Opera in three acts
Music by Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Salvatore Cammarano
One of Giuseppe Verdi's lesser performed but passionately romantic dramas, Luisa Miller returns to Sarasota Opera after 25 years. Luisa, the daughter of an old soldier, is in love with Carlo, who is really, Rodolfo, the son of the ruthless Count Walter. The count's opposition to the couple's love leads to tragedy, in an opera filled with memorable arias and thrilling ensembles.
March | 09 - March | 24
With Translations In:
Cast & Staff
Il Conte di Walter
Mar 9, 12, 14, 16, 20, 24
Hair & Make-Up Designer
BACKGROUND on Opera
The creation of Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller, an opera with poetry by Salvadore Cammarano written for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, had its genesis following the premiere of Ernani in 1844. The composer’s fifth opera, Ernani gained unprecedented accolades on the Italian peninsula and would soon make Verdi famous throughout Europe. Following this opera’s success, Vincenzo Flauto, the impresario of the San Carlo, asked the composer to write a new work. The San Carlo, along with Milan’s La Scala and Venice’s La Fenice, as one of the leading theaters in Italy. A contract with the San Carlo offered Verdi the opportunity to work with Cammarano, the theater’s house poet, for the first time. This poet was the foremost author of opera texts in Italy, having written those for Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Roberto Deveraux. Verdi accepted the contract from Flauto. The result was Alzira that premiered in August 1845. Before leaving Naples, Verdi had developed a strong relationship with the poet who would write other texts for him (including Il trovatore). In addition, he accepted another contract from the San Carlo Theatre. The first performance of this new work was to be in the summer of 1847.
By the summer of 1848, Verdi had written new operas performed in Venice, Florence, London, Trieste, and Rome. However, he had not fulfilled his contract to write a new opera for Naples. Furthermore, he wished to get out of his obligation to the San Carlo. The composer told friends about the bad relationship he had with the Neapolitan press and the improbability of the governmental censors approving an interesting subject. Verdi, living in Paris with Giuseppina Strepponi, wrote to San Carlo canceling his commitment. The theater’s management in turn threatened Cammarano with imprisonment for not supplying the composer a new text. In desperation, Cammarano begged Verdi to reconsider his decision. The composer ultimately agreed to honor his contract to help the poet.
Verdi wanted the historical novel, The Siege of Florence, to be the basis of his new opera with Cammarano. Then recently published, it dealt with the fall of the Florentine Republic in the 16th century. The censors forbade the subject. Italy was in political turmoil, and The Siege of Florence was revolutionary. Cammarano suggested other subjects including Cleopatra, and one which Verdi himself had earlier proposed, Frederich von Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love). Verdi had already used the German author’s works for his operas Giovanna d’Arco and I masnadieri. Later in the composer’s career Don Carlos and a section of La forza del destino would come from Schiller’s plays. With its title changed to Luisa Miller, Kabale und Liebe became the basis for Verdi and Cammarano’s opera.
Work between the composer and poet in creating Luisa Miller progressed with an unusually easy give-and-take attitude. Cammarano would make some of the changes Verdi requested provided they did not contradict the conventions of opera production in Naples that the poet knew so well. The composer would consider the poet’s suggestions for tempi. Luisa Miller proved to be very successful at its world premiere. Opera fans can be grateful to the management of the San Carlo for not letting Verdi cancel his contract.
Luisa Miller inaugurates a second period in Verdi’s compositional style. Beginning with this work, there is a refinement of musical thought and a new sensitivity in the use of the orchestra rarely found in Verdi’s earlier operas. The emotional life of characters is more sustained and detailed, giving these new operas more depth. Verdi would continue his strides forward as a composer in his next opera, Stiffelio, a work long unavailable for performance but now performed more and more. The composer would hit new heights of dramatic composition with Rigoletto, Il trovatore, and La traviata.
Following its world premiere, Luisa Miller came quickly to America, having its premiere in Philadelphia in 1852. The Metropolitan Opera first performed it in 1929, and that company’s star-studded new production of the opera in 1968 presented the work to a whole new generation. Sarasota Opera’s production of Luisa Miller is the company’s first. It begins the second decade of the ongoing Verdi Cycle in which the company will perform every work of this great Italian composer.
The action takes place in the Tyrol in the first half of the 17th century.
Act 1 Love
Scene 1 A village
Scene 2 A hall in the Count of Walter’s castle
Scene 3 Inside Miller’s house
Act II Intrigue
Scene 1 Inside Miller’s house
Scene 2 A hall in the Count of Walter’s castle
Scene 3 The castle gardens
Act III Poison
Inside Miller’s house
Outside the home of Miller, a retired soldier, villagers assemble to give his daughter, Luisa, birthday wishes. Luisa lovingly greets her friends, but grows anxious when she does not see the man she loves among them. Miller fears that his daughter’s affections might be ill-placed, but Luisa reassures him that Carlo and she truly love each other. Carlo arrives, and he and Luisa share vows of love. However, Miller fears that the young man may be nothing more than a seducer.
As he is following his daughter and the villagers into the church, Miller is stopped by Wurm, the feudal lord of the Count of Walter. Wurm is jealous, having seen Carlo and Luisa together, and he reminds Miller that a year ago Miller promised Luisa to him in marriage. Miller explains that he cannot force his daughter to marry Wurm: the choice of a spouse is sacred and must be made freely. Wurm tells Miller that the man Luisa loves present himself under false pretenses. He is not Carlo but Rodolfo, the son of the Count of Walter. This news confirms Miller’s suspicions that the man whom Luisa loves has less than honorable intentions.
In the Count of Walter’s castle, Wurm tells the count about Rodolfo’s love for Luisa. Rodolfo arrives, and the count tells his son that he must marry Federica, the Duchess of Ostheim. Left alone, Rodolfo confides in Federica that he loves another. Federica, who has loved Rodolfo since childhood, is furious at his disclosure.
Inside Miller’s house, Luisa waits impatiently for her beloved. Miller enters and tells his daughter that she has been betrayed: Carlo has lied to her. He is really the son of the count, and his father is arranging a royal marriage for him. Rodolfo arrives, and he swears that he belongs only to Luisa. Rodolfo tells Luisa and Miller that they are safe from the count’s disapproval since he has a secret that, if revealed, would destroy the count.
The count enters Miller’s home. After accusing Luisa of being a prostitute, the count orders the arrest of the girl and her father. Miller is taken away. Rodolfo threatens to reveal the truth of how his father rose to his position. Hearing this, the count frees Luisa and follows his son out.
The villagers tell Luisa they have seen soldiers take her father in chains to the castle. Wurm arrives at Miller’s house and tells Luisa that her father will die unless she writes a letter stating she never loved Rodolfo. Since it is the only way to save her father from death, Luisa reluctantly writes what Wurm wants. Wurm, letter in hand, now commands Luisa to go to the castle. There she must appear to Federica and tell the duchess she loves only Wurm.
In a hall of the castle, Wurm informs the count that their plot has been set in motion. Wurm has the letter that says Luisa never loved Rodolfo, and a paid hand will give this document to Rodolfo. The count tells Wurm that their futures are intertwined. Rodolfo threatens to reveal what he heard from the lips of the old count as he lay dying. The old man was murdered, not by bandits, but by Rodolfo’s father and Wurm. Luisa is brought in by Wurm, and she tells Federica that she loves only Wurm and not Rodolfo. Federica is overjoyed at this turn of events. In the castle gardens, Rodolfo questions a peasant about Luisa’s letter. Rodolfo believes Luisa has betrayed him.
Wurm enters, and Rodolfo challenges him to a duel with pistols. Wurm fires into the air, and the Count of Walter and his retinue respond to the sound. As part of the plot with Wurm, the count tells his son he will allow him to marry Luisa. Rodolfo tells his father that Luisa has betrayed him, and the count urges him to take revenge by marrying Federica.
Miller has been released and returns to Luisa. He tells his daughter he knows from Wurm that she has sacrificed Rodolfo for his life. Luisa shows Miller a letter she has written to Rodolfo inviting her beloved to meet her at tomb. Miller is horrified that her daughter is contemplating suicide. Luisa destroys the letter and suggests that they leave the village at dawn.
Rodolfo arrives and finds Luisa praying alone. He takes a vial from his pockets and pours some of the liquid into a cup. Both he and Luisa drink from it. Rodolfo confesses that they have taken poison. Luisa tells him that Wurm forced her to write the letter and Rodolfo is grief-stricken that he is causing her death. Miller enters and comforts his dying daughter. Luisa dies in her father’s arms. The count and Wurm arrive, and Rodolfo kills Wurm with his sword. Rodolfo falls dead as his father looks on in disbelief.