Il pirata

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For the cyclist, see Marco Pantani.

Il pirata (The Pirate) is an opera in two acts by Vincenzo Bellini to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani from a French translation of the tragic play Bertram, or The Castle of St Aldobrando by Charles Maturin. It premiered at La Scala on 27 October 1827.

The original play has been compared with Bellini's opera and the influence of Il Pirata on Gaetano Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor has been noted[1] Also, Bellini's recycling of his own music in this opera has been analyzed, as well as his utilizing "a more self-consciously innovative compositional style" and participating more in work on the libretto, as compared with prior efforts where he was more deferential to the librettists chosen by the Naples opera management and the corresponding texts.[2] In addition, 19th-century commentary has noted the musical influence of Il Pirata on the early Richard Wagner opera Das Liebesverbot[3]


Antonio Tamburini
Soprano Henriette Méric-Lalande
Giovanni Battista Rubini
Role Voice type Premiere Cast,
27 October 1827
(Conductor: - )
Ernesto, Duke of Caldora baritone Antonio Tamburini
Imogene, his wife soprano Henriette Méric-Lalande
Gualtiero, former Count of Montalto tenor Giovanni Rubini
Itulbo, Gualtiero's lieutenant tenor Lorenzo Lombardi
Goffredo, a hermit, once tutor to Gualtiero bass Pietro Ansilioni
Adele, Imogene's companion soprano Marietta Sacchi
A little boy, son to Imogene and Ernesto silent
Fishermen and women, pirates, knights, ladies


Place: Sicily
Time: 13th century

Act 1[edit]

Scene 1: The seashore near Caldora Castle[4]

Rubini as Gualtiero, Oct 1827

On a stormy sea-shore, fisherfolk watch a shipwreck. Among the survivors is Gualtiero, who is recognised and offered refuge by Goffredo. Gualtiero tells him that he drew strength from his continuing love for Imogene ("Nel furor delle tempeste"), although she is now married to Ernesto. She arrives to offer hospitality to the shipwrecked strangers, but Gualtiero does not reveal himself, and Imogene assumes from what Itulbo tells her that he is dead. She tells Adele that she dreamt that he had been killed by her husband ("Lo sognai ferito, esangue").

Scene 2: The Castle terrace at night

At night, Itulbo warns the strangers not to reveal that they are the pirates who have been pursued by Ernesto. Meanwhile, Imogene is strangely fascinated by Goffredo's guest, who soon reveals to her who he really is. Gualtiero learns that she had married Ernesto only because he had threatened her father's life, and when he sees that she has borne Ernesto's child, he starts to think of revenge ("Pietosa al padre").

Scene 3: The Castle grounds

Ernesto and his men celebrate victory over the pirates ("Sì, vincemmo"), but he is annoyed that Imogene is not celebrating, too. He questions Itulbo (who pretends to be the pirates' chief) about Gualtiero's fate, and the act ends with all the principals expressing their conflicting emotions, though Goffredo manages to restrain Gualtiero from giving his identity away.

Act 2[edit]

Scene 1: The entrance to Imogene's apartments

Adele tells Imogene that Gualtiero wishes to see her before he leaves. Ernesto accuses Imogene of being unfaithful to him, but she defends herself by saying that her continuing love for Gualtiero is based solely on her remembrance of their past encounters. Ernesto is inclined to take her word for it, but, when he is told that Gualtiero is being sheltered in his own castle, he is consumed by rage.

Scene 2: The Castle terrace

Despite Itulbo's pleas, Gualtiero meets Imogene again before he leaves. Their acceptance of the situation alternates with passionate declarations of love, and Ernesto, arriving, conceals himself and overhears the end of their duet. He is discovered, and exits with Gualtiero, each determined to fight to the death.

Scene 3: The courtyard of the Castle

It is Ernesto who is killed. Gualtiero, to the amazement of Ernesto's retainers, gives himself up to justice, and, as he is taken away, he prays that Imogene may forgive him ("Tu vedrai la sventurata"). She appears in a state of anguish and sees visions of her dead husband and her son ("Col sorriso d'innocenza ... Oh sole, ti vela di tenebre oscure"). Meanwhile, the Council of Knights has condemned Gualtiero to death.


Year Cast
(Imogene, Gualtiero, Ernesto, Goffredo)
Opera House and Orchestra
1959 Maria Callas,
Pier Miranda Ferraro,
Constantino Ego,
Chester Watson
Nicola Rescigno,
American Opera Society Orchestra and Chorus
Recording of a concert performance by the American Opera Society, January)
Audio CD: EMI Classics
Cat: D232361
1967 Montserrat Caballé,
Flaviano Labò,
Piero Cappuccilli,
Giuseppe Baratti
Franco Capuana,
Orchestra of the Florence May Festival
Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Cat: B00000FBRF
1970 Montserrat Caballé,
Bernabé Martí,
Piero Cappuccilli,
Ruggero Raimondi
Gianandrea Gavazzeni,
Radiotelevisione Italiana Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: EMI Classics
Cat: 7243 567121
(Re-issued 2005)
1994 Lucia Aliberti,
Stuart Neill,
Roberto Frontali,
Kelly Anderson
Marcello Viotti,
Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra
Audio CD: Berlin Classics
Cat: B0000035MR
2003 Renée Fleming,
Marcello Giordani,
Dwayne Croft,
Tigran Martirossian
Bruno Campanella,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a performance at the MET, 8 February)
Audio CD: Celestial Audio
Cat: CA 309 B0000035MR
2012 Carmen Giannattasio,
José Bros,
Ludovic Tézier,
Brindley Sherratt
David Parry,
London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir,
(Recorded at Henry Wood Hall, London March/April 2010)
Audio CD: Opera Rara,
Cat: ORC45



  1. ^ Stephen A. Willier, "Madness, the Gothic, and Bellini's Il pirata". The Opera Quarterly, 6, 7-23 (1989).
  2. ^ Mary Ann Smart, "In Praise of Convention: Formula and Experiment in Bellini's Self-Borrowings", Journal of the American Musicological Society, 53(1), pp. 25-68 (Spring, 2000).
  3. ^ "Wagner on Bellini", The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 27(516), pp. 66-68 (1886).
  4. ^ Scene descriptions based on Galopoulos 2002, pp. 81—82
  5. ^ Recordngs of Il pirata on


External links[edit]