Ernani
  • Giuseppe Verdi. Dramma lirico in four parts. 1844.
  • Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, after Victor Hugo’s play Hernani.
  • First performance at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, on 9th March 1844.
CHARACTERS
Don Carlo, King of Spain baritone
Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, grandee of Spain bass
Elvira, his niece and betrothed soprano
Giovanna, her nurse soprano
Ernani (John of Aragon), a bandit tenor
Don Riccardo, equerry to the King tenor
Jago, equerry to Don Ruy Gomez bass

In their mountain encampment Ernani tells his fellow bandits of his love for Elvira, whom he plans to abduct. She, in turn, loves Ernani, but is also loved by the King, his attempt, in disguise, to drag her away intercepted by Ernani, then joined by Don Ruy Gomez, whose anger is tempered by the revelation of the King’s identity. The latter offers Ernani his help, intending to exact his own revenge in due course. At the castle of Don Ruy Gomez, Ernani appears, disguised as a pilgrim and seeking refuge from the King. Learning of Elvira’s coming marriage, he reveals his identity, but is given protection by Don Ruy Gomez, who refuses to hand his guest over to the King. Elvira seeks pardon for her uncle, but is taken away by the King as a pledge of her kinsman’s loyalty. Ernani suggests that they join together against the King, giving his host and rival a hunting-horn, at the sound of which he will give himself up to Don Ruy Gomez. At a meeting of conspirators, it is decided that Ernani should kill the King, who has observed the scene in the Cathedral of Aix-la-Chapelle and now emerges from behind the tomb of Charlemagne, to their dismay. The King now receives news of his election as Emperor. He pardons all and Ernani is restored to his estates as John of Aragon, marrying Elvira. At this point Don Ruy Gomez, implacable, sounds the hunting-horn and Ernani, given the choice of poison or a dagger, stabs himself.

Elements of the main drama, revenge and love, are suggested in the prelude. Ernani’s first-act cavatina, Come rugiada al cespite (As dew on the bud), reveals his love, as does Elvira’s second-scene cavatina, Ernani, Ernani, involami (Ernani, Ernani, fly to me). Infelice! e tuo credevi (Unhappy! And I trusted you) allows an impressive moment for Don Ruy Gomez. For the King, now the Emperor Charles V, the imposing Oh de’verd’anni miei (Oh my years of youth) gains power from the scene in which it is set, at the tomb of
Charlemagne.