Listen to I puritani

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Of all opera composers, none glorified the human voice more than Bellini. His final opera was I puritani, in which a soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass can truly revel in some of the most thrilling vocal music ever written. Opera companies produce this work only when they can cast fabulous singers with masterful techniques and superb style. Bellini places them within a sweeping historical drama in 17th-century England, in which a passionate young couple find themselves caught up in a conflict between opposing political factions.

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Act One

As dawn breaks, Bruno Robertson leads the Puritan soldiers in prayer before they set about their duties. Villagers enter in a festive mood and announce that it is Elvira’s wedding day. Sir Riccardo Forth appears, brooding and in despair. Lord Gualtiero Walton has yielded to his daughter Elvira’s wish to marry Lord Arturo Talbot, a royalist opposed to Cromwell and the Puritan cause. Lord Walton has thus broken his promise to Riccardo that Elvira should be his bride. Bruno’s attempts to comfort the rejected suitor are to no avail. Riccardo laments his lost happiness.

Unaware of her father’s change of heart, Elvira has resolved not to go through with the loveless marriage to Riccardo. She learns from her uncle, Sir Giorgio Walton, that the wedding preparations are for her and her beloved Arturo, through her uncle’s intercession. Elvira is overwhelmed with joy and gratitude.

The residents of the fortress assemble to greet the bridegroom. Among them is the condemned royal prisoner, Queen Enrichetta. Arturo recognizes her and promises to rescue her. Elvira is filled with a happiness she longs to share with the prisoner; before leaving to prepare for the ceremony, she gives Enrichetta a veil, a present form Arturo. Alone, Arturo recognizes the prisoner as the Queen and promises to rescue her. Arturo convinces her that in his company and disguised as his bride, she will be able to evade the sentries.

Their escape is barred by the arrival of Riccardo, who challenges Arturo to a duel for stealing Elvira’s affections from him. Enrichetta places herself between them and, in the confusion, her identity is revealed. Riccardo offers no further hindrance to their departure, knowing that Arturo’s treason will prevent his ever marrying Elvira. She and the other Puritans return to the courtyard; in the distance, they can see the fugitives riding away, leaving Elvira distraught.

Act Two

Giorgio describes to the Puritans the madness that has overcome Elvira, who believes that Arturo has abandoned her for another woman. Riccardo appears with a proclamation naming him leader of Cromwell’s forces and ordering him to capture and execute Arturo. A disheveled Elvira appears. Her confused mind darts from the reality of Arturo’s departure to the delusion that he has never left. Giorgio begs Riccardo to save his rival’s life for Elvira’s sake. Riccardo agrees to spare him if he returns alone and defenseless, but if he returns armed and with military escort, the rebel will be crushed. Giorgio declares that he will join Riccardo in battle if England is attacked.

Act Three

Pursued by Cromwell’s troops, Arturo approaches the fortress hoping desperately to see Elvira once more. The lovers are soon joyfully reunited. Arturo refuses to leave Elvira, despite his personal danger. The troops come upon them and seize Arturo. A sentence of death is about to be carried out, which shocks Elvira and restores her reason. Suddenly a messenger arrives with the news of Cromwell’s victory and the pardon of all prisoners, leaving the way clear for Arturo and Elvira to marry.

Meet the artists

* Lyric Opera debut
** Ryan Opera Center alumnus

Program book

Go inside this production of I puritani with engaging articles, notes from the director, a complete plot synopsis, artist bios, and more.

View Digital Program Book

Lyric presentation of Bellini’s I Puritani generously made possible by

Donna Van Eekeren Foundation

Anonymous Donor

This production was originally directed by Sandro Sequi and premiered at The Metropolitan Opera. All scenery, properties, and costumes constructed by The Metropolitan Opera.

Photos: Todd Rosenberg