On October 10th, we celebrate the long-awaited bicentenary of Giuseppe Verdi's birth. Opera companies and music festivals across the globe have been programming a heavy dose of his music and numerous "Verdi Arias" CD's have been released.
We sifted through the countless productions of Aida, Rigoletto, Traviata and other Verdi operas to find a performance that stood out as a "can't miss" production. A performance of the inexplicably underperformed Les vêpres siciliennes at the Royal Opera House in London jumped off the page at us. Not only is barihunk Erwin Schrott singing Jean Procida, but he's surrounded by an amazing cast that includes tenor Bryan Hymel as Henri and soprano Marina Poplavskaya as Helene under the baton of Antonio Pappano.
Erwin Schrott sings "Palerme! O mon pays!... Et toi, Palerme..."
Les vêpres siciliennes is in five-acts and was originally written in French for the Paris Opéra. It was translated into Italian shortly after its premiere in June 1855. The libretto was written by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier from their work Le duc d'Albe, which was written in 1838 and offered to Halevy and Donizetti before Verdi agreed to set it to music in 1854.
The story is loosely based on a historical event, the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, using material drawn from the medieval Sicilian tract Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia. After its June 1855 Paris premiere, an Italian libretto was quickly prepared using a new title because Verdi realized that it would have been impossible to place the story in Sicily. Based on Scribe's suggestions for changing the location, it became Portugal in 1640 while under Spanish control. This version was first performed at the Teatro Regio in Parma on December 26, 1855.
Performances at the Royal Opera House will run from October 17 through November 11. The November 4th performance will be broadcast to movie theaters worldwide, so check the website for a showing near you.