. Built in 18 months on the area prevIously occupied by Heliogabalus’ villa, it was inaugurated on November 27th, 1880 with Semiramide by G. Rossini, conducted by the Maestro Giovanni Rossi, in the presence of the King and Queen of Italy.


Sfrondini’s design privileges the acoustic effect, by conceiving the interior structure as a "resonance chamber": as is particularly evident from the horseshoe shape. At the beginning, the theatre, with a seating capacity of 2,212 spectators, had three tiers of boxes, an amphitheatre, a gallery. All was surmounted by a dome with splendid frescoes by Annibale Brugnoli.


Costanzi invested all his personal assets in the venture. However, due to the despotic refusal of the City Council to redeem the theatre, Costanzi was obliged to manage it himself. Despite the fact that he had to deal with huge financial problems, under his management the opera house held many world premières of such operas as Cavalleria Rusticana (on May 17th, 1890) and L'Amico Fritz(October 31st 1891), both by Pietro Mascagni, who then became very well known.


For a brief period, the theatre was managed by the founder's son, Enrico Costanzi, who contributed to other great premières: Tosca by Giacomo Puccini (January 14th, 1900) and Le Maschere (January 17th, 1901). In 1907, the Teatro Costanzi was managed by the impresario Walter Mocchi (1870-1955) on behalf of the Società Teatrale Internazionale e Nazionale (STIN).


In 1912 Emma Carelli (1877-1928), Mocchi's wife, became the managing director of the new «Impresa Costanzi», named as such following various changes in the company structure. With Rome City Council’s purchase of Costanzi company, the theatre became “Teatro Reale dell'Opera” and a partial rebuilding was commissioned to the architect Marcello Piacentini. Closed on November 15th, 1926, it was re-opened on February 27th, 1928 with the opera Nerone by Arrigo Boito, conducted by the Maestro Gino Marinuzzi.


With the advent of the Republic, the theatre gained the current name of Teatro dell'Opera. In 1958, the building was further remodeled and modernised at the request of the Rome City Council. In over a century, the Teatro dell’Opera has seen its prestige increase internationally. During the several seasons, the most acclaimed voices worldwide followed one another: Enrico Caruso; Beniamino Gigli; Aureliano Pertile; Giacomo Lauri-Volpi; Claudia Muzio; Maria Caniglia; Maria Callas; Renata Tebaldi; Montserrat Caballé; Marilyn Horne; Raina Kabaivanska; Mario Del Monaco; Franco Corelli; Giuseppe Di Stefano; Tito Gobbi; Alfredo Kraus; Ruggero Raimondi; José Carreras; Placido Domingo and Luciano Pavarotti. Among the finest conductors, we can mention Otto Klemperer, Arturo Toscanini, Victor De Sabata, Marinuzzi,Vittorio Gui, Tullio Serafin, Von Karajan, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, Carlo Maria Giulini, Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado, Georges Prêtre, Zubin Mehta, Lorin Maazel, Mstislav Rostropovich, Giuseppe Patanè, Giuseppe Sinopoli, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Nino Sanzogno, Gianluigi Gelmetti and since 2008 the Maestro Riccardo Muti.

 

How to reach Teatro dell'Opera

Piazza Beniamino Gigli, 7


METRO
Linea A -  REPUBBLICA TEATRO DELL'OPERA stop

BUS
Via Nazionale - H, 40, 60, 64, 70, 71, 170, 116T
Via Depretis - 70, 71
Via Cavour - 16, 75, 84, 150 (festivo), 360, 590, 649, 714
Stazione Termini - 16, 38, 75, 86, 90, 217, 310, 360, 649, 714

TAXI
phone number  - 06.3570

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