Singing takes center stage in Verdi’s “Ernani” at the Met and Live in HD

A scene from Verdi's "Ernani" with Marcello Giordani (center) in the title role. Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera (c) 2008.

When it comes to Verdi, it’s the singing that takes center stage, both soloists and chorus. For the The Metropolitan Opera’s February 25 live transmission of Ernani, there is little question that some pretty extraordinary singing will take place.

Marco Armiliato, who led the Met premiere performances of Anna Bolena earlier this season, conducts Verdi’s thrilling drama of passion, power, and honor, all to be seen in Pier Luigi Samaritani’s lavish production. Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato hosts the transmission.

The performance will begin at 12:55 pm EST and run three and a half hours, including two intermissions.

Angela Meade as Elvira and Marcello Giordani in the title role of Verdi's "Ernani." Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

In the Berkshires, there are three places you can enjoy the event, The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown and the Beacon Cinemas in Pittsfield. The Mahaiwe has also scheduled an encore presentation on Wednesday, March 7 at 1:00 pm. You can also call the Mahaiwe at 413.528.0100 to check on the availability of tickets. They are the only venue that has guaranteed reserved seating.

Four extraordinary singers star in Verdi’s Ernani. American soprano Angela Meade, whose victory in the Met’s National Council Auditions was chronicled in the 2008 documentary film The Audition, takes the role of the noblewoman Elvira in her first Live in HD appearance. Marcello Giordani, star of the Live in HD transmissions of Manon Lescaut, La Damnation de Faust, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, Simon Boccanegra, and La Fanciulla del West, sings the title role of the noble bandit who loves Elvira. Dmitri Hvorostovsky adds a new role to his distinguished repertory as Don Carlo, a royal suitor for Elvira’s hand, and Ferruccio Furlanetto is da Silva, a wealthy relative with his own designs on Elvira.

Verdi’s opera, based on Victor Hugo’s revolutionary play, involves three men–two noble, and one a bandit–who attempt to out-maneuver one another for the hand of the beautiful Elvira.

Giordani, who last sang Ernani in the Met’s 2007-08 season, also sang the role on February 14. His other Met engagements this season include Pinkerton and Radamès in Verdi’s Aida.

American soprano Meade made an acclaimed Met debut as Elvira in the 2007-08 revival of Ernani, filling in at the last minute for an ailing Sondra Radvanovsky. Earlier this season, she sang the daunting title role of Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. She was a winner of the Met’s National Council Auditions in 2007 and has also appeared with the Met as the Countess in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and as a soloist in the 2011 Summer Recital Series.

Hvorostovsky makes his Met role debut as Don Carlo. This is the sixth Verdi role in his Met repertory, joining the title character in Simon Boccanegra, Germont in La Traviata (a role he repeats later this season), Rodrigo in Don Carlo, Renato in Un Ballo in Maschera, and di Luna in Il Trovatore.

De Silva is the second of three roles Furlanetto sings at the Met this season. He made his house role debut as Méphistophélès in the new production of Gounod’s Faust and will reprise his Don Basilio in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia later this season. The versatile artist first sang de Silva at the Met in the 2007-08 revival of Ernani.

Armiliato’s numerous Met appearances have included a variety of Verdi works, from the early Attila to the repertory staples Aida (which he conducts again this season), Rigoletto, La Traviata, and Il Trovatore. Earlier this season, he led the Met premiere of Anna Bolena.

Synopsis of Ernani

ACT I: The Bandit Spain, 1519. Don Juan of Aragon has lost his title and wealth during a civil war. Taking the name Ernani, he leads a band of outlaws in the mountains. He tells his men of his love for Elvira and his daring plan to rescue her from an impending forced marriage to her uncle, Don Ruy Gómez de Silva (“Come rugiada al cespite”). The men, eager for action, set out with Ernani for Silva’s castle.

As Elvira waits for Ernani in her room (“Ernani! Ernani, involami”), she is visited by Don Carlo, the king of Spain. He declares his love, but then tries to abduct her, and she grabs a knife in self-defense. Ernani bursts in. The king recognizes him as the notorious outlaw and taunts him with insults. The men are about to duel when Silva comes into the room. He is shocked to discover Elvira with two strangers (“Infelice! e tu credevi”) and threatens them both. When a messenger reveals the king’s true identity, Silva asks for forgiveness, which Carlo grants. He needs Silva’s support in the election for the new Holy Roman Emperor. The king dismisses Ernani, who is angry but leaves at Elvira’s urging, vowing revenge.

ACT II: The Guest In Silva’s castle, preparations are in progress for the marriage of Elvira and Silva. Ernani arrives, disguised as a pilgrim. When Elvira enters in her bridal dress, Ernani throws off his cloak and offers his head—which has a price on it—as a wedding gift. Elvira, briefly left alone with her lover, assures him that she would rather kill herself than marry someone else. When Silva returns, he is furious to find the couple embracing. But at the arrival of the king, Silva hides Ernani, so that he can take revenge on the outlaw later. Carlo accuses Silva of concealing a criminal, but the old man refuses to turn Ernani in and offers his own life as forfeit (“Lo vedremo, o veglio audace”). When Elvira enters to ask the king for mercy, he takes her away as a hostage. Silva challenges Ernani to a duel and is astonished when Ernani reveals that Carlo is also a suitor for Elvira’s hand. The two agree to suspend their quarrel to take vengeance against the king. Once they have done so, Ernani says, his life will be in Silva’s hands. As pledge, Ernani gives Silva a hunting horn: when it is sounded, Ernani will kill himself. Silva agrees and calls his men in pursuit of Carlo.

A scene from Act III of Verdi's "Ernani." Photo: Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera Taken at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on January 26, 2012

ACT III: Clemency At Charlemagne’s tomb in Aix-la-Chapelle, Carlo is waiting for the electors’ choice of the next Holy Roman Emperor. He thinks about the futility of wealth and power and vows to rule wisely if chosen (“O de’ verd’anni miei”). As a group of conspirators, led by Ernani and Silva, gathers to plan his assassination, he hides inside the tomb. Ernani is chosen as the one to kill the king, and the men look forward to a better future for Spain. When cannon shots announce that Carlo has been elected emperor, he emerges from his hiding place and orders the conspirators to be punished. The nobles are to be executed, the commoners imprisoned. Ernani reveals his true identity and demands to share the fate of the other noblemen. Elvira again pleads for his life. Addressing himself to the spirit of Charlemagne, the new emperor pardons the conspirators and agrees to the marriage of Ernani and Elvira (“O sommo Carlo”).

ACT IV: The Mask At his palace in Saragossa, Ernani is celebrating his upcoming marriage to Elvira. A horn sounds in the distance, interrupting a brief moment alone for the happy couple. The horn announces Silva, who enters demanding that Ernani fulfill his oath. Sending the terrified Elvira away, Ernani confronts his rival and pleads for a moment of happiness at the end of his miserable life. Elvira returns as Silva hands Ernani a knife and demands the life that has been promised to him (Trio: “Ferma, crudel, estinguere”). Ernani stabs himself and dies in Elvira’s arms.

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