Alison Jones's Opera Plot Summaries.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Aida

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

May 90

ACT I

Scene 1. The hall of the king's palace at Memphis

The high priest Ramfis tells Radames that the Ethiopians have invaded Egypt. He is on his way to tell the king the name of the general who has been named by the goddess Isis as leader of the defending army. Radames hopes that he has been chosen and will be able to lay the spoils of victory at the feet of his beloved Aida.

Amneris, daughter of the king, is in love with Radames, and tries to sound his feelings about her. He is evasive, and her suspicions are confirmed when she sees his reaction to the presence of her Ethiopian slave Aida.

In the presence of the king and people a messenger brings news of the Ethiopian invasion, advancing on Thebes under their king Amonasro. Announcing that Radames has been chosen by the goddess, the king instructs him to go to the temple of Vulcan to receive a consecrated sword. Amneris presents him with a banner and the people, led by the king, proclaim their defiance of the invader and invoke victory on the head of Radames. Aida involuntarily echoes the cry, but when she is alone, she is torn between her love for Radames and her love for her country.

Scene 2. The temple of Vulcan at Memphis

Priests and priestesses invoke the god Phtah (Vulcan). Radames prays the god to protect the sacred soil of Egypt and receives the sword.

ACT II

Scene 1. The apartments of Amneris in the palace at Thebes

As she is adorned by her slaves for the celebration of an Egyptian victory, Amneris hopes that her love for Radames will be returned.

Pretending sympathy with Aida for the defeat of her people, she tricks her into revealing her love for Radames and declares herself her rival. Aida restrains herself, on the brink of revealing her equality of rank, and begs for mercy, while Amneris exults that Aida will have to grovel at her feet at the triumphal reception.

Scene 2. An entrance to the city of Thebes

Radames is borne in triumph through the gate. The king offers any reward he chooses and he asks for the prisoners to be brought forward. Aida recognises her father, who warns her not to betray his identity and then tells the king of Egypt that the Ethiopian king was killed in the battle.

As his reward Radames asks for the life and freedom of the prisoners, but Ramfis warns the king that they are powerful enemies. The king grants the request, but accepts the advice of Ramfis that Aida and her father should be kept as hostages. He awards Radames the hand of Amneris, saying that he will one day rule Egypt with her. Amneris is triumphant, Radames thunderstruck and Aida downcast, while her father tries to encourage her with promises of vengeance.

ACT III

The banks of the Nile near the temple of Isis

Accompanied by Ramfis, Amneris has come to the temple to pray for a blessing on her marriage to Radames.

Aida comes to bid farewell to Radames. She thinks sadly of the homeland she will never see again. Amonasro has been waiting for her and tries to persuade her to find out from Radames the route the army will be taking on a punitive expedition against the Ethiopians. When she refuses, he overwhelms her with a vision of her family and country laid waste and cursing her, adding the threat of his paternal curse - and she consents. He hides as Radames arrives.

Aida greets the passionate Radames coldly. She cannot believe, she says, that he will be able to extricate himself from the marriage to Amneris. If he really loves her, the only way out is for them to flee to Ethiopia. He is reluctant, but eventually yields, and she asks him which will be the safest way to travel, so as to avoid the Egyptian army. He replies that the army will go by the pass of Napata, and Amonasro emerges from the shadows, promising that his army will be there.

Radames realises that he has unwittingly betrayed his country, and refuses to be comforted by Aida and Amonasro or to flee with them. Amneris and Radames emerge from the temple, accusing him of treachery and Radames, foiling the attempt of Amonasro to kill Amneris, surrenders to Ramfis as Aida and Amonasro escape.

ACT IV

Scene 1. A hall in the palace

The remorseful Amneris hopes to save Radames, but he refuses her offer of help with its condition that he forget Aida, accusing her of being responsible for Aida's death. She answers that athough Amonasro was killed in the battle, Aida's fate is unknown. Radames spurns Amneris' love and declares himself ready to die.

Amneris listens to the trial as Radames remains silent in the face of the accusations of Ramfis and is condemned to be buried alive. She tries in vain to plead with the priests for his life and curses them when they remain obdurate.

Scene 2. The interior of the temple of Vulcan with a subterranean hall beneath it

The entombed Radames regrets only that he does not know Aida's fate. But she has learnt of his sentence and crept into the tomb to die with him. As they bid farewell to life, Amneris, in the temple above, prays for Radames.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Un Ballo in Maschera

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jul 85

ACT I

Scene 1. A hall in the royal palace

Courtiers awaiting the arrival of the king sing his praises, while malcontents conspire to bring about his downfall.

Gustavus contemplates the responsibilities of kingship. The page Oscar hands him a list of guests for a ball; seeing the name of Amelia, he looks forward to seeing her again.

His secretary Anckarstroem, Amelia's husband, warns him that there is a conspiracy afoot; but Gustavus, relieved that Anckarstroem has not discovered his passion for his wife, averse to shedding blood and confident in the love of his people, is unconcerned. Anckarstroem warns him against overconfidence and urges him to preserve his life for the sake of his people.

The chief justice brings an order of banishment against the fortune-teller Mademoiselle Arvidson for the king to sign. Oscar defends her and Gustavus decides to see for himself, telling Oscar to get him a fisherman's costume as a disguise and summoning the court to meet him at Mlle Arvidson's at three.

The conspirators hope to get a chance to kill him and the rest of the court, led by Gustavus, look forward to an entertaining afternoon.

Scene 2. The fortune-teller's den

People gather to have their fortunes told, while Mlle Arvidson invokes the devil to aid her power of prophecy.

The disguised king mingles with the crowd in time to hear a sailor, Cristian, ask what will be his reward for years of faithful service to the king. The fortune-teller promises him money and promotion, and the king, to prove her right, slips a note to this effect into Cristian's pocket. When he finds it all are impressed with the accuracy of the prophecy.

Amelia comes to ask Mlle Arvidson for a prescription which will free her from the guilty love she feels for the king and Gustavus, overhearing Mlle Arvidson instruct her to pick at midnight a herb growing beneath the gallows, resolves to be there as well.

The rest of the court arrives, not recognising the king, although he reveals his identity to Oscar and orders him to keep the secret. Still in disguise, the king asks the fortune-teller to say whether he will be lucky in love and at sea. When she looks at his hand, she recognises that he is a great man; then frightened by what she sees, refuses to continue. He insists and she tells him that he will die soon and at the hand of a friend.

Gustavus is derisive, Oscar and the bystanders filled with dread and the conspirators nervous. She repeats the warning and then identifies the murderer as the next man to shake him by the hand. Gustavus offers his hand in vain to the courtiers and conspirators, but when the unsuspecting Anckarstroem arrives, he takes the hand, thus proving to the king's satisfaction the falseness of the prophecy as Anckarstroem is his best friend.

Mlle Arvidson now recognises him with fear and he reminds her that she had been unable to penetrate his disguise or divine that he had been on the point of banishing her. He soothes her fears and she reiterates her warning, adding, to the alarm of the conspirators, that more than one traitor is lurking.

Cristian leads the bystanders in a hymn of praise to the king.

ACT II

The gallows outside the city at midnight

Amelia, almost overcome with terror, comes to pick the herb. Gustavus comes and declares his love, but she reminds him that she is the wife of a man who would give his life for him. Gustavus admits that he is consumed with remorse, but the power of his love is stronger and Amelia finally confesses that she loves him.

Their ecstasy is cut short by the arrival of Anckarstroem, warning that there are conspirators close by. He manages to persuade the king to leave by a safe path and promises to escort the now-veiled Amelia to the city wihtout trying to uncover her identity.

The conspirators surround Anckarstroem and Amelia and, realising that their prey has eluded them, insist on knowing the identity of the lady. Anckarstroem is prepared to fight to prevent this but Amelia, trying to intervene, drops her veil.

The conspirators are diverted at the strange time and place Anckarstroem has chosen for an assignation with his own wife; and he, furious at having been betrayed by his wife and his friend, asks their leaders, Counts Rigging and Horn, to come to his house the next day.

ACT III

Scene 1. Anckarstroem's study

Anckarstroem is adamant that Amelia must die, despite her assurances that her love for the king is innocent. She begs to see her son for the last time, and he sends her out, turning bitterly to the portrait of the king on the wall and blaming him for having seduced Amelia.

Counts Ribbing and Horn arrive, and Anckarstroem assures them that he does not wish to denounce them, but rather to join them, and even to be allowed to be the one to kill the king. When they insist on their prior claims, he suggests they draw lots.

Amelia comes in to announce the arrival of Oscar with an invitation from the king and Anckarstroem makes her draw the chosen name. It is his and his fierce joy makes her suspect the worst.

Oscar delivers the invitation to a masked ball. Amelia wishes to decline, but Anckarstroem, eager for revenge, accepts for them both. The conspirators agree on a costume and a password (Death) while Amelia tries to think of a way of warning the king.

Scene 2. The king's study

Although in despair at the thought of parting from Amelia, Gustavus forces himself to sign a document sending Anckarstroem and Amelia on a mission to Finland, without even seeing Amelia once more to say farewell.

Oscar brings a letter from a veiled lady warning Gustavus not to attend the ball, as his life is in danger. Refusing to run the risk of being thought a coward and resolving to see Amelia once more, he decides to attend the ball.

Scene 3. The Royal Opera House, Stockholm

The ball is in progress and the conspirators search in vain for Gustavus until Oscar, persuaded by Anckarstroem that his business is urgent, describes the king's costume. Amelia, disguised, tries to warn Gustavus, but he recognises her and tells her that he has resolved to send her away with her husband. They bid each other farewell as Anckarstroem stabs the king.

Gustavus restrains the crowd from taking vengeance and tells the now remorseful Anckarstroem that his wife is innocent and that he had planned to send them away. He dies, forgiving his enemies.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Don Carlo

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Aug 99

ACT I

Scene 1

The tomb of the Emperor Charles V at the monastery of San Yuste

Don Carlo, son of King Filippo of Spain and heir to the throne, laments the loss of Elisabetta, daughter of the King of France, to whom he had been betrothed when a politcal decision was made that she should marry Filippo. As monks chant the obsequies of the emperor, Carlo V, his grandfather, he is struck by the resemblance of one of them to the dead emperor.

Carlo is joined by his friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who exhorts him to help the Flemish people who are suffering under the Spanish yoke. Carlo confides that he loves his stepmother, and the two swear eternal friendship and dedication to the cause of liberty, while Filippo and Elisabetta kneel at the tomb.

Scene 2

A garden at the gate of the monastery

The queen's ladies are gathered. The Princess of Eboli, accompanied by the page Tebaldo, sings a song. When the queen appears Rodrigo is announced. Along with letters from France he secretly gives her a letter from Carlo. He begs her to intercede with the king for Carlo, who is suffering from his displeasure.

Carlo appears and all withdraw to allow him to be alone with the queen. He begins quietly, asking for her help with the king, but becomes more emotional, lamenting his lost love and collapses at her feet. She is distressed, but when he wildly declares that he loves her, she answers indignantly, as becomes the wife of his father, and he rushes from her presence in self-loathing and despair.

The king arrives and, angry at finding the queen alone, dismisses the lady who should have been with her and orders her to return to France. Elisabetta takes an affectionate farewell of her and leaves.

The king detains Rodrigo and asks why he has never sought favor from him, though he has deserved it. Posa answers that he wants nothing for himself, but begs for peace for the people of Flanders. The king offers peace brought about by the sword, pointing to Spain as an example, but Rodrigo cries out that this is the peace of the grave. Filippo pardons his freedom of speech but warns him against the Grand Inquisitor.

He confides his fears that his wife and son are betraying him and authorises Rodrigo to visit the queen at any time to investigate.

ACT II

Scene 1

The queen's garden

Carlo has received a letter giving him an assignation, which he thinks is from the queen; it is really from Eboli, who is in love with him. Mistaking her at first for the queen, he greets her ecstatically, only to draw back in horror when he realises his mistake. She realises that it is the queen he loves and threatens exposure.

Rodrigo appears and, after trying unsuccessfully to convince her that Carlo is raving, tries to kill her to stop her from speaking. But he is prevented by Carlo, and she leaves, still threatening vengeance. Rodrigo asks the prince to give him any secret documents he has.

 

Scene 2

A square in Madrid

An auto-da-fé is in progress and the crowd acclaims the glory of the king, who emerges from church and repeats his vow to have the wicked put to death by fire and the sword. Carlo leads in a group of Flemish deputies who beg for mercy for their country, but the king angrily rejects them as traitors. Carlo then asks the king to allow him to go to Flanders as his deputy, but the king refuses, pointing out that he would then be able to seize the throne.

Carlo draws his sword to swear faith with the Flemish people and Filippo orders him to be disarmed. Only Rodrigo obeys and demands the sword, which is yielded by the stunned prince.

The auto-da-fé continues, but a voice from heaven promises peace to the victims.

ACT III

Scene 1

The king's study

The king broods that his wife has never loved him. In answer to his summons the Grand Inquisitor appears and Filippo confides his suspicion that the prince is planning rebellion. They agree that he should be handed over to the inquisition, but then the Inquisitor demands that Rodrigo be handed over as a far greater heretic.

The king refuses, is denounced by the Inquisitor and then tries to make his peace with him, though resentful that the throne has always to give way to the church. The queen rushes in demanding justice, as her jewel casket has been stolen, not knowing that it had been taken on Filippo's orders. He orders her to open it.

The portrait of Don Carlo is revealed and she defends this on the grounds that he had once been her promised husband. When the king accuses her of adultery, she faints and he calls for help. Eboli and Rodrigo appear, the latter reproaching the king for his lack of self-control.

When the two women are left alone, Eboli confesses that it was she who betrayed the queen, jealous because she too loved Carlo, but in vain. The queen pardons her, but when Eboli confesses that she has been the king's mistress, Elisabetta orders her either to a convent or to exile, leaving Eboli to curse the fatal gift of beauty which led to her downfall.

Scene 2

An underground prison

Rodrigo visits Carlo in prison and tells him that the papers he took from Carlo have been found in his possession and have proved him to be the leader of the rebellion. Rodrigo is shot by an officer of the inquisition and dies happy that he has been able to preserve Carlo to save Flanders. He tells him that Elisabetta will explain everything to him the next day at the emperor's tomb.

Filippo, accompanied by grandees, appears and offers Carlo back his sword, but he accuses his father of the murder of Rodrigo, whose death the king also mourns. The people are threatening revolt unless the prince is set free. The king orders the gates to be opened and they surge in, but are subdued when the grand inquisitor orders them to kneel before the king.

ACT IV

The tomb of Charles V at San Yuste

Elisabetta kneels in prayer at the tomb. She remembers happier days in France, and prepares to see Carlo for the last time. He tells her that honor has vanquished love and that he is ready to go to Flanders.

They promise to meet in a better world, but their farewell is interrupted by the king, with the Grand Inquisitor and officers of the inquisition. Carlo draws his sword to defend himself but is suddenly rescued, drawn into the monastery, apparently by Carlo V himself.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Don Carlos

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jul 84

ACT 1

Scene 1. The forest of Fontainebleau in France

Don Carlos, son of King Philip of Spain and heir to the throne, is to be married to Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of the King of France. Secretly and against his father's orders, he has joined the party of the ambassador, the Count of Lerma, and gone to France to see his bride.

He has seen her and fallen in love with her and when she loses her way after a hunting party he meets her, gives her his portrait, makes himself known and confesses his love, which is returned.

But their dream of happiness is cut short by the news, brought by the page Thibaut, that it has been decided that Elisabeth should marry Philip. Alhtough she is given an apparently free choice, it is clear that the peace between the two countries depends on her acceptance and she submits.

ACT II

Scene 1. The tomb of the Emperor Charles V at the monastery of San Yuste

Carlos laments the loss of Elisabeth as monks chant the obsequies of the emperor. He thinks he recognises in one of the monks the dead emperor in person.

He is joined by his friend Rodrigo, Marquis of Posa, who exhorts him to help the Flemish people who are suffering under the heavy Spanish yoke. Carlos confides that he loves his stepmother, and the two swear eternal friendship and dedication to the cause of liberty, while Philip and Elisabeth kneel at the tomb.

Scene 2. A garden at the gate of the monastery

The queen's ladies are gathered. The Princess of Eboli, accompanied by the page Thibaut, sings a song. When the queen appears the Marquis of Posa is announced. Along with letters from France he gives her a letter from Carlos. As she reads it he is engaged in polite conversation with Eboli. Posa then begs the queen to intercede with the king for Carlos, who is suffering from his displeasure.

Carlos appears and all withdraw to allow him to be alone with the queen. He begins quietly, asking for her help with the king, but becomes more emotional, lamenting his lost love and collapses at her feet. She is distressed and he recovers and wildly declares that he loves her. She answers indignantly, as becomes the wife of his father, and he rushes from her presence in self-loathing and despair. The king arrives and, angry at finding the queen alone, dismisses the lady who should have been with her and orders her to return to France. Elisabeth takes an affectionate farewell of her and leaves.

The king detains Posa, who is about to go, and asks why he has never sought favor from the king, though he has deserved it. Posa answers that he wants nothing for himself, but begs for peace for the people of Flanders. The king offers peace brought about by the sword, pointing to Spain as an example, but Posa cries out that this is the peace of the grave. Philip pardons his freedom fo speech but warns him against the grand inquisitor. He confides his fears that his wife and son are betraying him and authorises Posa to visit the queen at any time to investigate this suspicion.

ACT III

Scene 1. The queen's garden

Carlos has received a letter giving him an assignation, which he thinks is from the queen; but he finds instead the Princess of Eboli, who is in love with him. Mistaking her at first for the queen, he greets her ecstatically, only to draw back in horror when he realises his mistake. She quickly leaps to the conclusion that it is the queen he loves and threatens exposure.

Posa appears, and after trying unsuccessfully to convince her that Carlos is raving, tries to kill her to stop her from speaking. But he is prevented by Carlos, and she leaves, still threatening vengeance. Posa asks the prince to give him any secret documents he has.

Scene 2. A square in Madrid

An auto-da-fe is in progress and the crowd acclaims the glory of the king, who emerges from church and repeats his vow to have the wicked put to death by fire and the sword. Carlos leads in a group of Flemish deputies who beg for mercy for their country, but the king angrily rejects them as traitors.

Carlos then asks the king to allow him to go to Flanders as his deputy, but the king refuses, claiming that he would then be able to seize the throne. Carlos draws his sword to swear faith with the Flemish people and Philip orders him to be disarmed. Only Posa obeys and demands the sword, which is yielded by the stunned prince. The auto-da-fe continues, but a voice from heaven promises peace to the victims.

ACT IV

The king's study

The king broods that his wife has never loved him. In answer to his summons the grand inquisitor appears and Philip confides his suspicion that the prince is planning rebellion. They agree that he should be handed over to the Inquisition, but then the inquisitor demands that Posa be handed over as a far greater heretic. The king refuses, is denounced by the inquisitor, and then tries to make his peace with him, though resentful that the throne has to always give way to the church.

The queen rushes in demanding justice, as her jewel casket has been stolen. It has in fact been given to Philip, who orders her to open it. The portrait of Don Carlos is revealed and she defends this on the grounds that he had once been promised as her husband. When the king abuses her and accuses her of adultery, she faints and he calls for help. Eboli and Posa appear, the latter reproaching the king for his lack of self-control.

When the two women are left alone, Eboli confesses that it was she who betrayed the queen, jealous because she too loved Carlos, but in vain. The queen pardons her, but when Eboli confesses that she has been the king's mistress, Elisabeth orders her either to a convent or to exile, leaving Eboli to curse the fatal gift of beauty which led to her downfall.

Scene 2. An underground prison

Posa visits Carlos in prison and tells him that the papers he took from Carlos have been found in his possession and have proved him to be the leader of the rebellion. Posa is shot by an officer of the Inquisition and dies happy that he has been able to preserve Carlos to save Flanders. He tells him that Elisabeth will explain everything to him the next day at the emperor's tomb.

Philip, accompanied by grandees, appears and offers Carlos back his sword, but he accuses his father of the murder of Posa, whose death the king also mourns. The people are threatening revolt unless the prince is set free. The king orders the gates to be opened and they surge in, but are subdued when the grand inquisitor orders them to kneel before their king.

ACT V

The tomb of Charles V at San Yuste

Elisabeth kneels in prayer at the tomb. She remembers happier days in France, and prepares to see Carlos for the last time. When he arrives he declares that honor has vanquished love and that he is ready to go to Flanders. They promise to meet in a better world, but their farewell is interrupted by the king, with the grand inquisitor and officers of the Inquisition.

Carlos draws his sword to defend himself but is suddenly drawn into the monastery by the mysterious monk, his disguise thrown off, now revealed as the emperor.

Giuseppe Verdi:
I Due Foscari

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Apr 83

ACT I

Scene 1. A hall in the Doge's palace

As the Council of Ten and the Junta are assembling to pass judgement on Jacopo Foscari, son of the present Doge, they reflect on the power and mystery of Venice and its laws. As they enter the council chamber, Jacopo is led into the hall from the state prison. He is allowed to look out the window and refresh himself with the sight of his beloved Venice.

When the officer guarding him tries to comfort him with the thought that he might find mercy he bursts into a tirade about the hatred which motivates his judges. He tries to fortify himself by reminding himself that he is a Foscari and is led into the chamber.

Scene 2. A hall in the Foscari palace

Lucrezia wishes to see the Doge. Supported by her ladies she prays for comfort, but when Pisana tells her that her husband, Jacopo Foscari, has been condemned not to death but the 'mercy' of exile, she bursts into a denunciation of the judges.

Scene 3. The Doge's private rooms

The Doge laments his situation, under the surveillance of the Council of Ten and unable to help his suffering son. Lucrezia ia admitted, vituperating againsts the judges, including the Doge in her condemnation.

He reproves her for lack of respect for the law, but admits that he is stricken by his son's fate. When Lucrezia insists that Jacopo is innocent the Doge reminds her that he has confessed to writing an incriminating letter, to which she answers that he wrote it in order to be brought back to Venice. She begs for mercy and he answers that the Doge has no power to grant it; but she takes comfort from his obvious grief for his son.

ACT II

Scene 1. The state prison

The imprisoned Jacopo is haunted by the ghosts of his predecessors, particularly that of the condottiere Carmagnola (executed some years before, while Francesco Foscari was Doge, for betraying the city which had employed him) who he feels is reproaching him.

He faints and Lucrezia, allowed to visit him, fears that he is dead. He takes some time to come to and recognise her. She tells him that he is not to die but to suffer exile and they lament their impending separation, as the voices of gondoliers outside contrast with their misery.

The Doge, free at last to show his true feelings, enters and embraces his son. His last farewell with his son is interrupted by the arrival of Loredano, sworn enemy of the Foscari family, who announces that the council is assembled and the ship that is to take Jacopo into exile is ready. He reveals that Lucrezia and her children have been forbidden to accompany Jacopo. Jacopo and Lucrezia lament, the Doge advises submission to the law, and Loredano exults.

Scene 2. The chamber of the Council of Ten

The council gathers, convinced that Jacopo deserved punishment for murder and trafficking with foreign rulers. The Doge enters, ready to sink the father in the ruler. When Jacopo is brought in he is given his sentence of exile to read.

Loredano calls for his instant departure, but the arrival of Lucrezia and her children, attended by her ladies, interrupts proceedings. Jacopo embraces his children and begs pardon of his father who tries to hide his grief, while Lucrezia and her ladies also beg for pardon. Barbarigo tells Loredano he should at least feel pity and Loredano answers that their tears delight him. Loredano again urges immediate departure and repeats the edict that Jacopo's wife and children may not go with him. Jacopo declares that he will soon die and is led away.

ACT III

Scene 1. The old Piazetta of St Mark

The people assemble for carnival, watched by Barbarigo and Loredano, who remarks that the people don't care who is Doge. A nerry barcarolle follows but the people fade away at the sight of a galley bearing officers of the law. Jacopo is escorted from the Doge's palace, followed by Lucrezia and Pisana. The farewell of Lucrezia and Jacopo is interrupted by Pisana, and Jacopo steps aboard the galley.

Scene 2. The Doge's private room

The Doge laments that his last remaining son has been taken from him and he is old and alone. Barbarigo brings the news that another man has confessed to the murder for which Jacopo has been exiled; but the Doge's hopes are immediately dashed by the arrival of Lucrezia who tells him that Jacopo had died as he left Venice.

The Council of Ten, with Loredano as their spokesman, request the Doge's abdication on the grounds that he is old and deserves a rest from the cares of state. He refuses, reminding them that twice during his 35-year term they had not allowed him to resign and made him swear to die in office. He is forced to consent and removes the regalia of office as Lucrezia enters. As he is about to leave on her arm, the bells of St Mark's ring to announce the appointment of his successor and he collapses and dies.

Loredano writes "paid" in his account book.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Falstaff

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 95

ACT I

Scene 1. Inside the Garter Inn

Falstaff is writing letters. Dr Caius enters and complains of various outrages committed against him by Falstaff and his followers, Pistola and Bardolfo. Falstaff unrepentantly admits to the accusations against him, but Pistola and Bardolfo deny the charges, claiming that Caius was so drunk at the time he didn't know what was going on. Counting his money, Falstaff laments his impecunious state and announces his intention of repairing his fortunes by beginning affairs with the wives of two wealthy men who, he claims, are already smitten with his corpulent charms. He tells Pistola and Bardolfo to take the letters to the two ladies, Alice Ford and Meg Page, but they refuse, saying that such errands are contrary to their sense of honor. Falstaff derides their notions of honor and chases them off angrily, entrusting the letters to a page.

Scene 2. A garden outside Ford's house

Alice and Meg meet, each bursting with news of a letter from Falstaff. They compare letters and find them identically phrased. Their amusement turns to indignation and they decide on vengeance. Nannetta, Alice's daughter, and Fenton, her sweetheart, seize the opportunity to exchange stealthy kisses.

In another part of the garden, Pistola and Bardolfo tell Ford of Falstaff's intentions. He arranges to be introduced to Falstaff under the name of Brook, so that he can keep an eye on him.

The ladies decide to send Mistress Quickly to Falstaff, giving him an assignation with Alice. They plan to play a trick on him, but Ford, whose jealousy is a burden to his wife, is not to know.

ACT II

Scene 1. Inside the Garter Inn

Falstaff is drinking. Pistola and Bardolfo pretend to be penitent for refusing to take the letters. Quickly brings the mesage that Alice will be waiting for Falstaff between two and three o'clock, when her husband is always absent. She tells him that both Alice and Meg are pining with love for him and that neither knows of his letter to the other. Ford, disguised, is introduced to Falstaff, spinning a tale that he has long pursued Alice in vain, and asking for Falstaff's help, as a man of the world, to win her, suggesting that if Falstaff can break down her resistance, he will be able to follow suit. Falstaff replies that nothing could be easier - he already has an assignation with her. Ford seethes with rage and jealousy, but has to contain himself.

Scene 2. A room in Ford's house

The ladies set the scene, with particular attention to a big laundry basket.

Nannetta tells her mother that her father insists she marry Dr Caius. Alice tells her not to worry, she will look after the matter. Alice takes up a lute while the others hide within earshot. Falstaff's advances are interrupted when Meg rushes in to warn Alice that her husband is coming. They hide Falstaff behind a screen. Ford, Fenton, Caius, Pistola and Bardolfo search for Falstaff, beginning with the laundry basket. When they turn their attention elsewhere, the ladies bundle Falstaff into the basket. Hearing sounds behind the screen, the searchers pull it aside, revealing Nannetta and Fenton exchanging a kiss. Ford is furious.

Alice calls her servants and orders them to tip the basket, with Falstaff inside it, into the Thames.

ACT III

Scene 1. Outside the Garter Inn

The disconsolate Falstaff calls for wine to wash away the water of the Thames, becoming more cheerful as the wine takes effect. At first he refuses to listen to Quickly, who comes again as messenger from Alice, but relents when she assures him it was all a misunderstanding and Alice is desolated .

He is given another assignation, in Windsor Park at midnight, where he is to dress up as Herne the Hunter. The ladies, along with Ford, who has now been admitted to the conspiracy, listen and continue to plot. They plan to dress up as goblins, fairies and witches and take advantage of the legend that the park is haunted to frighten Falstaff.

Ford takes Caius aside and tells him to wear an easily identifiable costume, so that he can be married to Nannetta. But Quickly has overheard the plot.

Scene 2. Windsor Park

Fenton sings a serenade. Alice instructs him to put on a costume identical to that prescribed by Ford for Caius. They all hide as Falstaff appears. Alice meets him, but then runs away, claiming that Meg is following her. The witches and fairies appear, with Nannetta as fairy queen. They surround Falstaff, pinching and poking him, demanding that he repent of his wicked ways, but finally he recognises Bardolfo and the masquerade is over.

The ladies reprove him for even thinking they would have accepted him as a lover and Ford reveals himself as Alice's husband, not the lovelorn Brook. He announces the marriage of the queen of the fairies, but two couples, similarly attired, step forward and he performs a double wedding. Unveiling reveals that Caius has been married to Bardolfo and Nannetta to Fenton.

Ford has to accept this with good grace, as Falstaff has accepted his humiliation. Falstaff is forgiven and all agree to dine together.

Giuseppe Verdi:
La Forza del Destino

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

May 88

ACT I

A room in the country house of the Marquis of Calatrava

The marquis bids his daughter Leonora an affectionate goodnight, assuring her that the country air will help her to forget the unworthy stranger (who has aspired to her hand). Leonora, on the point of eloping with Don Alvaro, the stranger, is seized with remorse, thinking mournfully of her life when parted forever from her country and her family, while her maid Curra tries to encourage her to pack, warning her of the fate which attends Alvaro if she were to yield to the temptation of confessing to her father.

When Alvaro arrives, she is still reluctant to leave, asking him to delay by one day, so she can see her father again; but when Alvaro accuses her of not loving him, she responds to his passion and prepares to elope. But they are surprised by the Marquis and servants. Swearing that Leonora is pure, Alvaro offers his breast to the Marquis, who disdains to kill one he considers beneath him. Alvaro throws his pistol to the floor and it goes off, killing the Marquis, who dies cursing his daughter. Leonora and Alvaro flee.

ACT II

Scene 1. The inn of the village of Hornachuelos

Arriving at the inn disguised as a man, Leonora hides when she sees her brother, Don Carlo, among the crowd waiting for supper. Don Carlo, disguised as a student, begins to interrogate the muleteer Trabuco about the identity of the person he brought to the inn (Leonora), but is interrupted by the arrival of the gipsy Preziosilla on her way to join the Spanish army fighting in Italy. After a rousing call to arms, she offers to tell fortunes, and sees misfortune in Carlo's hand, and also makes it clear that she knows he is not what he says he is.

A procession of pilgrims passes on its way to the monastery of Hornachuelos and the company joins in the prayer. Carlo continues to question Trabuco about the sex of the traveller, and even suggests painting a moustache on his face as he sleeps, until restrained by the mayor, who asks him to account for himself. His name is Pereda, he answers, a student from Salamanca, who had accompanied his friend Don Carlo di Vargas in search of his sister and her foreign lover who had killed their father; Carlo has gone to (South) America and he will return to his studies. All go to bed.

Scene 2. Outside the monastery of Hornachuelos in the mountains

Leonora reaches her goal, the monastery, terrified to have recognised her brother and heard him tell her story. She also heard him say that Don Alvaro, whom she had thought killed in the confusion on the night of the failed elopement, is alive and has gone to South America; and believes that he has deserted her. She rings the bell and manages to convince the reluctant porter, brother Melitone, of her urgent need to see the Padre Guardiano.

To the Padre Guardiano she reveals her identity. She had been sent to him by her confessor, as she wishes to follow the example of another woman and live as a hermit in a cave not far from the monastery. After some reluctance, he consents and calls the monks to prayer, to give her his blessing and state to her and the brothers (who do not know she is a woman) the conditions of her future life: she is to see no one and remain undisturbed; he will leave food for her and only in extreme danger or at the hour of her death is she to ring a bell to summon him.

ACT III

Scene 1. In Italy, near Velletri during the War of the Austrian Succession

As soldiers carouse in the background, Don Alvaro reveals in a soliloquy that he is the son of a Spaniard who had married the daughter of the last of the Incas and tried to free Peru from Spanish rule. His parents had been defeated, put in prison, where Alvaro was born, and executed, while he was brought up in the wilderness. Unaware that Leonora is still alive, he prays to her to look down on him from heaven.

Disturbed by sounds of quarrelling and a cry for help, he rescues Don Carlo from the consequences of a quarrel over a game of cards. Excusing himself for being in such low company, on the grounds that he is but recently arrived, Carlo identifies himself as Don Felice de Bornos, aide-de-camp to the general, and Alvaro gives in reply the name he has assumed, Don Federico, Herreros, captain of grenadiers and, as Carlo exclaims in delight, the pride of the army. The two swear eternal friendship and go into battle together.

Alvaro is wounded and Carlo exhorts the surgeon to save him, promising Alvaro the order of Calatrava for his bravery. Feeling death near, Alvaro begs Carlo to burn unopened a packet of documents he will find among his possessions, and Carlo swears to obey; but while the surgeon is operating, doubts occur, spurred by Alvaro's horrified reaction to the name of Calatrava. He is tempted to open the packet, but his sense of honor restrains him. But near the packet he finds a portrait of Leonora and his suspicions are confirmed, and he receives with joy the news that Alvaro will live - so that he can kill him.

Scene 2. The camp near Velletri

The sun rises on bustling camp activity. Among those present is Preziosilla, telling fortunes, Trabuco, trafficking with the soldiers, and Melitone, reproving everyone for pagan goings-on on Sunday. When the soldiers turn on him, Preziosilla averts their wrath by embarking on a rousing rataplan.

ACT IV

Scene 1. The courtyard of the monastery of Hornachuelos five years later

Brother Melitone is dispensing food to the poor, complaining as he does so, so that they compare him unfavourably with the charitable Father Raffaele. When they have gone he discusses Father Raffaele with the Father Superior, explaining that he seems more like the devil than a member of a monastic order.

Don Carlo knocks at the gate asking for Father Raffaele (Alvaro) and when they are alone confronts him, wishing to resume the interrupted duel - he has even brought two swords. But Alvaro has withdrawn from the world and tries to avoid the conflict. Rising to Carlo's taunt on his ancestry, he gains control of himself, but a blow cannot be overlooked and they run off to fight to the death.

Scene 2. A mountain gorge near a cave in the vicinity of the monastery

Leonora, dressed as a hermit, appears from the cave, praying for peace of mind: she has been unable to forget Don Alvaro.

The sound of fighting disturbs her and she calls an imprecation on the heads of those disturbing her holy refuge. But the voice of the dying Carlo is heard calling for confession and Alvaro comes to beg the hermit to give him the last rites. They recognise one another and Alvaro tells her her brother lies dying. She goes to him, but he stabs her as he dies.

As she reappears, supported by the Padre Guardiano, Alvaro curses his fate and heaven, but is reproved by the Padre Guardiano, and Leonora assures him that heaven will pardon him. As she dies, Alvaro laments that he, the guilty one, lives on.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Macbeth

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Aug 93

ACT I

Scene 1. A wood

Returning from a victory, Macbeth is greeted by witches who hail him not only by his rightful title, Thane of Glamis, but also as Thane of Cawdor and future king. They hail his companion Banquo as the ancestor of a line of kings.

Messengers from the king greet Macbeth as Thane of Cawdor, explaining that the previous holder of the title has been executed. Macbeth broods over the other prophecy, but decides not to lift his hand against the king, while Banquo reflects that such prophecies could be a trap leading to destruction.

Scene 2. A hall in Macbeth's castle

Lady Macbeth reads the letter in which Macbeth relates these events, and eagerly awaits his return, so that she can strengthen his resolve to obtain the crown. She greets with delight the news that King Duncan intends to pass the night at the castle, and when Macbeth arrives, easily convinces him to murder the king. Duncan appears with his retinue, including his son, Malcolm.

On his way to commit the murder, Macbeth has a hallucination, seeing a dagger in the air, and strange noises accompany the deed. Stricken with terror and guilt, he is unable to take back the dagger which he has inadvertently brought with him.

Lady Macbeth derides his fear, puts back the dagger and tells him to wash his hands and assume an appearance of innocence. Knocking at the gate heralds the arrival of Macduff and Banquo. Macduff goes to call the king while Banquo muses on the dreadful night, full of portents. Macduff's announcement of the murder provokes horror and cries to heaven for vengeance from all, including Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

ACT II

Scene 1. A room in Macbeth's castle

Macbeth confesses to his wife that he is brooding over the witches' prophecy that Banquo's descendants will be kings, and resolves to have him killed. Lady Macbeth exults that their claim to the throne will soon be unchallenged, even if at the cost of more killng.

Scene 2. A park outside Macbeth's castle

Banquo's forebodings are fulfilled when he is set upon and killed, but his son Fleance escapes.

Scene 3. A hall in the castle

A banquet is in progress and Lady Macbeth invites the guests to drink. One of the murderers reports that Banquo has been killed, but Fleance has escaped. Macbeth, about to take his seat, is confronted by Banquo's ghost, which only he can see. The guests are puzzled by his horror, but he recovers when the ghost vanishes and Lady Macbeth resumes her song in an attempt to restore the interrupted conviviality. But the ghost reappears and Macbeth's terror arouses the suspicions of the guests. Macduff decides to flee and Macbeth resolves to visit the witches again.

ACT III

A dark cavern

The witches prepare a brew. When Macbeth appears and demands to know his fate, they summon up spirits which tell him first to beware Macduff (whereupon he resolves to kill him), then that he cannot be killed by anyone born of woman (he decides to spare Macduff, but changes his mind again, wishing to be doubly sure) and that he cannot be killed until Birnam Wood comes to Dunsinane.

When he asks if Banquo's children will be kings, he is shown a vision of eight kings, the last holding a mirror showing still more, and Banquo indicating that they are his issue. Macbeth faints and the witches vanish. Lady Macbeth encourages him to kill Fleance and he tells her that he will also have Macduff and his family put to death. They swear vengeance on all who oppose them.

ACT IV

Scene 1. Near the Scottish border

The refugees who have fled Macbeth's tyranny lament the unhappy state of their homeland and Macduff bewails the death of his family. Malcolm orders the soldiers to take branches from Birnam Wood as camouflage and exhorts them to follow him to free Scotland.

Scene 2. A room in Macbeth's castle

Lady Macbeth walks in her sleep, reliving the murders and trying to wash the blood from her hands.

Scene 3. A hall in Macbeth's castle

Faced with a stream of desertions, Macbeth takes comfort from the prophecies, though he is weary of life, and the news of his wife's death confirms his feelings about the futility of existence. When he learns that Birnam Wood is moving towards his castle, he realises that the witches have deceived him, but is determined to die fighting.

The scene changes to a plain where the battle rages. Macbeth learns that Macduff was not born naturally and is killed by him. Macduff hails Malcolm as king and the people join in thanksgiving.

Giuseppe Verdi:
I Masnadieri

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Oct 94

ACT I

Scene 1. An inn on the borders of Saxony

Carlo is waiting for a letter from his father, which he hopes will bring pardon for his misdeeds and allow him to break away from the wild company he has been keeping. He thinks wistfully of his home and his beloved Amalia. But when the letter arrives it is from his brother Francesco, and conveys the message that his father rejects him. Desperate and infuriated, Carlo accepts the invitation of his associates to become their leader and set about banditry in earnest.

Scene 2. Franconia. A room in the castle of Count Moor

Francesco reveals that it is his doing that his father has spurned Carlo, as he suppressed Carlo's penitent letter, substituting one of his own composition, which had so incensed his father that he disowned Carlo. Having thus got rid of his hated elder brother he is now anxious to dispose of his father - preferably by a subtle means in which his hand will not be apparent. He orders the family servant Arminio to disguise himself and bring a false message of Carlo's death.

Scene 3. A room in the castle

Amalia watches by the sleeping Massimiliano, grieving that he has banished her beloved Carlo, but unable to hold it against him. When he awakes he begs her forgiveness, but she assures him of her constant affection. Both lament the absent Carlo. Francesco brings in the disguised Arminio who tells a pathetic tale of Carlo's supposed death from wounds in a battle outside Prague. He also produces a sword on which is written, in blood, Carlo's purported dying wish that Francesco should marry Amalia, at which she cries out in horror.

Massimiliano reproaches himself with having caused his son's death but attacks Francesco for having spurred him on; Arminio begins to regret his participation in the plot; Amalia mourns Carlo and Francesco exults in the success of his scheme as Massimiliano falls down, apparently dead.

ACT II

Scene 1. Massimiliano's tomb near the family chapel

Amalia kneels in front of Massimiliano's tomb while revellers can be heard carousing at a banquet she has left. She mourns both Carlo and his father, but Arminio rushes through telling her that both are alive. Francesco declares his love, but she rejects him, blaming him for Carlo's death.

When she welcomes his threat of a convent, he swears to make her his mistress. Feigning submission she manages to grab his sword and keep him, raging furiously, at bay.

Scene 2. Woods near Prague

One of the bandits, Rolla, is about to be executed, but Carlo sets Prague on fire to save him. Carlo alone is sad amid the general rejoicing. He contemplates the beauty of the sunset, contrasting it with his iniquity. He longs to be free of his criminal companions and his mind flies to Amalia. He is roused from his rev-erie by the brigands shouting that they are surrounded. He rushes off to fight.

ACT III

Scene 1. A wild spot near the castle

Amalia, escaping from Francesco, is terrified when she hears the bandits nearby; but her fears turn to joy when Carlo appears. He cannot tell her what he has been doing, but they swear to remain together forever.

Scene 2. Near a ruined tower in the forest

The bandits rejoice in their life of crime but Carlo,watching alone after they have gone to sleep, realises that Amalia can never be his. He contemplates suicide, but resolves to live on.

Arminio comes to the tower to feed Massimiliano who has been immured there, thus leading Carlo to discover his father. Massimiliano, who does not recognise Carlo, tells him how Francesco had shut him up in the tower to die of starvation. Carlo wakens the band, tells them the story and dedicates them to avenge his father, swearing that he will kill his brother.

ACT IV

Scene 1. In the castle

Francesco is haunted by dreams of the Last Judgment. Feeling the weight of his sins he sends for a priest who tells him that God demands satisfaction for his crimes and refuses to absolve him. The castle is attacked.

Scene 2. As Act III Scene 2

Massimiliano, still not recognising Carlo, thinks sadly of him as lost forever. Carlo asks for his blessing. The brigands return to announce that Francesco has escaped them, to the relief of Carlo, but then they drag in Amalia whom they have captured.

Recognising Carlo, she calls on him to save her. He is forced to admit to Amalia and his father that he is the chief of a gang of bandits. Massimiliano is aghast that he should have produced such a son but Amalia declares that she still loves Carlo and he begins to hope for happiness - only to be dragged back to reality by the bandits who remind him that he has sworn faith to them. Amalia begs him to kill her before he leaves, and he does so, declaring himself now ready for the gallows.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Nabucco

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Feb 78

ACT I

Jerusalem

Thus saith the Lord: Behold I will give this city into the hands of the king of Babylon: he will burn it with fire.*

Scene 1. The interior of the Temple of Solomon

The Hebrews are taking refuge in the temple from the wrath of the Assyrians, who are advancing under the command of their king, Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar). As they are praying for their danger to be averted, the high priest, Zaccaria, brings in a captive, Fenena, the daughter of Nabucco, who, he says, will bring them peace.

Ismaele, the nephew of the king of Jerusalem, comes in with further news of the advance of Nabucco, who is now close at hand. Uttering a prayer that heaven may yet strike him down and save them, Zaccaria leaves, followed by his flock, entrusting Fenena to the charge of Ismaele. They are then able to speak of their love for each other, dating from Ismaele's visit to Babylon as ambassador, where Fenena had rescued him from prison and from the impassioned advances of her sister Abigaille.

The reunion is interrupted by Abigaille herself, sword in hand, with an advance band of Assyrians who overpower the Hebrew guards and disguise themselves in their unifroms. Abigaille upbraids Fenena for her lack of patriotism in loving one of the enemy and then falls into the same fault herself, telling Ismaele that she can still save him if he will love her. Naturally he rejects her advances.

The confrontation is ended by the inrushing Hebrews, full of alarm at the destruction outside and hoping to find refuge in the temple - to no avail, as Nabucco strides in with his war-band, undeterred by Zaccaria's warning that this is the house of God. Zaccaria makes it clear how he intends to use Fenena as a peacemaker by threatening to kill her.

Nabucco is only momentarily restrained by this challenge, but when Zaccaria shows that he intends to carry out his theatre, the dagger is struck from his hand by Ismaele who is immediately overcome by remorse as well as being overwhelmed by the curses of the Hebrews. The advantage thus rests with the Assyrians.

ACT II

The Wicked Man

Behold the whirlwind of the Lord goeth forth with fury;
it shall fall upon the head of the wicked.

Scene 1. The royal apartments in Nabucco's palace in Babylon

Abigaille enters with a secret document she has managed to steal from Nabucco. It reveals that she is not, as she had been brought up to believe, the elder daughter of Nabucco, but of slave birth. She rages at this and at the fact that Fenena has been made regent while Nabucco is absent fighting.

The high priest of Bel brings the news that Fenena is setting free the Hebrews, who had been carried off into captivity in Babylon after the fall of Jerusalem. They strike up an alliance. The priest has already spread the rumor that Nabucco has been killed in battle and is prepared to support Abigaille in her attempt to win the throne.

Scene 2. A hall in the palace

Zaccaria, entering with a Levite carrying the Tables of the Law, pauses to pray. He reveals that he has a mission from God to convert a heathen soul and casts fulminations on the people of Babylon.

When he has gone, the rest of the Levites assemble, waiting to find out why they have been summoned. When Ismaele joins them they turn on him with imprecations for his treachery. His prayers for mercy fall on deaf ears until Anna, the sister of Zaccaria, followed by Zaccaria himself, brings the news that Fenena is now converted to the Hebrew faith, so Ismaele can be forgiven for saving her life.

Abdallo, the loyal retainer of Nabucco, rushes in with the news that Nabucco has been killed and that Abigaille is being acclaimed by the people. Abigaille appears and demands the crown, which Fenena is wearing.

Before this confrontation can develop further, Nabucco himself, reports of whose death have been greatly exaggerated, enters and seizes the crown himself. He proclaims himself not only still king, but also God. He is struck down by a thunderbolt, and goes mad on the spot. Abigaille picks up the fallen crown and claims it

ACT III

The Prophecy

The wild beasts of the desert shall dwell in Babylon, together with owls and hoopoes shall dwell therein.

Scene 1. The Hanging Gardens

Abigaille has consolidated her position on the throne and, in consultation with the priests of Bel, is about to order the execution of the Hebrews and of Fenena. Nabucco, still mad, dishevelled and dressed in rags, breaks through the guards and confronts her. In answer to his rage at finding her on the throne she answers that he is not well and then tricks him into signing the death warrant.

When he realises that he has been made to condemn his own daughter to death he tries to threaten Abigaille with the paper proving her low birth. But she has already stolen it and produces it only to tear it to pieces before his eyes. She mocks his entreaties for Fenena's life and threatens him with imprisonment.

Scene 2. The banks of the Euphrates

The Hebrews, working as slaves, lament their exiled state. They are joined by Zaccaria who upbraids them for their weakness and stirs them with the stern prophecy that Babylon the proud will soon fall and not a stone will be left. Their spirits are raised.

ACT IV

The Broken Idol

Bel is confounded: his idols are broken in pieces.

Scene 1. An apartment in the palace

Nabucco has been confined by order of Abigaille. He is still mad. Hearing shouts outside announcing that Fenena is about to be executed he looks out and sees a procession of Hebrews, with his daughter, being led off in chains. Unable to burst out of his prison he turns to the God of the Hebrews, praying for forgiveness and promising to cast down the false idols of Babylon.

The faithful Abdallo comes in and discovers, to his joy, that Nabucco has gone sane. He restores his sword to his master and they set off to rescue Fenena.

Scene 2. The Hanging Gardens

The high priest of Bel is ready beside his sacrificial altar when Fenena and the Hebrews are led in. Fenena kneels before Zaccaria and he gives her his blessing. She is preparing calmly for her death when Nabucco, at the head of his loyal soldiers, bursts in and orders the idols of Bel to be pulled down.

Before anyone can move the idol crashes to the ground. Nabucco proclaims the might of Jehovah, sets the Hebrews free and promises them a safe return to their own land.

As further proof of the power of Jehovah he informs them that Abigaille has been so struck by the wickedness of her ways that she has taken poison. She staggers in, dying, in penitential black, full of remorse and begging forgiveness all round. She gives her blessing to the marriage of Fenena and Ismaele and dies, praying to God for mercy.

Nabucco and the Hebrews together proclaim the might of God and Zaccaria promises greatness to the newly-converted Nabucco.

 

* The titles of the acts and the biblical paraphrases are given by Verdi.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Otello

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

May 96

ACT I

Cyprus, near the harbor; an inn nearby, the castle in the background

It is night and a storm is raging. The people of the island are looking out to sea, anxious for Otello's ship. It arrives safely and he greets the crowd with a shout of triumph: the storm which has spared him has completed the destruction of the Turkish fleet begun by him. Frustrated in his love of Desdemona, Roderigo is ready to drown himself, but Iago counsels him to be sensible. He hates Otello for having appointed Cassio captain over his head and will help Roderigo and have his own revenge at the same time.

As the islanders celebrate, Iago invites Cassio to drink the health of Otello and Desdemona, knowing that he has no head for liquor. Prompted by Iago, Roderigo begins a quarrel with the intoxicated Cassio, and when Montano tries to stop them, Cassio attacks him. Iago urges Roderigo to rouse the town.

Otello interrupts the fight and, discovering that Montano is wounded and angry because Desdemona's sleep has been disturbed, demotes Cassio. He orders Iago to calm the population. Otello and Desdemona, left alone, remember the days of their courtship.

ACT II

A hall in the castle with a garden in the background

Iago suggests to Cassio that he try to regain favor by asking Desdemona to intercede for him and exults in his inborn capacity for evil. He watches as Cassio approaches Desdemona and, noting the arrival of Otello, pretends to be worried about Cassio's manner, going on to suggest the possibility of a relationship between him and Desdemona. He then warns Otello to beware of jealousy and advises him to observe his wife. After groups of Cypriots have sung a welcome to Desdemona she begins to plead for Cassio, but Otello puts her off, complaining of a headache. When she tries to bind his forehead with a handkerchief, he throws it to the ground, where it is picked up by Emilia.

Desdemona begs her husband to forgive her if she has unconsciously offended him and he broods that she may have ceased to love him because of his color and age. Iago snatches the handkerchief from Emilia, intending to leave it in Cassio's lodging.

Otello orders Desdemona to leave and Iago continues to undermine Otello's faith in her. Lamenting that his peace of mind has gone, Otello demands proof of her infidelity, so Iago claims to have overheard Cassio in his sleep betraying his love for her. He also says that he has seen the handkerchief, Otello's first love-token to Desdemona, in Cassio's hand. Otello vows vengeance and Iago vows to dedicate himself to this cause.

ACT III

The great hall of the castle

A herald announces the arrival of a galley from Venice. Iago promises to induce Cassio to betray his love for Desdemona in Otello's hearing.

When Desdemona again tries to speak of Cassio, Otello asks her to bind his forehead with the handkerchief. Becoming agitated when she is unable to produce it, he warns her that its loss will bring misfortune and accuses her of infidelity, driving her away, unmoved by her tears and protestations of innocence.

His grief at this affliction which has been sent to try him turns to rage as Iago gets him to hide while he talks to Cassio -a cunningly contrived conversation partly about Desdemona and partly about the courtesan Bianca, who is madly in love with Cassio. Otello, unable to hear everything, misinterprets Cassio's amusement, particularly when Cassio produces the handkerchief, expressing puzzlement as to how it appeared in his lodging, and he and Iago laugh.

As trumpets proclaim the arrival of the Venetian ship, Otello resolves to kill Desdemona and Iago promises to take care of Cassio. Everyone gathers to welcome the ambassador. As Otello reads the despatches brought by Lodovico, he hears Desdemona express sympathy for Cassio and strikes her. He announces that he has been recalled to Venice and Cassio appointed in his place. Lodovico tries to make peace between him and Desdemona, but he throws her to the ground. Furious at Cassio's promotion, Iago incites Roderigo to murder him, as a means of keeping Otello and Desdemona in Cyprus.

Otello orders everyone to leave, cursing Desdemona when she tries to approach him. As he falls to the ground in a fit, Iago gloatingly places his foot on him.

ACT IV

Desdemona's bedroom

As Desdemona prepares for bed, assisted by Emilia, her heart is full of foreboding and she remembers a girl called Barbara, who died of unrequited love, singing "a song of willow." Bidding Emilia good night, she prays, then goes to bed.

Otello enters, wakes her with a kiss and tells her to pray for forgiveness for any unabsolved sins. She begs for her life, denying his accusations of infidelity with Cassio. He strangles her. Emila brings the news that Cassio has killed Roderigo, but is unharmed. Hearing Desdemona's dying protestations of innocence, Emilia calls for help. She reveals the truth about the handkerchief and Montano says that Roderigo had revealed what he knew of the plot before dying. Iago flees, refusing to exculpate himself.

Lodovico takes Otello's sword, but he draws a knife and kills himself, kissing Desdemona as he dies.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Rigoletto

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jun 91

ACT I

Scene 1. The grand hall of the palace of the Duke of Mantua

A ball is in progress. The duke tells Borsa about a beautiful girl who has caught his eye in church, but to whom he has not spoken. His attention is caught by the appearance of the Countess Ceprano and he expounds his philosophy that all women are alike; he can give his heart to one as readily as another and constancy is a bore. His approaches to the countess are frustrated by her nervousness of her jealous husband, until the hunchbacked jester Rigoletto distracts the count and allows the duke to slip off with the countess.

In Rigoletto's temporary absence Marullo has a bit of scandal to tell: he has discovered that Rigoletto has a mistress. Rigoletto enrages Ceprano by his lack of subtlety in suggesting to the duke that he dispose of the jealous husband by cutting off his head. The courtiers are tired of Rigoletto's tricks and gibes and plan to be revenged on him.

Monterone bursts in demanding to be heard. Taunted by Rigoletto for his concern about his daughter's lost honor, he curses the duke and Rigoletto - to the superstitious horror of the latter.

Scene 2. A street with Rigoletto's house on one side and Ceprano's palace on the other

Brooding on the curse, Rigoletto is accosted by Sparafucile, a killer for hire, offering his services and (like the courtiers, thinking that Rigoletto keeps a mistress) pointing out that Rigoletto has a rival. Rigoletto dismisses him, but takes note of where he may be found if needed. He reflects that he is no better than Sparafucile, who kills with the sword, as he does with his tongue. A deformed man, forced to amuse others for his existence, he blames the duke and the court for his own wickedness.

Only in his home is he another, better man. He tenderly embraces his daughter Gilda. He evades her questions about his life and family, remembring the dead wife who had loved him despite his deformity. He tells Gilda that she is everything to him and is terrfiied when she begs to be allowed to leave the house. He summons her duenna Giovanna and instructs her to look to his daughter's safety

He goes outside to investigate a noise and the duke slips in and hides, throwing a purse to Giovanna to ensure her silence. Having found no one, Rigoletto bids his daugther farewell - to the surprise of the duke, who had been unaware that Gilda was his jester's daughter. Gilda confesses to Giovanna that she feels guilty that she has not told her father of the handsome young man she has seen at church. She muses about her love for the stranger, but is alarmed when he suddenly emerges and professes his love. He calms her fears and she admits to her love. He tells her he is a poor student called Gualtier MaldË. Hearing sounds outside he leaves and she reflects on the name of her beloved as she prepares to go to bed.

In the street the courtiers are planning her abduction. Rigoletto, unaccountably nervous, reappears and they pretend they are carrying off Countess Ceprano, enlisting his help to hold the ladder, after blindfolding him. It is only when they have broken into his house and carried off Gilda that he tears off the bandage and realises what has happened, blaming Monterone's curse for his misfortune.

ACT II

A room in the duke's palace

Like Rigoletto, the duke had gone back to the house to find Gilda gone. His concern for her convinces him that this time he is really in love. The courtiers describe their exploit to him and he soon realises it is Gilda they have carried off, and rushes to comfort her with the revelation of his true identity.

When Rigoletto comes in search of Gilda, the courtiers feign indifference. Realising that she is with the duke he first abuses the courtiers, then begs them to restore his daughter. As she emerges in a state of disarray from the duke's bedroom, he orders the courtiers to leave. Gilda tells him about the young man at church and about how she had been abducted, though making no reference to what has occurred just now. Rigoletto comforts her and promises they will leave Mantua. Monterone, led by on his way to prison, laments that the duke is still untouched by his curse. Rigoletto swears that Monterone will be avenged by him, as Gilda pleads in vain for mercy.

ACT III

A tumbledown inn in a deserted spot on the banks of the River Mincio Rigoletto has brought Gilda to Sparafucile's dwelling in an effort to convince her that the duke, whom she still loves, is faithless. They watch as, after proclaiming his belief in the fickleness of women, he makes advances to Sparafucile's sister Maddalena, who, while pretending disbelief in his extravagant protestations, is not indifferent to him. Rigoletto sends Gilda home to change into men's clothes and set off for Verona, where he will follow her the next day. Sparafucile collects half his fee - the rest is to be paid when he hands over the duke's body at midnight.

Gilda returns as a storm begins, and listens as Maddalena pleads with her brother to spare the duke - even insulting his professional pride by suggesting he murder his client, Rigoletto, instead. He agrees that if anyone arrives before midnight he will kill him instead, and Gilda determines to sacrifice herself for the duke. She knocks on the door, is killed and her body thrust into a sack and handed to Rigoletto when he returns.

Refusing Sparafucile's offer of help, Rigoletto exults in his revenge, only to hear the duke singing in the distance as he leaves. Tearing open the sack, he discovers Gilda on the point of death. She begs his forgiveness for disobeying him, explaining that she is dying to save the duke. Promising to pray for him in heaven with her mother, she dies, leaving Rigoletto to the realisation that the curse has been fulfilled.

Giuseppe Verdi:
La Traviata

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 87

ACT I

A room in Violetta's house in Paris

A brilliant party is in progress and Violetta is receiving her guests. One of them begs leave to introduce a friend, Alfredo Germont, who has long admired her from afar. Baron Douphol, Violetta's current protector, takes a dislike to Alfredo and refuses to propose the toast when the wine is poured. Instead Alfredo proposes the toast - to love. Violetta answers that love, like all things, must fade: it is best to enjoy the pleasures of the fleeting moment.

The guests move into another room to dance but Violetta, who had been ill, suddenly feels faint and begs them to go on without her. Only Alfredo remains, anxious about her. He tells her he has loved her from the moment he first saw her a year ago. Violetta warns him not to look to her for love, since she has never experienced it. She tells him to leave and think of her no more, but gives him a flower with permission to return it when it has faded. "That will be tomorrow!" exclaims Alfredo, and she agrees. Alfredo goes, followed shortly afterwards by the other guests.

Left alone, Violetta begins to wonder whether she could love Alfredo, but rejects the possibility. A woman in her position cannot afford such luxuries. She will keep her place in the social whirl of Paris and forget about serious affairs of the heart.

Under the balcony Alfredo's voice can be heard repeating his declaration of love.

ACT II

Scene 1. A country house near Paris

Alfredo's passion has won the day. Three months later he and Violetta, deeply in love, have cut themselves off completely from fashionable. life. Alfredo's joy is disturbed one morning when he learns from Violetta's maid Annina that Violetta has had to sell her last possessions, because they have been living on her money which is now all gone. He rushes off to Paris to see what he can do to raise some money, leaving a message for Violetta. She comes in with an invitation from Flora, one of her fashionable friends, which she puts aside laughing, not intending to accept.

Alfredo's father suddenly appears and accuses her of having ruined his son. When she proves to him that all the money spent has been hers he is more polite, but goes on to ask her to give up Alfredo because the liaison is spoiling his daughter's marriage prospects. Broken-hearted, she agrees - thereby winning his deep admiration. They agree that the only way she can convince Alfredo that their idyll is at at end is to tell him she no longer loves him.

Telling Germont to wait in the garden to be ready to comfort Alfredo, she begins a letter to him telling him of her decision. He arrives back before she has finished. Somewhat to his astonishment she bids him a tearful farewell, telling him to love her always as she loves him.

A few minutes after her departure he receives her note by a messenger and understands that she has left for ever. His father appears and tries to comfort him, reminding him of his happy childhood in far Provence. Alfredo refuses to be comforted and, seeing Flora's invitation, assumes that Violetta will be returning to her former life and to the baron. He determines to follow her.

Scene 2. A room in Flora's house

Another party is taking place. Dancers dressed as matadors and Spanish gypsies entertain the company and tell their fortunes.

Alfredo arrives alone, followed shortly afterwards by Violetta accompanied by the jealous baron who forbids her to speak a word to Alfredo. The men begin to play cards and Alfredo wins, remarking bitterly that he is unlucky at love but lucky at cards. Drawn by their mutual antagonism he and the baron begin to play against each other. Their rivalry increases as Alfredo continues to win.

Violetta watches, full of anguish. When the guests retire to another room for supper she begs Alfredo to stay for a moment and entreats him not to anger the baron. Alfredo refuses to believe that her concern is for him rather than the baron, particularly when she refuses his request to leave at once with him. She tells him she has sworn to avoid him and he assumes that only the baron could have had the power to extort such a promise from her. To avoid telling him the truth she says she loves the baron.

Desperate, Alfredo calls the others back and throws his winnings at Violetta, calling them to witness that he has now repaid all his debts to her. Everyone turns on him for his unkindness to Violetta and even his father, who comes in at this point, reproves him for insulting a lady. Coming to his senses Alfredo himself is horrified by what he has done. The baron challenges him to a duel for his discourtesy.

Violetta, overcome by weakness and emotion, assures Alfredo that she does not deserve his scornful treatment; she still loves him and one day he will be filled with remorse at what he has done.

ACT III

Violetta's bedroom

Violetta is alone except for her maid Annina. She is practically penniless and dying of the consumption which has been racking her. A carnival is taking place in the streets outside while she lies in bed.

She has had a letter from Germont which she reads through again: Alfredo has wounded the baron in a duel and had to leave the country for a while. Germont has told him of Violetta's sacrifice and he is coming back to ask her forgiveness. But Violetta knows that she has little time left and that her days of love with Alfredo are over.

He arrives and they have an ecstatic reunion. Their love is stronger than ever and they declare their intention of leaving Paris forever. But all this emotion is too much for Violetta and she collapses. Alfredo, looking at her closely for the first time, realises the terrible truth that she is dying. She tries to pretend that this is not so by getting up and dressing, but she is too weak and falls to the floor, crying out bitterly against the cruel fate of dying so young just when her hopes had been about to be fulfilled.

Germont arrives with the doctor, ready to embrace her as a daughter. When he too realises her real condition he is struck by remorse at having caused her so much unhappiness. She gives Alfredo a portrait of herself as a keepsake and tells him to marry some pure young girl and be happy. She rises to her feet, feeling a strange new strength, but it is only the last remission of her illness which precedes death. She collapses lifeless, surrounded by those she holds dearest in the world.

Giuseppe Verdi:
Il Trovatore

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jun 96

ACT I. The Duel

Scene 1. Aragon: a hall in the palace of Aliaferia, in Saragossa

The followers of the Count di Luna keep watch as he makes his nightly vigil under the windows of Leonora, one of the queen's ladies in waiting, whom he loves.

Ferrando, the captain of the guard, keeps his men awake by narrating a terrible happening of 15 years ago: an old woman, accused of casting the evil eye over the count's brother, was burnt at the stake. The subsequent disappearance of the boy, followed by the discovery of a child's skeleton in the ashes, led to the conclusion that the woman's daughter, who was present at the burning, had thrown him into the flames to avenge her mother. She was never found, but Ferrando swears that he would recognise her. As he relates how the witch has continued to haunt the castle, the soldiers are seized with superstitious terror.

Scene 2. The palace gardens

Leonora loves not the count, but the troubador Manrico. As she waits for him she tells her companion Ines how she first saw him at a tourney and loved him. She rejects Ines' warning of the dangers of her infatuation with the stranger. They retire and the count appears, his love-lorn musings interrupted by the sounds of Manrico's lute and serenade. In the dark Leonora mistakenly embraces the count, Manrico reproaches her and she explains the error.

The count confronts Manrico, not only as his rival, but as a follower of the rebellious Count of Urgel; and they rush off to fight a duel.

ACT II. The Gipsy

Scene 1. A gipsy encampment in Biscay

As the gipsies sing and work at their anvils, Azucena broods on the fate of her mother, burned as a witch.

She explains the circumstances to Manrico (who had left her at an early age to pursue his ambitions and was thus ignorant of the story), going on to tell him how she had intended to avenge her mother by burning the count's son, but had become confused and killed her own child instead. In answer to Manrico's puzzled question about his identity, she assures him that he is indeed her own son - the horrible memory caused her mind to wander and she did not know what she was saying. She reminds him that she has always loved him and has just nursed him back to health after he was wounded in a battle against the count's forces. The battle had taken place just after the duel in which Manrico had spared the count's life, as a voice from heaven seemed to command him. Azucena urges him to strike without hesitation if the occasion arises again.

A message is brought that Leonora, believing Manrico dead, is about to enter a convent. Brushing aside Azucena's pleas that he is too weak to travel, he rushes off to prevent Leonora from taking the veil.

Scene 2. Outside the convent

The count has come to abduct Leonora, but Manrico's followers defeat his and rescue her.

ACT III. The Gipsy's Son

Scene 1. Outside the fortress of Castellor

As the count lays siege to the fortress, which is under Manrico's command, Azucena is found wandering near the camp and brought to the count, accused of spying. Ferrando recognises her as the woman responsible for the death of the count's brother and in terror she cries to Manrico to save her. Realising that she is Manrico's mother, in addition to her crime, the count prepares to execute her.

Scene 2. Inside the fortress

Manrico and Leonora are preparing for their wedding when Ruiz brings the news that Azucena is about to be burnt at the stake. Manrico rushes off to rescue her, explaining to Leonora that his mother's claims outweigh hers.

ACT IV. The Execution

Scene 1. The Aliaferia palace

Ruiz brings Leonora to the tower where Manrico is imprisoned, having been captured in his vain attempt to save Azucena. Monks intone the miserere as Manrico laments that death is slow in coming. Leonora pleads with the count for Manrico's life, offering herself in exchange. As he joyfully accepts her bargain, she takes poison, intending to leave him only her dead body.

Scene 2. Inside the dungeon

Manrico soothes Azucena, who is terrified at the idea of fire, and she falls asleep comforted by the idea that they will soon return to their mountain home.

When Leonora tells Manrico that he is free, he suspects the price she has paid and upbraids her, realising only as she collapses at his feet, that she is dying to save him. The count appears as she breathes her last, and realising that he has been deceived, orders Manrico's immediate execution. Azucena wakes too late to prevent this, but is able to avenge her mother by telling the horrified count with her dying breath that he has just killed his brother.


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