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Opera by Giuseppe Verdi
(Originally Stiffelio of 1850)
Talisman image cropped.png
A scene from Walter Scott's The Talisman
Librettist Francesco Maria Piave
Based on Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Harold: the Last of the Saxon Kings and Walter Scott's The Betrothed
16 August 1857 (1857-08-16)
Teatro Nuovo Comunale, Rimini

Aroldo (Italian pronunciation:  [aˈrɔldo] ) is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on and adapted from their earlier 1850 collaboration, Stiffelio . The first performance was given in the Teatro Nuovo Comunale in Rimini on 16 August 1857.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Giuseppe Verdi 19th-century Italian opera composer

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was an Italian opera composer. He was born near Busseto to a provincial family of moderate means, and developed a musical education with the help of a local patron. Verdi came to dominate the Italian opera scene after the era of Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, whose works significantly influenced him. By his 30s, he had become one of the pre-eminent opera composers in history.

Libretto text used for an extended musical work

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.


Composition history

Stiffelio had provoked the censorship board because of “the immoral and rough” storylines of a Protestant minister deceived by his wife and also because making the characters German did not please an Italian audience, although, as Budden notes, the opera "enjoyed a limited circulation (in Italy), but with the title changed to Guglielmo Wellingrode, the main protagonist now a German minister of state". [1] Verdi had rejected an 1852 request to write a new last act for the Wellingrode version, [1] but, by Spring 1856, in collaboration with his original librettist, Piave, he decided to rewrite the story line and make a small amount of musical changes and additions. [2] However, as it turned out, the work was to be more complex than that.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Harold, the Last of the Saxons (1848) was the source for Aroldo. Edward Bulmer-Lytton-source for Aroldo by Verdi.jpg
Edward Bulwer-Lytton. Harold, the Last of the Saxons (1848) was the source for Aroldo.

It drew inspiration from novels of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, specifically his Harold: the Last of the Saxon Kings, for the re-location of the opera to England and—in the last act—to Scotland in the Middle Ages and for the names of its characters, the principal being Harold, re-cast as a recently returned Crusader. [1] Kimbell notes that "hints" [3] came from the work of Walter Scott, whose novel of 1825, The Betrothed , would "already have been familiar to Italian audiences through Giovanni Pacini's 1829 opera, Il Contestabile di Chester". [4] Also, the novelist's The Lady of the Lake was the inspiration for the hermit Briano.

Edward Bulwer-Lytton British statesman and author

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton, PC was an English writer and politician. He served as a Whig MP from 1831 to 1841 and a Conservative MP from 1851 to 1866. He was Secretary of State for the Colonies from June 1858 to June 1859, when he selected Richard Clement Moody to be founder of British Columbia. He was offered the Crown of Greece in 1862 after the abdication of King Otto, but declined it. He became Baron Lytton of Knebworth in 1866. His son was the statesman Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, who served as Governor-General of India and British Ambassador to France, and wrote poetry under the pseudonym Owen Meredith. Bulwer-Lytton's literary works were highly popular; his novels earned him a fortune. He coined the phrases "the great unwashed", "pursuit of the almighty dollar", "the pen is mightier than the sword", and "dweller on the threshold". Then came a sharp decline in his reputation, so that he is known today for little more than the opening line "It was a dark and stormy night", the first seven words of his novel Paul Clifford (1830). The sardonic Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest attempts to find the "opening sentence of the worst of all possible novels".

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

Crusades Military campaigns of Western Christians in the Middle Ages against Muslims and others

The Crusades were a series of religious wars sanctioned by the Latin Church in the medieval period. The most commonly known Crusades are the campaigns in the Eastern Mediterranean aimed at recovering the Holy Land from Muslim rule, but the term "Crusades" is also applied to other church-sanctioned campaigns. These were fought for a variety of reasons including the suppression of paganism and heresy, the resolution of conflict among rival Roman Catholic groups, or for political and territorial advantage. At the time of the early Crusades the word did not exist, only becoming the leading descriptive term around 1760.

Conductor Angelo Mariani
(Museo teatrale alla Scala) Angelo Mariani-conductor-.png
Conductor Angelo Mariani
(Museo teatrale alla Scala)

The rewriting was delayed until after March 1857 by the preparation for Paris of Le trouvère, the French version of Il trovatore , and Verdi's work with Piave on Simon Boccanegra . However, as work resumed on Aroldo with Piave, the premiere was planned for August 1857 in Rimini. When Verdi and Strepponi arrived there on 23 July, they found both librettist and conductor, Angelo Mariani (with whom he had become friends over the previous years and who had been chosen to conduct the new opera) working together. While Phillips-Matz notes that there was "hysteria" at Verdi's presence, there was also opposition to Aroldo that was combined with an influx of people from other cities anxious to see the new opera. [5] With Mariani, rehearsals began well; the conductor reported: "Verdi is very very happy and so am I". [6]

<i>Il trovatore</i> opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Il trovatore is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto largely written by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play El trovador (1836) by Antonio García Gutiérrez. It was Gutiérrez's most successful play, one which Verdi scholar Julian Budden describes as "a high flown, sprawling melodrama flamboyantly defiant of the Aristotelian unities, packed with all manner of fantastic and bizarre incident."

<i>Simon Boccanegra</i> opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Simon Boccanegra is an opera with a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Simón Bocanegra (1843) by Antonio García Gutiérrez, whose play El trovador had been the basis for Verdi's 1853 opera, Il trovatore.

Angelo Mariani (conductor) Italian opera conductor and composer

Angelo Maurizio Gaspare Mariani was an Italian opera conductor and composer. His work as a conductor drew praise from Giuseppe Verdi, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Gioachino Rossini and Richard Wagner, and he was a longtime personal friend of Verdi's, although they had a falling out towards the end of Mariani's life. He conducted at least two world premieres ; and at least 4 Italian premieres.

By the time of the premiere, considerable changes had been made to the three-act Stiffelio, the prime one being an added fourth act with new material, described by conductor Mariani to Ricordi as "a stupendous affair; you'll find in it a storm, a pastoral chorus, and an Angelus Dei treated in canon and beautifully wrought". [7] Lina became Mina; Stiffelio, as discussed, was now Aroldo; Stankar morphed into Egberto; Jorg, the bass role, emerged as Briano.

Giovanni Ricordi Italian musician

Giovanni Ricordi was an Italian violinist and the founder of the classical music publishing company Casa Ricordi, described by musicologist Philip Gossett as "a genius and positive force in the history of Italian opera",

Performance history

19th century

Verdi in 1859 Verdi in 1859.jpg
Verdi in 1859

Rimini became the location of the premiere, although when Aroldo was ready to be staged, Verdi had chosen Bologna for its location, but Ricordi, his publisher and friend, suggested that it be staged in Rimini. The premiere performance was an enormous success and the composer was called onto the stage 27 times. [5]

In the seasons which followed the premiere, it appeared in the autumn 1857 season first in Bologna, then Turin, Treviso, and Verona. [8]

The winter carnival season of 1858 saw productions in Venice at La Fenice, Cremona, Parma (which chose it over the original Simon Boccanegra ), [9] Florence, and Rome. [8] In 1859, it was given in Malta and then, in the following two years, Aroldo appeared on stages in Genoa, Trieste, Lisbon, and Palermo at the Teatro Massimo Bellini. In the Spring of 1864 it was seen in Turin again and then, in the years up to 1870, performances were recorded as having occurred in Pavia, Como, Modena, and, once again, in Venice. [8] Its success varied considerably, especially in Milan in 1859, where "it was a fiasco. It was the public, not the censors, who found it unacceptable". [7] [10]

20th century and beyond

Today, Aroldo is one of Verdi's very rarely performed operas, "especially since the rediscovery in 1968 of its parent work Stiffelio ". [10] A major revival occurred at the Wexford Festival in 1959 and it was not performed in the US until 4 May 1963 at the Academy of Music in New York. In February 1964 it was given its first performance in London. [3]

The opera was presented in a concert version by the Opera Orchestra of New York in April 1979 (with Montserrat Caballé and Juan Pons), from which was produced the first recording. But the New York Grand Opera claims to have given the first New York staged performance, in 1993. [11] In 1985—1986 the Teatro La Fenice in Venice mounted the two operas back to back. [12] Sarasota Opera presented it as part of its "Verdi Cycle" in 1990, with Phyllis Treigle as Mina. [13]

The opera was given at the Teatro Municipale di Piacenza in 2003 and, as part of its stagings of the total Verdi oeuvre, ABAO in Bilbao, Spain presented the opera in March/April 2009. [14]

By following its tradition to present rarely performed operas, UCOpera presented Aroldo in 2017. [15]


RoleVoice typePremiere Cast, 16 August 1857 [16]
(Conductor: Angelo Mariani)
Aroldo, a Saxon Knight tenor Emilio Pancani
Mina, his wife soprano Marcella Lotti della Santa
Egberto, Mina's father baritone Gaetano Ferri
Godvino, an adventurer, guest of EgbertotenorSalvatore Poggiali
Briano, a pious hermit bass G. B. Cornago
Enrico, Mina's cousintenorNapoleone Senigaglia
Elena, Mina's cousin mezzo-soprano Adelaide Panizza
Crusaders, servants, the Knights and their ladies and hunters


Time: Around 1200 A.D.
Place: Kent, England and near Loch Lomond, Scotland
Francesco Maria Piave,librettist of the opera Francesco Maria Piave - Granger.jpg
Francesco Maria Piave,librettist of the opera

Act 1

Scene 1: A hall in Egberto's castle in Kent

The people of Aroldo's castle welcome him home from the Crusades. Then Mina enters distraught and remorseful, confessing her adultery (ciel, ch'io respiri / "Heavens, let me breathe"). She prays as Briano and Aroldo enter, the latter concerned about his wife's state of mind given that she had been his inspiration during the long period that he was away fighting the Saracens. He explains that Briano, now his faithful companion, had saved his life. Taking her hand, he is surprised to see that she is not wearing his mother's ring, which she had received upon his mother's death. He demands to know where it is, and tries to get to the bottom of her state of mind but they are interrupted by the return of Briano with news of the arrival of guests. Both men leave.

Mina's father, Egberto, enters and observes her writing a letter. Already suspicious of what he believes has been going on between Godvino and Mina, he demands to know if she is writing to Godvino. Snatching away the unfinished letter, he reads the words addressed not to Godvino but to Aroldo - "I am no longer worthy of you" - and realizes that he was not mistaken. He begins to demand that Mina keep silent and ensure Aroldo's continued love (Duet: Dite che il fallo a tergere / "You mean that your heart lacks the strength to wipe away your guilt?") while she further resists. Again, demanding that she obey him, he continues to make his demands: (Duet: Ed io pure in faccia agl'uomini / "And must I smother my rage....Must I conquer my shame?"). Finally, Egberto repeats his demands that she relent: it is his will, it is her duty as a wife, she must stop crying, and no one must suspect anything. She appears to relent (Duet: Or meco venite, il pianto non vale / "Come with me now, weeping will not help you").

Scene 2: A suite of rooms in the castle

Furtively, Godvino enters the room while a party is progressing in interior rooms. He laments that Mina has not contacted him in any way and, in a pre-arranged plan, leaves a letter within the pages of a book to which he has a key. However, unseen by Godvino, Briano has entered and observes Godvino's actions. He grows suspicious: "a friend of Aroldo?", he wonders. The guests flow into the room and Godvino is absorbed within the group. They all express their joy at Aroldo's return. Briano approaches Aroldo and explains what he has seen, pointing across the room to Enrico, Mina's cousin, as the one who planted the letter and who then picked up the book. But he is amongst the group and is dressed in the same way as Godvino, so there is some confusion. Suspicion falls on Enrico as Aroldo reveals that his honour has been betrayed. He tells of a similar situation in Palestine: Aria: Vi fu in Palestina / "In Palestine there was once a certain man....", and confronts Mina, since he knows that she has a key to the book and he believes that it too contains a secret letter. Mina's attempts to stall fail, and Aroldo breaks open the locked book and a letter drops from it to the floor. Quickly stepping forward, Egberto picks it up stating that no one shall see it. Aroldo is angry and Mina defends her father. Knowing the real culprit, Egberto confronts Godvino and demands that they meet in the churchyard.

Act 2

The castle cemetery

Mina is alone in the churchyard; she despairs of her situation (Aria: (Oh Cielo, dove son'io? / "O Heaven. Where am I?"). When Godvino enters, she demands to be left alone and her ring be returned. He declares his love and insists upon staying to defend her while she proclaims that she hears her mother's voice coming from her tomb (Aria: Ah, dal sen di quella tomba / "Ah, from the depths of that tomb there echoes a sinister trembling"). Egberto comes across the couple, sends Mina away, and then confronts Godvino, offering him the choice of two proffered swords. Godvino refuses to take one. The older man continues to press him ("Are you dead to any sense of honour?"), accusing him of cowardice and stating that he will reveal him to be a bastard. At that remark, Godvino accepts the challenge and the two men fight until interrupted by the arrival of Aroldo. Stating that "I speak in the name of God", Aroldo tries to force the two men to stop their fighting. In disarming him, he takes Godvino's hand only to have Egberto question how Aroldo can take the hand of the very man who has betrayed him. With Mina's return, Aroldo finally realizes the truth (Aria: Ah no! è impossibile / "Ah no! It is impossible. Tell me at least that I have been mistaken"). Finally, Egberto insists that Aroldo must punish the right person and not Mina, and Aroldo attempts to return Godvino's sword and commence fighting him. Godvino refuses. With Briano's arrival and his attempts to calm his friend ("my heart has lost everything", Aroldo cries, while the chorus of praying parishioners can be heard coming from the church), all join in a plea for forgiveness. Aroldo collapses.

Act 3

An anteroom in Egberto's castle

Egberto feels dishonoured and he regrets not being able to take his revenge, since Godvino has fled from the cemetery, taking Mina with him. He puts up his sword: O spada dell'onor / "O sword of honour...begone from me". Regretting that he has lost a daughter (Mina, pensai che un angelo / "Mina, I thought, through you, heaven had sent me an angle, a ray of pure love"), he writes a brief farewell note to Aroldo, and is about to take poison when Briano enters looking for Aroldo. He tells Egberto that Godvino has been apprehended and will be brought to the castle. Taking up his sword again, Egberto expresses his joy that one of the two of them will soon die: Oh gioia inesprimibile / "Oh inexpressible joy..." He leaves.

Aroldo enters with Godvino. The two men sit down to talk and Aroldo asks his rival what he would do if Mina were free. Mina is then summoned and Godvino is instructed to conceal himself and listen to the couple's conversation. Aroldo explains to Mina that they need to talk since he will be leaving that evening and that they must part (Opposto è il calle che in avvenire / "In the future, our lives must follow opposite paths"). He adds that she can redeem herself from dishonour by marrying the man who has captured her heart, and he presents her with a divorce paper to sign. She does so, declaring that they are free of each other. But she states that, in spite of everything, she could not be another man's wife and that she will always love Aroldo. Questioning her, he asks if she had been tricked into entering into the relationship by Godvino. When the answer is "yes", Aroldo swears that Godvino must die, indicating that her seducer is in the next room. Just then, Egberto bursts in, his sword covered in blood, and he declares that Godvino is dead. Briano leads Aroldo off to church while Mina cries out there has been no forgiveness for her sin.

Act 4

A valley close to Loch Lomond

At sunset, a group of shepherds, huntsman and reapers have gathered on the banks of the Loch. As they leave, Aroldo and Briano appear, Aroldo confessing that he still loves Mina. The men pray as a storm begins and it drives the countryfolk back to the lake. A boat barely survives the storm and it arrives on land carrying Mina and Egberto, now shipwrecked. Seeking shelter, Egberto knocks on a stranger's door and, to his surprise, Aroldo appears, but Aroldo is angry, since he and Briano have fled to this remote place with no expectation of ever meeting Mina or her father again. In spite of Aroldo's objections, Egberto pleads with him to accept Mina as his daughter, if not as her husband. Mina tries to calm her father (Taci, mio padre, calmati / "Be silent, father, calm yourself"). In the hope of obtaining forgiveness (in a trio involving Egberto, Mina and Aroldo) she begs for a "last word" with Aroldo (Allora che gl'anni / "When the weight of years..."). Then Briano steps forward. He proclaims the often-quoted words from the Bible: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone". Aroldo is reduced to tears and, with the pleadings of both Briano and Egberto, he forgives his wife. As all exclaim "Let the divine will triumph", the couple embraces, and Mina and Aroldo are reunited.


While it has been noted by modern scholars that the libretto was:

as unreal as any operetta fantasy and a far cry from the drama of Rigoletto or La traviata,[.....] the music was considerably better than the libretto and kept the opera alive for a number of years". [9]

But at the time of the premiere, Mariani was enthusiastic, as demonstrated in his letter to Ricordi:

As for the music, this Aroldo could be one of Verdi's finest operas; it includes pieces which are absolutely certain to make an effect. [17]

Budden notes another aspect: "the new music reaps the benefit of seven years' growing maturity...[resulting in]..the richer vein of musical invention." [18] On the other hand, he also notes that more conventional elements in Aroldo sometimes replace the more original aspects of Stiffelio, such as the opening drinking chorus which replaces a recitative for Jorg in the original version. [18]


(Aroldo, Mina,
Egberto, Briano)
Opera House and Orchestra
Label [19]
1951 Vasco Campagnano,
Maria Vitale,
Rolando Panerai,
Felice de Manuelli
Arturo Basile,
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Torino della RAI
Audio CD: Istituto Discografico Italiano
Cat: IDIS 6359/60
1975Gianfranco Cecchele,
Angeles Gulin,
Licinio Montefusco,
Alfredo Zanazzo
Maurizio Rinaldi,
Orchestra and Chorus of RAI Milan,
(Recording of a radio performance, 17 November)
Audio CD: Opera d'Oro,
Cat: OPD 1440
1997 Neil Shicoff,
Carol Vaness,
Anthony Michaels-Moore ,
Roberto Scandiuzzi
Fabio Luisi,
Orchestra and Chorus of the Maggio Musicale Firenze
Audio CD: Philips,
Cat: 462 512-2
2001 Neil Shicoff,
Carol Vaness,
Anthony Michaels-Moore,
Roberto Scandiuzzi
Fabio Luisi,
Orchestra and chorus of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Audio CD: Philips
Cat: 462-512-2
2003Gustavo Porta,
Adriana Damato,
Franco Vassallo
Enrico Giuseppe Iori
Piergiorgio Morandi,
Orchestra della Fondazione Toscanini
DVD: Bongiovanni
Cat: AB20003

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  1. 1 2 3 Budden 2001, p.13
  2. Verdi to De Sanctis, March 1856: "I've only got to write various recitatives and two or three pieces" in Budden 1984, pp. 337-338)
  3. 1 2 Kimbell (2001), in Holden, pp. 997 - 998
  4. Budden (1984), p. 337
  5. 1 2 Phillips-Matz (1993), pp. 363 - 364
  6. Mariani, letter quoted in Phillips-Matz, p. 363.
  7. 1 2 Budden (1984), pp. 339/340
  8. 1 2 3 Database of 19th century performances of Aroldo Archived June 18, 2015, at the Wayback Machine on Retrieved 6 April 2013
  9. 1 2 Martin (1983), pp. 339 - 340
  10. 1 2 Budden (2001), p.14
  11. NY Grand Opera's repertoire
  12. Lawton, David, "Stiffelio and Aroldo", Opera Quarterly 5 (23): 193. (1987)
  13. A "pirate" DVD of this production has been distributed.
  14. Aroldo in Bilbao Retrieved 6 April 2013
  15. The Times
  16. List of singers taken from Budden (1984), p. 336
  17. Mariani to Ricordi, (undated) August 1857, in Budden (1984), p. 339
  18. 1 2 Budden (1984), pp. 340—358
  19. Recordings on

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