|Opera by Giuseppe Verdi|
|Librettist||Francesco Maria Piave|
|Based on||Le pasteur, ou L'évangile et le foyer by Émile Souvestre and Eugène Bourgeois|
|Premiere||16 November 1850|
Teatro Grande, Trieste
Stiffelio is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, from an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. The origin of this was the novel “Le pasteur d’hommes”, by Émile Souvestre, which was published in 1838. This was adapted into the French play Le pasteur, ou L'évangile et le foyer by Émile Souvestre and Eugène Bourgeois. That was in turn translated into Italian by Gaetano Vestri as Stifellius; this formed the basis of Piave's libretto.
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 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.
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.
Verdi's experience in Naples for Luisa Miller had not been a good one and he returned home to Busseto to consider the subject for his next opera. The idea for Stiffelio came from his librettist and, entering into a contract with his publisher, Ricordi, he agreed to proceed, leaving the decision as to the location of the premiere to Ricordi. This became the Teatro Grande (now the Teatro Comunale Giuseppe Verdi) in Trieste and, in spite of difficulties with the censors which resulted in cuts and changes, the opera – Verdi's 16th – was first performed on 16 November 1850.
Luisa Miller is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play Kabale und Liebe by the German dramatist Friedrich von Schiller.
Before Luisa Miller was staged in Naples, Verdi had offered the San Carlo company another work for 1850, with the new opera to be based on Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse from a libretto to be written by Salvadore Cammarano. But his experience with Luisa was such that he decided not to pursue this, and approached his publisher, Giulio Ricordi, with the proposal that he should work with the librettist on the possibility of an opera, Re Lear , which would be based on Shakespeare's King Lear and which had long been on Verdi's mind. However, by June 1850 it became clear that the subject was beyond Cammarano's ability to fashion into a libretto, and so it was abandoned. However, the commitment to Ricordi remained.
Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles.
Le roi s'amuse is a French play in five acts written by Victor Hugo. First performed on 22 November 1832 but banned by the government after one evening, the play was used for Giuseppe Verdi's 1851 opera Rigoletto.
Salvadore Cammarano was a prolific Italian librettist and playwright perhaps best known for writing the text of Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) for Gaetano Donizetti.
Verdi had returned to Busseto with many ideas in mind, among them a new opera for Venice, which included a request for a draft scenario from Piave based on Victor Hugo's Le roi s'amuse .plus several others of interest to him. However, it was the librettist who came back with the suggestion of Stifellius, and between March and May 1850 discussions with Piave proceeded until a sketch of Stiffelio was received. Verdi responded enthusiastically, proclaiming it "good and exciting" and asking: "Is this Stiffelio a historical person? In all the history I've read, I don't remember coming across the name." At the same time, it appears that Verdi continued to be fascinated by Le Roi s'amuse, a play which Budden notes as having been banned at its first performance: "it was, politically speaking, dynamite" but he adds that the Venetian censors had allowed Ernani.
Reactions to the choice of subject and how it worked as a libretto and opera have been fairly uniform. Musicologist Roger Parker in Grove describes it as:
Roger Parker is an English musicologist and, since January 2007, has been Thurston Dart Professor of Music at King's College London. His work has centred on opera. Between 2006 and 2010, while Professor of Music at Gresham College, London, Parker presented four series of free public lectures, one example being "Verdi and Milan" in 2007 which is available on video.
Budden basically agrees, stating that "[Verdi] was tired of stock subjects; he wanted something with genuinely human, as distinct from melodramatic, interest. [....] Stiffelio had the attraction of being a problem play with a core of moral sensibility; the same attraction, in fact, that led Verdi to La traviata a little later.
La traviata is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. It is based on La Dame aux Camélias (1852), a play adapted from the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils. The opera was originally titled Violetta, after the main character. It was first performed on 6 March 1853 at the La Fenice opera house in Venice.
As Stiffelio moved towards completion, Ricordi decided that it should be performed in Trieste. As the premiere approached, both librettist and composer were called before the president of the theatre commission on 13 November, given that the organization had received demands for changes from the censor, which included a threat to block the production entirely if these were not met. The original story line of Stiffelio, involving as it does a Protestant minister of the church with an adulterous wife, and a final church scene in which he forgives her with words quoted from the New Testament, was impossible to present on the stage, and this created these censorship demands for various reasons: "In Italy and Austrian Trieste ... a married priest was a contradiction in terms. Therefore there was no question of a church in the final scene...."
The changes which were demanded included Stiffelio being referred to not as a minister, but as a "sectarian". Furthermore, in act 3, Lina would not be allowed to beg for confession, plus as Budden notes, "the last scene was reduced to the most pointless banality" whereby Stiffelio is only permitted to preach in general terms.Both men were reluctantly forced to agree to accept the changes.
In the introduction to the critical editionprepared in 2003 by Kathleen Hansell, she states quite clearly that "The performance history of Stiffelio as Verdi envisioned it literally began only in 1993."
She might have added "21 October 1993", since this was the occasion when the Metropolitan Opera presented the work based on the discoveries which had been found in the composer's autograph manuscript by musicologist Philip Gossett the previous yearand which were eventually included in the critical edition prepared by her for the University of Chicago in 2003.
In setting the context of the re-creation of the opera, Hansell states:
Hansell's statement establishes what happened to Verdi's opera in the years between the 1850 premiere and October 1993. To begin with, a revised version of the opera, entitled Guglielmo Wellingrode (with the hero a German minister of state),was presented in 1851, without either Verdi or his librettist Piave being responsible for it. In fact, when asked by impresario Alessandro Linari in 1852 to create a more suitable ending, Verdi was furious and refused. In addition, it is known that some productions were given in the Iberian peninsula in the 1850s and 1860s.
As early as 1851, it became clear to Verdi that given the existing censorship throughout Italy, there was no point in Ricordi, his publisher and owner of the rights to the opera, trying to obtain venues for performances before the composer and librettist together had any opportunity to revise and restructure it more acceptably.However, in her research for the critical edition, Hansell notes that in 1856 Verdi angrily withdrew his opera from circulation, reusing parts of the score for his reworked 1857 version, the libretto also prepared by Piave: it was renamed as Aroldo and set in 13th century Anglo-Saxon England and Scotland. It contains a totally new fourth act.
Throughout the rest of the 19th century and for most of the 20th, the Stiffelio autograph was generally presumed to be lost.
Hansell is clear on several points regarding any performances between 1856 and October 1993:
Although vocal scores were known, the discovery of a copyist's score at the Naples Conservatory in the 1960s led to a successful revival at the Teatro Regio in Parma in 1968.
A new performing edition, prepared for Bärenreiter from microfilm of the Naples copyist's score, was obtained in order to restore the composer's intentions as far as possible. This was the basis of performances at Naples and Cologne, but it cut material (especially from the act 1 overture and choruses) and it added in sections from Aroldo, which were not in the original score. This became the source of the UK premiere in an English language production given by University College Opera (then the Music Society) in London in 1973.Given that even the original premiere of the work was in a version partly cut by the censors, this production was probably one of the first ever close-to- authentic performances of the work.
The American stage premiere was given by Vincent La Selva and the New York Grand Opera on 4 June 1976 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with Richard Taylor as Stiffelio and Norma French as Lina.The opera was also given by Sarah Caldwell and the Opera Company of Boston on 17 February 1978.
In his book, Divas and Scholars, Philip Gossett, the General Editor of the critical editions of the Verdi operas published by the University of Chicago, tells the story of how "to [his] immense joy" the original Verdi materials came to be seen by him in February 1992 when the Carrara Verdi family allowed access to the autograph and to copies of about 60 pages of supplementary sketches.Some aspects of the original Verdi edition were able to be shared with Edward Downes for his 1993 staging in London, but these included only the vocal elements and none of the orchestral fabric, for which Downes' edition relied entirely on a 19th-century copy.
The first complete performance of the new score was given on 21 October 1993 at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York.The production was repeated 16 more times between October 1993 and 1998, at which time a DVD with Plácido Domingo in the title role was released.
In 1985–1986 the Teatro La Fenice in Venice mounted back-to-back productions of Aroldo and Stiffelio (the latter in a version similar to that described above) in conjunction with an international scholarly conference which was held in that city in December 1985.
The 1993 Met production was revived in 2010 with José Cura in the title role and conducted by Domingo.The new critical edition has also been performed at La Scala and in Los Angeles.
The Sarasota Opera presented Stiffelio in 2005 as part of its "Verdi Cycle" of all of the composer's operas.The opera was given in a concert version in London by the Chelsea Opera Group on 8 June 2014 with the role of Lina being sung by Nelly Miricioiu. The Berlin premiere of Stiffelio was conducted by Felix Krieger with Berliner Operngruppe on February 1st 2017 at Konzerthaus Berlin. New productions of the opera were presented by Frankfurt Opera and La Fenice, Venice in 2016 and by Teatro Regio di Parma in 2017.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast,|
16 November 1850
|Stiffelio, a Protestant minister||tenor||Gaetano Fraschini|
|Lina, his wife||soprano||Marietta Gazzaniga|
|Count Stankar, her father, an elderly colonel||baritone||Filippo Colini|
|Raffaele, Lina's lover||tenor||Ranieri Dei|
|Jorg, an elderly minister||bass||Francesco Reduzzi|
|Dorotea, Lina's cousin||mezzo-soprano||Viezzoli De Silvestrini|
|Federico, Dorotea's lover||tenor||Giovanni Petrovich|
Scene 1: A hall in Count Stankar's castle
Stiffelio, a Protestant priest or minister, is expected to return from a mission. His wife Lina, her father Stankar, and her cousins Dorotea and Federico are waiting for him. In addition, there is Raffaele who, unknown to all, is Lina's lover. Stiffelio arrives and recounts how the castle's boatman has told him the strange story of having seen a man and a woman escaping from a castle window and, as they did so, dropping a packet of letters, which Stiffelio now holds. Refusing to learn by opening the package who was involved, he throws the letters into the fire, much to the relief of Lina and Raffaele. Secretly, Raffaele communicates to Lina that he will leave instructions as where they may next meet inside a locked volume in the library.
After he has been greeted by friends, Lina and Stiffelio are left alone (Non ha per me un accento – "She has no word for me, not a glance"). He tells her of the sin he has witnessed (Vidi dovunque gemere – "Everywhere I saw virtue groan beneath the oppressor's yoke") and then notices that her wedding ring is not on her finger. Angrily, he demands to know why (Ah v'appare in fronte scritto – "Ah, clearly written on your brow is the shame that wages war in your heart"), but Stankar arrives to escort him to the celebrations being arranged by his friends. Alone, Lina is filled with remorse (A te ascenda, O Dio clemente – "Let my sighs and tears ascend to thee, O merciful God").
Scene 2: The same, later
Deciding to write a confession to Stiffelio, Lina begins to write, but her father enters and grabs the letter, which he reads aloud. Stankar rebukes her (Dite che il fallo a tergere – "Tell him that your heart lacks the strength to wash away your sins", but is determined to preserve family honor and cover up his daughter's behavior (Ed io pure in faccia agli uomini – "So before the face of mankind I must stifle my anger"). In their duet, father and daughter come to some resolve (O meco venite – "Come now with me; tears are of no consequence") and they leave.
Now Raffaele enters to place the note in the volume, which has been agreed to. Jorg, the elderly preacher, observes this just as Federico arrives to take the volume away. Jorg's suspicions fall upon Federico and he shares what he knows with Stiffelio. Seeing the volume and realizing that it is locked, he is told that Lina has a key. She is summoned, but when she refuses to unlock it, Stiffelio grabs it and breaks it open. The incriminating letter falls out, but it is quickly taken up by Stankar and torn into many pieces, much to the fury of Stiffelio.
A graveyard near the castle
Lina has gone to her mother's grave at the cemetery to pray (Ah dagli scanni eterei – "Ah, from among the ethereal thrones, where, blessed, you take your seat"), but Raffaele joins her. She immediately asks him to leave. He laments her rejection (Lina, Lina! Perder dunque voi volete – "Lina, then you wish to destroy this unhappy, betrayed wretch") and refuses to go (Io resto – "I stay"). Stankar arrives, demands that his daughter leave, and then challenges Raffaele to a duel. Stiffelio arrives, and announces that no fighting can take place in a cemetery. There is an attempt at conciliation whereby the priest takes Stankar's hand and then Raffaele's, joining them together. However, Stankar reveals that Stiffelio has touched the hand of the man who betrayed him! Not quite understanding at first, Stiffelio demands that the mystery be solved. As Lina returns demanding her husband's forgiveness, Stiffelio begins to comprehend the situation (Ah, no! E impossibile – "It cannot be! Tell me at least that it is a lie"). Demanding an explanation, he challenges Raffaele to fight but, as he is about to strike the younger man, Jorg arrives to summon the priest to the church from which the sound of the waiting congregation can be heard. Filled with conflicting emotions, Stiffelio drops his sword, asks God to inspire his speech to his parishioners, but, at the same time, curses his wife.
Scene 1: A room in Count Stankar's Castle
Alone in his room, Stankar reads a letter which tells him that Raffaele has fled and that he seeks to have Lina join him. He is in despair over his daughter's behaviour (Lina pensai che un angelo in te mi desse il cielo – "Lina, I thought that in you an angel brought me heavenly bliss"). For a moment, he resolves to commit suicide and begins to write a letter to Stiffelio. But Jorg enters to give him the news that he has tracked down Raffaele who will be returning to the castle. Stankar rejoices (O gioia inesprimibile, che questo core inondi! – "Oh, the inexpressible joy that floods this heart of mine!"), as he sees revenge being within reach. He leaves.
Stiffelio confronts Raffaele and asks him what he would do if Lina were free, offering him a choice between "a guilty freedom" and "the future of the woman you have destroyed". The younger man does not respond, and the priest tells him to listen to his encounter with Lina from the other room. Stiffelio lays out the reason that their marriage can be annulled (Opposto è il calle che in avvenire – "Opposite are the paths that in future our lives will follow"). Lina's reaction, when presented with the divorce decree, is to swear an ongoing love for her husband ("I will die for love of you"). Appealing to Stiffelio more as a priest than as a husband, Lina confesses that she has always loved him and she still does. Stankar enters to announce that he has killed Raffaele. Jorg tries to convince Stiffelio to come to the church service (Ah sì, voliamo al tempio – "Ah, yes, let us flee to the church").
Scene 2: A church
In the church, Stiffelio mounts the pulpit and opens the Bible to the story of the adulterous woman (John 7:53–8:11 ). As he reads the words of forgiveness (perdonata) he looks at Lina and it is clear that she too is forgiven.
Stiffelio is scored for the following instruments:
Reviews following the premiere were rather mixed, although Budden seems to suggest that there were more unfavorable ones than the reverse.However, one contemporary critic, writing in the Gazzetta Musicale states:
When addressing the music of this opera, several writers refer to its unusual features and the ways by which it suggests directions in which the composer is moving and as seen in later operas. For example, when comparing both versions, Osborne states that act 1, scene 2 of Stiffelio "is almost Otello-like in its force and intensity, while Kimball states directly that "Verdi's music, in keeping with the dramatic theme, is as boldly unconventional as anything he had composed"and he continues, in referring to the Bible reading scene in the finale, that it:
Osborne agrees when he describes the narrative and musical action moving in tandem in the last act:
Gabriele Baldini's The Story of Giuseppe Verdi deals with Stiffelio and Aroldo together, so the former gets rather limited mention. But in regard to the music, he makes a point about how:
Opera House and Orchestra
|1968|| Gastone Limarilli,|
| Peter Maag,|
Teatro Regio di Parma orchestra and chorus
|Audio CD: Melodram Milano |
Cat: CDM 27033
|1979|| José Carreras,|
| Lamberto Gardelli,|
ORF Symphony orchestra and chorus
|Audio CD: Decca|
Cat: 475 6775
|1993|| José Carreras,|
| Edward Downes,|
Royal Opera House orchestra and chorus
|DVD: Kultur |
|1993|| Plácido Domingo,|
| James Levine,|
Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
|DVD: Deutsche Grammophon |
Cat: 00440 073 4288
| Nicola Luisotti,|
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro Lirico Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste
|Audio CD: Dynamic|
Teatro Regio di Parma orchestra and chorus
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."
Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo.
Otello is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito, based on Shakespeare's play Othello. It was Verdi's penultimate opera, and was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on 5 February 1887.
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.
Francesco Maria Piave was an Italian opera librettist who was born in Murano in the lagoon of Venice, during the brief Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.
Macbeth is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi, with an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave and additions by Andrea Maffei, based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name. Written for the Teatro della Pergola in Florence, it was Verdi's tenth opera and premiered on 14 March 1847. Macbeth was the first Shakespeare play that Verdi adapted for the operatic stage. Almost twenty years later, Macbeth was revised and expanded in a French version and given in Paris on 19 April 1865.
Un giorno di regno, ossia Il finto Stanislao is an operatic melodramma giocoso in two acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto written in 1818 by Felice Romani. Originally written for the Bohemian composer Adalbert Gyrowetz the libretto was based on the play Le faux Stanislas written by the Frenchman Alexandre-Vincent Pineux Duval in 1808. Un giorno was given its premiere performance at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan on 5 September 1840.
I due Foscari is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on a historical play, The Two Foscari by Lord Byron.
Aroldo 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.
Les vêpres siciliennes is a grand opera in five acts by the Italian romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi set to a French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier from their work Le duc d'Albe, which was written in 1838. Les vêpres followed immediately after Verdi's three great mid-career masterpieces, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata of 1850 to 1853 and was first performed at the Paris Opéra on 13 June 1855.
Attila is an opera in a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on the 1809 play Attila, König der Hunnen by Zacharias Werner. The opera received its first performance at La Fenice in Venice on 17 March 1846.
Il corsaro is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi, from a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on Lord Byron's poem The Corsair. The first performance was given at the Teatro Grande in Trieste on 25 October 1848.
La battaglia di Legnano is an opera in four acts, with music by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian-language libretto by Salvadore Cammarano. It was based on the play La Bataille de Toulouse by Joseph Méry, later the co-librettist of Don Carlos.
Alzira is an opera in a prologue and two acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvatore Cammarano, based on the 1736 play Alzire, ou les Américains by Voltaire.
Antonio Somma was an Italian playwright who is most well known for writing the libretto of an opera which ultimately became Giuseppe Verdi's Un ballo in maschera in 1859. While a student, his tragedy, Parisina, gave him quite a success.
Gustavo III is an opera by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto begun in early 1857 by the Italian playwright Antonio Somma. Never performed as written, the libretto was later revised several times under two additional names – Una vendetta in domino and Adelia degli Adimari – during which the setting was changed to vastly different locations. Eventually, it was agreed that it could be called Un ballo in maschera, the one by which it is known today, but Verdi was forced to accept that the location of the story would have to be Colonial Boston. This setting became the "standard" one until the mid-20th Century. Most productions today locate the action in Sweden.
Kathleen Kuzmick Hansell, née Kuzmick, is an American musicologist and organist. Amongst her publications are pioneering research on the role of dance in 18th century opera and critical editions of opera scores by Mozart, Rossini, and Verdi.