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I vespri siciliani

on January 13, 2024
This is the page for the performance on January 13, 2024.
Music Giuseppe Verdi Text Eugène Scribe


Cast 13.01.2024

Conductor Carlo Rizzi
Production Herbert Wernicke
Bühnenbild, Kostüme und Licht Herbert Wernicke
Guido di Monforte Igor Golovatenko
Arrigo John Osborn
Giovanni da Procida Erwin Schrott
Herzogin Elena Rachel Willis-Sørensen
Sire di Béthune Simonas Strazdas
Conte Vaudemont Hans Peter Kammerer
Ninetta Szilvia Vörös
Danieli Norbert Ernst
Tebaldo Ted Black
Roberto Michael Arivony


An opera commission for Paris was regarded as particularly prestigious in the 19th century. However, more important for Verdi than the Paris success of his grand opera Les vêpres siciliennes was dealing with the stylistic requirements he met in Paris, which permanently enriched his own musical language. The Vienna State Oper is presenting the Italian version Verdi preferred in the staging by Herbert Wernicke, which shows the mediaeval uprising of the Sicilians against the French occupiers as a grim folk drama which has no winner.

Programm booklet (2,50 €)


The main square of Palermo

In front of the governor’s palace, Tebaldo, Roberto, Béthune, Vaudemont and other French soldiers drink a toast to their homeland, watched sullenly by the Sicilians, who dream of liberation from their French oppressors.

Duchess Elena enters accompanied by Ninetta, her maid, and Ninetta’s fiancé Danieli. Elena is dressed in mourning and laments the death of her brother, who has been executed for high treason by the French. The soldiers are entranced by Elena’s beauty. Roberto, who is completely drunk, outrages the duchess by compelling her to sing a song in public. Elena consents, but her song is a definite incitement to revolt. By the time she has finished singing, the Sicilians have drawn their daggers, ready to hurl themselves upon the French soldiers. To Elena’s disappointment, it takes only the arrival of Gover­ nor Monforte to cool the rebellious ardour of the Sicilians and scatter the crowd.

Elena is surprised to see her beloved Arrigo; the young Sicilian was arrested for treason but has been cleared of all accusations. The governor makes himself known and is left alone with Arrigo. Monforte admires Arrigo’s daring. He tries to convince Arrigo to join ranks with the French and to stop seeing Elena, whose love will be his downfall. Arrigo indignantly spurns Monforte’s offer.


A valley near Palermo

Accompanied by Manfredo, after years of exile Giovanni da Procida returns by boat to Palermo. Deeply moved, he salutes his native land. Elena and Arrigo welcome him, and Pro­ cida informs them of his plans for revolt. Without hesitation Arrigo swears allegiance to Procida’s cause. Procida departs, well satisfied.

Elena expresses her admiration for Arrigo’s heroism; despite his mysterious background, she wants to marry him if he will avenge her brother’s death. Arrigo accepts. Béthune enters with his soldiers, bringing a letter to Arrigo: Monforte has invited him to a ball at the governor’s palace. Arrigo indignantly declines and is immediately led away by the soldiers. As part of the betrothal ceremony, the girls, one of whom is Ninetta, walk up the hill and dance with their fiancés. Roberto, Tebaldo and other French soldiers are present. Impressed by the beauty of the Sicilian girls, they join in the dancing. Mean­ while Procida suggests to the soldiers that they should abduct the girls, believing this will finally cause the Sicilians to rebel. The French soldiers promptly put the idea into practice, but to Procida and Elena’s disappointment the Sicilians’ reaction is timid and indecisive. At that moment a festively decorated boat sails by, carrying ladies and noblemen to the governor’s ball. Procida decides to go to the ball in disguise and organise the Sicilians’ revolt there.


Scene one - A room in Monforte’s palace

Monforte is alone, tortured by old feelings of guilt. He reads a letter from a woman whom he abducted many years ago. Written just before she died, the letter reveals that she had a child by him who was brought up to hate the French occupiers. Filled with paternal emotions, Monforte dreams of finding his long lost son.

Arrigo is brought before the governor, who receives him with unusual warmth and soon reveals that he is his father. He shows Arrigo his mother’s letter by way of evidence. Arrigo is shaken, and when Monforte tries to embrace his son, the young man pushes him away and rushes out.

Scene two - A festively decorated room

A sumptuous ball is in progress at the governor’s palace. Three masked figures approach Arrigo: Elena, Procida and Man­ fredo. The duchess pins the sign of the Sicilian conspirators to Arrigo’s chest. When the three depart, Monforte enters and tries once more to win Arrigo’s affection – but in vain. His son proudly shows him the conspirators’ ribbon, which Monforte immediately tears off. Arrigo warns him of an assassination that is being planned.

As Elena is about to throw herself on the governor, dagger in hand, Arrigo steps in to prevent the assassination. The conspir­ ators are arrested, Arrigo tries to help them, but Elena and Pro­ cida scornfully reject his help. In despair, Arrigo throws himself into his father’s arms.


In prison

Arrigo goes to the prison where Elena and the other patriots await execution. Elena is brought to Arrigo, but responds to the tormented young man harshly and disdainfully. Arrigo then reveals to her that he is Monforte’s son. Devastated, Elena for­ gives him and declares her love for him. Overwhelmed by emo­tion, the lovers determine that they will die together.

Everything has been prepared for the execution, but Procida con­ tinues to plan his rebellion. He shows Elena a letter assuring him of the support of the Spanish army with the upcoming rebellion.

Arrigo informs Monforte that he wishes to die with the other condemned prisoners. Determined to defend his paternal rights, Monforte tells Arrigo that if he will recognise him officially as his father, he will pardon all the rebels. Arrigo initially refuses. The executioners enter, and the monks sing the “De profundis”. As Elena approaches the block, in his despair Arrigo cries out: “Oh father, my father!” As promised, Monforte releases the Sicilians and announces the marriage of Elena and Arrigo. Amidst the general rejoicing, Procida continues to scheme.


In Monforte’s palace

Near the chapel where the wedding between Elena and Arrigo is to take place, a group of young girls sings festive songs and greets the bride with flowers. The happy duchess wishes for a peaceful future for her homeland.

Procida informs Elena of his latest plan: the wedding bells will signal the start of the rebellion. Procida cannot understand why Elena is not enthusiastic about his plan.

Elena feels torn: she neither wants to betray her compatriots, nor does she want to lose Arrigo. Finally, using her dead brother as an excuse, she tells Arrigo that she cannot marry him. Arrigo feels betrayed in his love, Procida feels that his honour as a patriot has been slighted.

Monforte refuses to accept Elena’s decision and pronounces the couple man and wife. When Procida gives the sign for the wed­ ding bells to ring, Elena, in despair, begs Monforte to flee. But the noisy throng can already be heard making their way to the chapel. Arrigo takes the clamour for shouts of joy. The rebels then swarm in from all sides and fall upon Monforte and his retinue.