In four parts.
Taken from VICTOR HUGO'S Drama of the same name.
Text by F. MARIA PIAVE.
Music by GIUSEPPE VERDI.
Verdi wrote this opera in 1844 when in his thirtieth year. One cannot
help being struck by the improvement shown in it, as compared with
Verdi's first operas Nabukadnezar and the Lombardi, and through Ernani
the composer at o
ce became one of the most popular musicians in Italy.
The opera did not however at first find favour in France and
Germany, and Verdi's fame was only established in these countries by
his later operas, Rigoletto and Il Trovatore. But of late Ernani has
been revived and duly appreciated wherever his fine melodies are heard,
and its passionnate verve is felt, which is mostly due to its highly
Here is a brief outline of the libretto:--
Ernani, an Italian rebel of obscure parentage is the accepted lover of
Donna Elvira, the high-born niece of Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, Grandee of
Donna Elvira is also coveted by Don Carlos, King of Spain, and by her
old uncle Silva, who is about to wed her, much against her will.
Ernani comes to Silva's castle in the garb of a pilgrim, and finds the
King in Donna Elvira's room, trying to lure her away. Here they are
surprised by de Silva, who, failing to recognize his sovereign
challenges both men to mortal combat.--When he recognizes the King in
one of his foes, he is in despair and humbly craves his pardon, which
is granted to him.--At the same time Don Carlos sends Ernani away on a
distant errand, hoping to rid himself of him once for all; but Donna
Elvira vows to kill herself rather than belong either to the King or to
her uncle, and promises unwavering constancy to her lover Ernani.
Nevertheless the second Act shows Elvira on the eve of her wedding with
her uncle de Silva.
Ernani, once more proclaimed an outlaw seeks refuge in de Silva's
castle, again disguised as a pilgrim. But when Ernani hears of Donna
Elvira's approaching marriage with de Silva, he reveals his identity
and offers his head to the old man, telling him that his life is
forfeited and that a reward is offered for his capture. De Silva is
too generous to betray his rival; he orders the gates of the castle to
be barred at once.--While this is being done, Ernani violently
reproaches Elvira for having played him false. She answers, that she
has been led to believe him dead, and dissolved in tears they embrace
tenderly. Thus they are surprised by de Silva who, though for the time
being bound by the laws of hospitality swears to destroy Ernani,
wherever he may find him.
For the moment however he conceals his foe so well, that Don Carlos'
followers cannot find him. Though the King threatens to take the old
man's life, the nobleman remains true to his word and even makes the
greatest sacrifice by delivering Elvira as a hostage into the King's
Left alone he opens Ernani's hiding-place and challenges him to fight,
but when the latter proves to him, that Don Carlos is his rival and
wants to seduce Elvira, de Silva's wrath turns against the King.
He accepts Ernani's offer to help him in frustrating the King's
designs, but at the same time he reminds him that his life is
forfeited.--Ernani declares himself satisfied and gives de Silva a
bugle, the sound of which is to proclaim, that the hour of reckoning
between the two foes has come.
The third Act takes place at Aix-la-Chapelle.
The King has heard of the conspiracy against his life. While the
conspirators assemble in the imperial vaults, he is concealed behind
the monument of Charlemagne and frustrates their designs by advancing
from his hiding-place and proclaiming himself Emperor.--
At the same moment the people rush in and do homage to Charles the
Fifth.--Ernani surrenders to his foes, but Elvira implores the
Emperor's pardon, which is granted, and Charles crowns his gracious act
by uniting the lovers and creating Ernani Duke of Segorbia.
Both Elvira and Ernani go to Seville to celebrate their nuptials. But
in the midst of their bliss Ernani hears the sound of his bugle and de
Silva appears and claims his rival's life. In vain the lovers implore
his mercy, de Silva is inexorable and relentlessly gives Ernani the
choice between a poisoned draught and a dagger. Seizing the latter
Ernani stabs himself, while Donna Elvira sinks senseless beside his
corpse, leaving the aged de Silva to enjoy his revenge alone.