The season, day by dayback to calendar
Opera seria in three parts
Libretto by Carlo Pepoli
First performed January 24 1835, Théâtre-Italien, Paris
Co-production with the Opéra Royal de Wallonie — Liège
Sung in Italian with German and English surtitles. ca. 3hrs 20mins, including one interval
Introduction, in German, in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
Paris, 1835 The funeral service for Vincenzo Bellini, the former nucleus of a polarised Parisien society, which he seduced with his music. A Gothic ball, featuring motifs from his last opera, I puritani, is taking place in memory of the shrouded in scandal composer. Those present experience and suffer the stormy events in a love story, acted out between the two enemy factions during the English civil war in the 1650s: Elvira, the Puritan Lord Valton's daughter, loves Arturo Talbo, a secret royalist. Wedding preparations are underway. Riccardo is desperate because Valton had originally promised him Elvira's hand in marriage. He bemoans his fate to his friend Bruno. Giorgio, Elvira's uncle, tells her that he has obtained her father's consent for her to marry Arturo. When Arturo arrives at his wedding, he realises that a prisoner who has been sentenced to death is Charles the First's widow, Henrietta. He helps her escape, wearing Elvira's bridal veil. Elvira, betrayed and abandoned by her beloved, loses her mind. INTERVAL Arturo is sentenced to death in absentia. Elvira has nothing left to live for. Giorgio hopes that some good news, like Arturo's pardon, might cure her madness. Giorgio tries to persuade Riccardo to save Arturo. Arturo secretly returns, and tries to convince Elvira of his fidelity. Elvira is suddenly aware of his betrayal. She acts. Arturo dies. The eccentric ball ends. Masks fall.
This story seemed to be just what the Europe wide, rampant Walter Scott craze wanted: I puritani was an enormous success in Paris – only a few months before the composer died, at the age of 34. Despite unlikely turns of events and sudden breaks, Bellini's ninth opera is considered a masterpiece. The lack of credibility in the story fades into insignificance in the face of Bellini's musical dramatical powers.