Opera matinee: Bellini's Il Pirata
Riccardo Frizza conducts Bellini's Il Pirata starring Sonya Yoncheva and Pietro Pretti. Recorded at La Scala Milan.
Premiered at La Scala in 1827, Bellini's Il Pirata was an immediate success. The story is set in Sicily in the 13th century and concerns the exiled Count Gualtiero, who has become a pirate. He returns to discover that his fiancée, Imogene, in order to save her father’s life, has married Gualtiero’s enemy, Ernesto.
Presented by Kate Molleson
Imogene, wife of Ernesto....Sonya Yoncheva (soprano)
Gualtiero, former Count of Montalto....Piero Pretti (tenor)
Ernesto, Duke of Caldora....Nicola Alaimo (baritone)
Itulbo, Gualtiero's lieutenant....Francesco Pittari (tenor)
Goffredo, a hermit....Riccardo Fassi (bass)
Adele, Imogen's companion....Marina de Liso (soprano)
La Scala Chorus
La Scala Orchestra
Riccardo Frizza (conductor)
A beach near Caldora
Off the beach at Caldora in Sicily a sea storm is raging, endangering a vessel that risks shipwreck. The fishermen and their women come running and, urged by a Hermit, they pray for the sailors. Once the intensity of the storm diminishes, the ship can approach the shore and the shipwrecked men are able to land. One of them, helped by his companion, Itulbo, is Gualtiero, once the count of Montalto, exiled for political reasons and now the leader of some Aragonese pirates with whom he hopes to avenge the wrongs done to him. Gualtiero recognises the Hermit as his former tutor, Goffredo, and he asks him for news of his former fiancée, Imogene, whom he was forced to leave in the hands of duke Ernesto, head of the enemy faction. Despite his wandering, Gualtiero still thinks of her and loves her passionately.
The fishermen announce the arrival of the lady of Caldora, who is none other than Imogene and who has been forced to marry Ernesto. She assures the shipwrecked men of her assistance and she learns from them that the pirates have been beaten and their leader imprisoned or killed. Imogene tells her lady-in-waiting that she has dreamt of Gualtiero, whom she too loves dearly, being mortally wounded by her husband, Ernesto. A cry is heard coming from the Hermit’s hut: it is Gualtiero, who has recognised Imogene. On hearing that a survivor is sheltered there, she gives orders for him to be cared for. She then returns to the castle.
A terrace at the Castle of Caldora
The pirates who have survived the shipwreck are drinking and revelling, but Itulbo asks them to control themselves so as not to reveal their identity. Gualtiero joins the duchess and tells her of his despair over having lost everything most dear to him. Imogene tries to console him, informing him that she is in the same miserable condition. Gualtiero then reveals his true identity. Horrified, Imogene tells him that she is Ernesto’s wife. In a fit of anger, Gualtiero reminds her of her unkept promise.
When the ladies-in-waiting bring Ernesto’s son to his mother, Gualtiero wants to murder him, but he stops, moved by the woman’s cry, and he quickly leaves. The duke’s return is announced and Imogene prepares to greet him.
Outside the Castle of Caldora
Ernesto’s soldiers return to celebrate their victory over the pirates. The duke is also jubilant, but he knows that Gualtiero, his hated enemy, is still alive and at large. The survivors of the shipwreck arrive, led by Itulbo who claims to be their leader. Ernesto is suspicious and orders their arrest. However, Imogene intercedes on their behalf and obtains their release. Gualtiero secretly asks her to meet him, but as the woman hesitates, he advances threateningly towards Ernesto and is only just restrained by his own men. Imogene faints and is taken away by her ladies-in-waiting; Gualtiero is dragged away by Itulbo and the Hermit; Ernesto remains with his men, his suspicions increasingly roused.
The antechamber to Imogene’s apartments
The ladies-in-waiting enquire about their mistress’ condition. She is about to go to the secret meeting requested by Gualtiero. However, she receives a visit from Ernesto, who reproaches her for her coldness and accuses her of having a secret affair. Imogene confesses that she is still hopelessly in love with Gualtiero. A soldier brings Ernesto a message informing him of Gualtiero’s presence in the Castle, and the duke leaves his wife, promising to have revenge.
A terrace at the Castle of Caldora
It is dawn. Gualtiero, who is with Imogene, tells her that he will fight no more, even though he has two of his followers’ ships, and he asks her to take to the sea with him. Ernesto joins them and separates them, challenging Gualtiero and savouring his long-awaited revenge. The two men leave; Imogene is terrified as she hears the clash of their swords.
The courtyard of the Castle
Ernesto’s soldiers, the knights and ladies-in-waiting all lament the loss of their lord and swear vengeance. Gualtiero comes forward and announces that he has sent his men away. Laying down his sword, he gives himself up to his enemies. While waiting for the judgement of the council, he asks Adele, a lady-in-waiting, to take care of Imogene. The duchess arrives, holding her son’s hand. She is delirious and claims she can see her husband’s body. The council pronounces sentence on Gualtiero and, despairing, Imogene leaves. Gualtiero’s men suddenly break onto the scene, attacking Ernesto’s knights. During the battle, Gualtiero throws himself off a bridge as Imogene looks on powerless.