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Opera in four acts
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on Ángel de Saavedra's play Don Alvaro o La fuerza del sino (1835)
First performed November 10 1862, Bolschoi Theatre, St. Petersburg
Sung in Italian with German & English surtitles. c. 3hrs 15 mins, including interval
Introduction, in German, in the Holzfoyer 30 minutes before performances begin
Sc. 1 The Marchese of Calatrava has forbidden his daughter Leonora to have any further contact with her beloved Alvaro, whose origins are non-White. Leonora and Alvaro's attempt to run away together is foiled by her father. A shot is fired during the confrontation, killing him. Leonora and Alvaro flee. Sc. 2 Leonora and Alvaro became separated during their escape. Leonora, searching for Alvaro, dressed as a man, finds herself in an inn where recruits are being enlisted for an imminent war. In the midst of the belligerent throng she realises that her brother Carlo, disguised as a student, is hunting for Alvaro, to avenge his father's death. Sc. 3 Leonora, believing she has lost Alvaro forever, begs to be admitted to a monastery. After initial hesitation Padre Guardiano, the prior, grants her wish. During a solemn ceremony, his fellow monks swear to support Leonora during her process of purification. Interval Sc. 4 Alvaro and Carlo have joined the army, under false names – Alvaro, because he thinks he has lost Leonora forever; Carlo, because he has given up hope of finding Alvaro. Without knowing who the other one is the two men – despite their different colouring – become friends. But when Carlo discovers Alvaro's true identity he sees his time for revenge has come. The friends become bitter enemies, ready to fight to the death. Alvaro, believing he has killed Carlo, is desolate. Sc. 5 Alvaro has given up his old way of life and, as „Padre Raffaele“, now dedicates himself entirely to brotherly love. But Carlo, who survived, despite being badly wounded, tracks him down and challenges him to a duel. Carlo refuses to rise to Alvaro's provocations and tries to make peace. But when Carlo calls him a „half-breed“, he demands satisfaction. Sc. 6 Leonora had withdrawn to an isolated place. When, by chance, Alvaro and Carlo find her, a bloody showdown takes place. Tobias Kratzer
The settings in this multi-facetted story, spanning half a century, leap about between Calatrava's noble home in Seville, Hornachuelos, a village in Adalusia, a monastery and nearby hermitage, various places on battlefields in central Italy and the Albanian mountains.
In this work from his mature period, written for St Petersburg in 1862, Verdi combined, inspired by French grand opéra, a highly dramatic story with theatrical scenes in a tavern, military camp and monastery. There are also showcases for the episodic figures of the fortune teller and troops entertainer Preziosilla, the Father Superior Padre Guariano and monk Fra Melitone, a comic figure. Racism is a central theme in the work, the brutalisation of society in times of war, another. The so called „destiny motif“, insistent, nervous can be heard right at the beginning. How far blind fate can be held responsible for the tragic events and not the protagonists is an open question. This extravagant work, with unusually modern dramaturgy, contains many of Verdi's most inspired music, which carries the listener away.
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