Giuseppe Verdi

Ernani, opera

    Description by John Palmer

    In June, 1843, Verdi signed a contract with the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, for a new opera; it would be his fifth work for the stage and his first for a theater other than Milan's La Scala. Verdi persuaded the young poet Francesco Maria Piave to write a libretto based on Victor Hugo's play, Hernani, of 1830. Ernani would be the first of Verdi and Piave's many collaborations, and was very popular from its first performance on March 9, 1844. Ernani represents a turning point in Verdi's career. Because his previous operas had been composed for La Scala, he had grown accustomed to writing works for a large stage appropriate for immense choral scenes. For the significantly smaller La Fenice, Verdi had to develop a more intimate drama focusing on personal conflict and confrontation. To do this, he had to compose in a different way, leading him to alter the traditional set "numbers" of Italian opera.

    One of Verdi's innovative strokes happens early in Ernani. In the first scene of Act One, Ernani describes his love for Elvira, whom he wants to steal from Don de Silva, her fiancé. The cavatina is organized in the traditional double-aria format, but Verdi extends the first half, "Come rugiada al cespite," distorting its proportions in order to convey Ernani's obsession with Silva. Elvira's cavatina in the next scene is similarly expanded. The later duet between Elvira and Don Carlos is one of the first examples of what would become a common formula for Verdi's duets: the first half is recitative-like in its quick text declamation, with melodic continuity provided by the orchestra. In the second part the characters have contrasting melodies -- Carlos' lyrical and Elvira's aggressive -- representing their dissimilar feelings. Most impressive is the "Recitative e Terzo" in the middle of Act Two. A disguised Ernani confronts Elvira and Silva; the resulting trio is primarily a combination of solos by Ernani and a duet for Elvira and Ernani. Later in the act, when Ernani makes his foolish, deadly deal with Silva, brass instruments intone a passage that first appeared in the overture and will sound again, at the close of the drama. The high point of the third act is Carlos' aria, "O de' verd'anni miei," in which he, waiting to learn if he has been elected Holy Roman Emperor, tells himself he must change and become an upright person. As the aria progresses, the florid style of Carlos' previous music gives way to broader, more confident expression. Verdi comes full circle in the finale of Act Four, in which Ernani must commit suicide in accordance with his pact with Silva. As Silva reminds him of the deal, the solemn brass chords return to prod Ernani toward his death.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Prelude
    2. No. 2, Evviva! beviam! beviam!
    3. No. 3a, Merce, dilette amici
    4. No. 3b, Come rugiada al cespite
    5. No. 3c, O tu che l'alma adora
    6. No. 4a, Surta è la notte
    7. No. 4b, Ernani! Ernani, involami
    8. No. 4c, Tutto sprezzo che d'Ernani
    9. No. 5a, Fa che a me venga
    10. No. 5b, Qui mi trasse amor possente
    11. No. 5c, Da quel di che t'ho veduta
    12. No. 6, Tu se', Ernani!
    13. No. 7a, Che mai vegg'io!
    14. No. 7b, Infelice! E tu credevi
    15. No. 7c, L'offeso onor, signori
    16. No. 8, Vedi come il buon vegliardo
    17. No. 9, Esultiamo, Letzia ne'inondi
    18. No. 10, Oro, quant'oro ogn'avido
    19. No. 11, Ah, morir
    20. No. 12, No, vendetta piu tremeda
    21. No. 13a, Cugino, a che munito
    22. No. 13b, Lo vedremo, o veglio audace
    23. No. 14, Vieni meco, sol di rose
    24. No. 15, A te, scegli, seguimi!
    25. No. 16a, Prelude
    26. No. 16b, E questo il loco
    27. No. 17a, Gran Dio!
    28. No. 17b, Oh, de' verd'anni miei
    29. No. 18a, Un patto!
    30. No. 19, O sommo Carlo
    31. No. 20, Oh, come felici
    32. No. 21a, Tutto ora tace inforno
    33. No. 21b, Soligno, errante e misero

    Appears On

    Year Title / Performer Label / Catalog # AllMusic Rating
    2016
    Sony Classical
    88985311342
    2015
    Myto Devotion / Myto Records / Myto Records
    MYT 0337
    2013
    Orfeo
    C 861132i
    2013
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099941674
    2012
    Krescendo Records / Zebralution
    2012
    EMI Classics / Warner Classics
    5099931926
    2010
    Avi-Music
    8553170
    2009
    Myto Records / Myto Records
    149
    2009
    Fonit-Cetra Records
    2008
    Deutsche Grammophon
    004400734458
    2008
    Opera D'Oro
    7051
    2008
    Decca
    4757008
    2008
    Nuova Era
    223303
    2008
    Decca
    743228
    2007
    EMI Classics
    81884
    2007
    Opera D'Oro
    1468
    2006
    Dynamic
    496/1-2
    2006
    Gala Records
    773
    2005
    Myto Records
    51304
    2004
    Myto Records
    41288
    2004
    Myto Records
    44299
    2002
    Warner Fonit
    82650
    2002
    Opera Legacies
    6003
    2002
    Living Stage
    35154
    2001
    Opera D'Oro
    1287
    2001
    Nuova Era
    7028
    2001
    Chandos
    3052
    2000
    EMI Music Distribution
    67449
    2000
    Bel Canto Society
    BCS5011
    2000
    Arkadia
    78069
    2000
    Myto Records
    MCD004230
    2000
    Myto Records
    981179
    1999
    Living Stage
    LS 34710
    1998
    London
    421 412-2DHO2
    1997
    Opera D'Oro
    1132
    1995
    Pantheon
    6634.35
    1987
    RCA
    86503
    1987
    RCA
    6503
    1985
    EMI Music Distribution
    47083
    Golden Age of Opera
    131
    Great Opera Performances
    702
    Melodram
    270100
    Disky
    759
    Fonit-Cetra Italia
    39
    EMI Music Distribution
    47082
    Serenissima
    360183
    Mondo Musica
    10331
    Hungaroton
    12259
    Arkadia
    621