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I Lombardi alla prima crociata


Debuting at La Scala in Milan on the 11th of February 1843, Giuseppe Verdi's I Lombardi alla prima crociata is a grand opera in four acts. Temistocle Solera wrote the libretto, drawing inspiration from Tommaso Grossi's epic poem. Set against the backdrop of the First Crusade, the story features a complex plot of love, betrayal, and redemption. The central figure is Arvino, a Lombard knight, caught between his love for the virtuous Giselda and the manipulative schemes of his own brother, Pagano. Driven by jealousy and ambition, Pagano seeks revenge on Arvino, manipulating political factions and exploiting the fervor of the Crusade for his own gain. Throughout the story, Arvino faces exile, war, and even a supposed death, with Giselda's unwavering love and faith offering him a constant source of strength. Musically, the opera showcases Verdi's developing talent. The score is rich and diverse, featuring powerful choral pronouncements during scenes of war and religious fervour, alongside the intimate tenderness of love duets between Arvino and Giselda. Verdi incorporates grand ballets, a popular feature of the time, adding spectacle to the production. The opera initially achieved success and solidified Verdi's position in the Italian operatic scene. However, compared to his later masterpieces, it's performed less frequently today. This is partly due to the historical context of the libretto, which reflects 19th-century nationalism that may not resonate as strongly with modern audiences. Despite this, the opera remains significant in Verdi's development, foreshadowing the powerful dramatic and musical elements that would define his later works.

 
The Opera
Characters
Name Description Voice Type Premiere Cast
Arvino son of Folco, Lord of Rò tenor Giovanni Severi
Pagano (hermit) brother of Arvino bass Prosper Dérivis
Viclinda wife of Arvino soprano Teresa Ruggeri
Giselda daughter of Arvino
soprano
Erminia Frezzolini
Pirro squire to Arvino bass Gaetano Rossi
A prior a prior of Milan tenor Napoleone Marconi
Acciano Tyrant of Antioch bass Luigi Vairo
Oronte son of Acciano tenor Carlo Guasco
Sofia wife of Acciano, secretly christened 
soprano
Amalia Gandaglia
Chorus of nuns, priors, cut-throats, soldiers of the Folco Palace; ambassadors of the Persians, Medes, Damascans and Chaldeans; crusading knights and warriors; pilgrims, Lombard women of the harem, virgins
Setting
Milan (Act I), Antioch (Act II), outskirts of Jerusalem (Act III and Act IV), A.D. 1099.
Acts
Act I: The Revenge       Role
1
Prelude and Introduction  'Oh nobile esempio!' chorus
2
Scene 'Qui nel logo santo e pio' Pagano, Arvino, Viclinda, Giselda, chorus
3
Quintet 'T'assale un tremito!' Giselda, Arvino, Pagano, Viclinda, Pirro, chorus
4
Scena 'Or s'ascolti' a prior, Arvino, Pagano, Viclinda, Giselda, Pirro, chorus
5
Chorus 'A te nell'ora infausta' chorus
6
Recitative 'Vergini!... il ciel per ora' Pagano, chorus
7
Aria 'Sciagurata! hai tu creduto' Pagano, Pirro, chorus
8
Scene 'Tutta tremante ancor' Viclinda, Arvino, Giselda
9
Prayer 'Salve Maria'  Giselda
10  
Scene and Finale 'Vieni! Già pose Arvino' Pirro, Arvino, Pagano, Viclinda, Giselda, chorus
11
   'Mostro d'averno orribile' Pagano, Arvino, Viclinda, Giselda, Pirro, chorus
12
  'Parricida' Arvino, Pagano, Viclinda, Giselda, Pirro, chorus
Act II: The Man of the Cave
Role
1
Chorus 'È dunque vero?' chorus, Acciano
2
Scene 'O madre mia, che fa colei?' Oronte, Sofia
3
Cavatina   'La mia letizia infondere' Oronte, Sofia
4
  'Come poteva un angelo' Oronte, Sofia
5
Scene and March 'E ancor silenzio!' hermit, Pirro
6
Duettino 'Sei tu l'uom della caverna?' Arvino, hermit
7
Hymn of the Crusaders  'Stolto Allhà!' chorus, Arvino, hermit
8
Chorus of Slaves 'La bella straniera'  chorus
9
Rondò 'Oh madre, dal cielo soccorri' Giselda
10
Arioso  'Se vano è il pregare'  Giselda
11
Finale 'Chi ne salva?' chorus, Arvino, hermit, Giselda, Sofia
12
Cabaletta 'No! No! giusta causa non è' Giselda, Arvino, hermit, Sofia, chorus
Act III: The Conversion
Role
1
Procession 'Gerusalem!'  chorus
2
Scene 'Dove sola m'inoltro?' Giselda, Oronte
3
Duet 'Oh belle, a questa misera' Giselda, Oronte, chorus
4
Scene and Aria 'Che vid'io mai?' Arvino, chorus
5
Prelude    [orchestra]
6
Scene 'Qui posa il fianco' Giselda, Oronte, hermit
7
Finale. Trio 'Qual voluttà' Oronte, hermit, Giselda, chorus
Act IV: The Holy Sepulchre
Role
1
Chorus and Scene 'Componi, o cara vergine'  chorus, Giselda
2
   'In cielo benedetto' Oronte, chorus
3
Aria 'Qual prodigio!' Giselda
4
Chorus 'O signore, dal tetto natio' chorus
5
War Hymn 'Al Siloe!' Arvino, hermit, Giselda, chorus
6
  'Guerra! Guerra!' Arvino, hermit, Giselda, chorus
7
Scene  'Questa è mia tenda' Arvino, hermit, Giselda
8
   'Un breve istante' Pagano, Arvino, Giselda
9
Finale Hymn 'Te lodiamo, gran Dio' chorus, Arvino, Pagano, Giselda



Sources:
1. M. Conati. Giuseppe Verdi: guida alla vita e alle opere. Pisa: ETS, 2003.
2. Giuseppe Verdi, I Lombardi [CD]. Deutekom, Domingo, Raimondi, Lo Monaco, Malvisi et al, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, recorded 1971, Philips, 1989.

Translation by Rosa Nardi .
   

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