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 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. In addition, 19th-century commentary has noted the musical influence of Il Pirata on the early Richard Wagner opera Das Liebesverbot
|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 
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").
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").
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 
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.
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.
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.
(Imogene, Gualtiero, Ernesto, Goffredo)
Opera House and Orchestra
Pier Miranda Ferraro,
American Opera Society Orchestra and Chorus
Recording of a concert performance by the American Opera Society, January)
|Audio CD: EMI Classics
Orchestra of the Florence May Festival
|Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Radiotelevisione Italiana Orchestra and Chorus
|Audio CD: EMI Classics
Cat: 7243 567121
Deutsche Oper Berlin Orchestra
|Audio CD: Berlin Classics
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Recording of a performance at the MET, 8 February)
|Audio CD: Celestial Audio
Cat: CA 309 B0000035MR
- Stephen A. Willier, "Madness, the Gothic, and Bellini's Il pirata". The Opera Quarterly, 6, 7-23 (1989).
- 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).
- "Wagner on Bellini", The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, 27(516), pp. 66-68 (1886).
- Recordngs of Il pirata on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Harewood, Earl of (1987). Kobbé's Complete Opera Book, 10th edition. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 0-370-31017-9.
- Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Osborne, Charles, The Bel Canto Operas of Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini, Portland, Oregon: Amadeus Press, 1994 ISBN 0-931340-71-3