The "dramma lirico" in four acts was the fifth complete work by the Italian composer and made its debut in Venice in 1844. With a libretto by Francesco Maria, the opera is based upon the play Hernani by Victor Hugo.
According to Met Opera notes, the story begins in "the mountains of Aragon [where] outlaws gather about their leader, the proscribed nobleman Ernani, who bemoans the fact that his beloved Elvira must marry her elderly uncle, Don Ruy Gomez de Silva. Seeing his despair, Ernani's men pledge to help rescue her."
The score itself "combines bel canto emphasis on melody (often ornamented with flourishes) with urgency of dramatic instinct."
The title role here is sung by Italian tenor Marcello Giordani, who made his Met debut in 1993 as Nemorino in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore. Soprano Sondra Radvanovsky sings the tole of Elvira. She missed the March 21 performance due to illness, and Angela Meade - a young soprano studying at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia - made her professional debut stepping in for the evening. Radvanovsky returned and is scheduled to sing all remaining performances.
Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto appears as the aging and ruthless Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, and American baritone Thomas Hampson - who made his 1986 Met debut in Le nozze di Figaro - sings the role of Don Carlo, who would later become Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Roberto Abbado conducts.
Ernani has three remaining performances, on April 2, 5 and 10.
For more information and tickets visit www.metopera.org
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All photos by Marty Sohl for the Metropolitan Opera.