Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo. The first production took place at La Fenice Theatre, Venice on 9 March 1844. In 1904 it became the first opera to be recorded complete.
Performance history 
20th century and beyond
Today, Ernani is an infrequently performed work, although it appeared on the roster of the Metropolitan Opera as early as 1903 and has been given eighty-eight performances up to the March/April stagings in 2008. The opera regained some popularity from the early-1980s onward and was revived in a series of new productions at the San Francisco Opera (1982), Lyric Opera of Chicago (1984), at La Scala (1984) and the Met (1985), the 2008 stagings being the first since that time. It was given as part of the 1997 season of the Sarasota Opera's "Verdi Cycle". The Teatro Regio di Parma, another company with the aim of presenting every Verdi opera, gave it in October 2005. 
It was given in May 2008 by Opera Boston, a now-defunct company, which used to present unusual or rarely staged works, and the Melbourne City Opera staged it in March/April 2009. That same year, in October/November, it formed part of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's season. The Bilbao company, ABAO, (which also aims to present all of the composer's work in their "Tutto Verdi" series) presented Ernani in January 2010. The Met revived it for six performances in February 2012, the 25 February performance of which was broadcast to theatres as part of the Met-in-HD season.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 9 March 1844
(Conductor: - Gaetano Mares)
|Ernani, the bandit||tenor||Carlo Guasco|
|Don Carlo, later Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor||baritone||Antonio Superchi|
|Don Ruy Gomez de Silva||bass||Antonio Selva|
|Elvira, his niece and fiancée||soprano||Sophie Loewe|
|Giovanna, her nurse||soprano||Laura Saini|
|Don Riccardo, Don Carlo's equerry||tenor||Giovanni Lanner|
|Jago, Don Ruy's equerry||bass||Andrea Bellini|
|Rebels, brigands, attendants, knights, servant, nobles, ladies - Chorus|
Act 1 
Mountains of Aragon
The bandits demand the reason for Ernani's gloom. (Chorus: Eviva! Beviam! Beviam! / "To you we drink" and Ernani pensoso! / "Ernani, so gloomy? Why, oh strong one, does care sit on your brow?"). Ernani replies (Recitative: "Thanks, dear friends"; Cavatina: Come rugiada al cespite / "As the flower turns to the sun") that he loves Elvira, who is about to be married against her will to old Gomez de Silva (O tu che l'alma adora). He asks the bandits to abduct her.
In Elvira's chamber
Elvira worries about her upcoming marriage (Scena: "Now sinks the sun and Silva does not return"; Cavatina: Ernani, Ernani involami / "Ernani, Ernani, save me") as servants deliver Silva's wedding presents to her. She reaffirms her love for Ernani (Tutto sprezzo che d'Ernani / "I scorn everything which does not speak to my heart of Ernani"). King Carlos, disguised as a peasant, enters, but Elvira recognizes him and rejects the love that he offers her. As he attempts to use force, she grasps a dagger, but Ernani suddenly arrives and stops Carlos (Trio: "A friend comes quickly to your aid"). Carlos recognizes Ernani as the leader of the bandits. Ernani replies that Carlos robbed him of his lands and forced him into a life of banditry. As he invites Carlos to fight, Silva appears and sees Ernani (Infelice!..e tu credevi..che mai vegg'io! / "Dreadful sight"; Silva's cavatina: "Unhappy man! You thought this lovely...was yours").
- [Vienna, Spring 1844 or Milan, Autumn 1844, Silva's cabaletta added: "Infin che un brando vindice"]
Ernani offers to fight them both when Riccardo approaches and recognises the king. Ernani whispers to Elvira to prepare to flee.
Act 2 
A hall in Silva's palace
Ernani enters disguised as a pilgrim. He asks for shelter, which Silva grants him, and then learns from Silva that he is about to marry Elvira who believes Ernani to be dead. Ernani reveals his true identity to Elvira and she tells him that she plans to kill herself at the altar (Duet: Ah, morir potessi adesso / "Ah, if I could die now"). Silva walks in at that moment, discovers the pair, but agrees to keep his word to Ernani and protect him from the king, for which Ernani will owe him a perpetual debt. (Trio: No, vendetta piu tremenda / "No, I want to keep a greater revenge"). Carlos arrives and wishes to know why the castle is barred. Silva refuses to surrender Ernani (Carlos' aria: Lo vedremo, veglio audace / "We shall see, you bold old man") and Don Carlos's men cannot find Ernani's hiding place. Silva keeps his word, even when the king secures Elvira as a hostage. Silva releases Ernani, and then challenges him to a duel. Ernani refuses to fight, but unites with Silva in his plans to free Elvira from the king. Ernani swears to appear at the summons of Silva, wherever he may be at that time (Odi il voto o grande Iddio / "Oh God, hear the vow"),
- [Added in Parma, Autumn 1844: Ernani gathers his men to him. His aria of vengeance: Sprezzo la vita ne più m'alletta / "Life means nothing to me, only hope of vengeance" concludes the act].
Act 3 
"O sommo Carlo", sung by Mattia Battistini, Emilia Corsi, Luigi Colazza, Aristodemo Sillich, and the La Scala chorus in 1906.
|Problems listening to this file? See media help.|
In the burial vault of Charles the Great at Aachen
Carlos visits the grave of the emperor Charlemagne (Carlo Magno), whose successor, the new Holy Roman Emperor, is being elected by delegates from the relevant countries. Carlos resolves to change his life if he is crowned (Cavatina: Oh, de'verd'anni miei/ "Oh, the dreams and deceits of my youth"). Hiding behind the vault, he overhears a gathering of conspirators including Silva and Ernani. Ernani swears to murder Carlos. The conspiracy is foiled when Carlos's attendants enter and surprise the conspirators. The king commands that all the traitorous noblemen be executed. Ernani steps forward, declaring that thus he must die too; he is not the bandit Ernani, but Don Juan of Aragon, whose lands were taken from him. Elvira, who had been brought to Carlos as his intended empress, begs mercy for her lover, and Carlos, whose mood has changed, forgives them both and places Elvira's hand in that of Ernani.
Act 4 
Elvira and Ernani have just been married, when, in consternation, Ernani hears a bugle call. Silva arrives and silently hands Ernani a dagger. Ernani asks for time to "sip from the cup of love" (Ascolta, ascolta un detto ancor/ "Listen, just one word...") but, cursed by Silva as a coward, Ernani keeps his oath and stabs himself in the heart. (Trio with Silva: E' vano, o donna, il piangere, e vano / "Your weeping is in vain, woman"). He dies in Elvira's arms, telling her to live.
Ernani is scored for one piccolo, one flute, two oboes, two clarinets, one bass clarinet, two bassoons, four horns, two trumpets, three trombones, one cimbasso, one harp, timpani, bass drum and cymbals, snare drum, on-stage band with on-stage bass drum, one offstage horn, six offstage trumpets, and strings.
The first complete recording of an opera was the 1904 recording of Ernani, on 40 single-sided discs, by HMV in England. Later recordings include:
Don Carlo, Silva)
Opera House and Orchestra
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano
|78 rpm: Columbia GQX 10069-10073
LP: Cat: 4407
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della Rai
|Audio CD: Warner Fonit
Cat: 8573 82650-2
|1957||Mario del Monaco,
Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
(Recording of a performance at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino,
Teatro Communale, 14 June)
|Audio CD: Hr 4400
Cat: HR 4400/01
RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra
|Audio CD: RCA Victor
Cat: GD 86503 (UK); 6503-2 (USA)
RAI Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Milan
(Recording of 26 November 1968 which was broadcast on 25 March 1969)
|Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Cat: OPD 7051 Grand Tier
Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus
|Audio CD: Opera D'Oro
Cat: ODO 1468
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Recorded live on 12 and 17 December)
|DVD: Pioneer Classics
Teatro alla Scala Orchestra and Chorus
(Production by Luca Ronconi)
(Recording of a performance in the Teatro alla Scala, 4 January)
|DVD: Kultur Video
Orchestra and Chorus of Welsh National Opera
Teatro Regio di Parma
(Production by Pier' Alli, Video direction by Matteo Ricchetti)
(Audio and video recordings of a performance(s) May)
|DVD: Dynamic 33496
University of Chicago Critical Edition
- Holden, p.980
- Parma's 2005 "Festival Verdi"
- List of singers taken from Budden, p. 138.
- Budden, pp. 167-168: he notes: "the cabaletta is a thoroughly undistinguished piece and it offers the ultimate absurdity of an 'exit aria' with no exit to follow"
- "at Rossini's request, Verdi wrote a grand aria for the tenor Nicola Ivanoff", Budden, p. 169
- Steven Schoenherr, Recording Technology History
- Recordings on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Note: this recording does not include Silva's act 1 cabaletta.
- Recording details for the 1983 Met Ernani DVD: OCLC 212394683.
- Note: this recording does not include Silva's act 1 cabeletta nor Ernani's final aria and cabaletta at the end of act 2
- Budden, Julian, The Operas of Verdi, Volume 1: From Oberto to Rigoletto. London: Cassell, 1984. ISBN 0-304-31058-1.
- Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Melitz, Leo, opera synopsis in The Opera Goer's Complete Guide, 1921 version.
- Creative Commons MP3 Recording
- Verdi, Giuseppe, Ernani, full score critical edition, ed. Claudio Gallico, Chicago & Milan: University of Chicago Press & G. Ricordi, 1985. ISBN 0-226-85307-1.
- Libretto on giuseppeverdi.it (in Italian) Retrieved 3 February 2012
- Modern English translation of Victor Hugo's Hernani, the inspiration for Ernani on bedard.com/. Retrieved 3 February 2012.