I puritani Synopsis

A 3 Act Opera by Vincenzo Bellini

Luciano Pavarotti and Joan Sutherland starring in the Metropolitan Opera's 'I Puritani' photographed on February 25, 1975. Jack Mitchell/Getty Images

Italian composer Vincenzo Bellini wrote the opera  I puritani and premiered it on January 24th, 1835 at the Théâtre-Italien in Paris, France.

Setting of I puritani:

Bellini’s puritans takes place in England during the English Civil War in the 1640s. As a result, the country was divided by those who support the crown (the Royalists) and those who support the Parliament (the Puritans).

The Story of I puritani

I puritani, ACT 1

Scene 1
As the sun rises, Puritan soldiers gather in a Plymouth stronghold to await an impending attack by Royalist troops. Prayers and celebratory cheers are heard in the distance when it is announced that Lord Walton’s daughter, Elvira is to marry Riccardo. What would normally be a happy occasion for most, Riccardo is visibly upset. He knows Elvira is in love with Arturo - a man who sides with the Royalists. Lord Walton will bend to his daughters' will; if she wants to marry Arturo instead, he will allow it. Riccardo is heartbroken and divulges his feelings to his best friend Bruno. To make the best out of the situation, Bruno advises him to devote all his efforts into leading the Puritans in battle.

Scene 2
Elvira is in her apartment when her uncle, Giorgio Walton, stops by to tell her about the wedding announcement. Quick to fury, she proclaims she’d rather die than marry Riccardo. Giorgio assuages her anger and promises her he has persuaded her father, with a little help from Arturo himself, to let her marry Arturo instead. Elvira is overwhelmed with love and thanks her uncle. Within moments, trumpets are sounded to announce Arturo’s arrival in the castle.

Scene 3
Arturo is happily greeted by Elvira, Lord Walton, Giorgio, and more. He is delighted by their warm reception and thanks them kindly. Lord Walton provides Arturo safe passage and regretfully excuses himself from the wedding. Their conversation is interrupted by a mysterious woman. Arturo overhears Lord Walton tell her that she will be escorted to London to appear before the Parliament. Arturo asks Giorgio who tells him that she is believed to be a Royalist spy. Elvira departs excitedly to prepare for the wedding. When everyone else returns to their business, Arturo stays behind to search for the woman. When he finds her, she reveals her identity - she is the escaped wife, Queen Enrichetta, of King Charles I, who was executed by Parliament forces. Arturo offers to help her escape. Elvira enters the room wearing her bridal veil and interrupts Arturo and the woman, who she has no knowledge of being the Queen, to help her style her hair. Elvira removes the veil and places it on the Queen’s head so she can begin fussing with her hair. Arturo realizes this could be the perfect chance for them to escape. When Elvira exits the room to grab something, he and the Queen make a break for it. Riccardo crosses their path just as they are about to exit the castle. Believing the Queen to be Elvira, Riccardo is ready to fight and kill Arturo. The Queen removes the veil and confesses her identity to break up the fight. Riccardo quickly devises a plan that he believes will ruin Arturo’s life, which would allow him the chance to marry Elvira, so he lets Arturo escape with the Queen. Meanwhile, Elvira returns only to find out that Arturo ran away with the other woman. Burdened with feelings of betrayal, she is driven to the brink of madness.

I puritani, ACT 2

The people lament Elvira’s mental deterioration as Giorgio speaks about her condition. Riccardo comes in to announce that Arturo was sentenced to death by the Parliament when his involvement with helping the Queen escape was uncovered.

Elvira arrives, drifting in and out of lucidity. As she speaks with her uncle, she sees Riccardo and mistakes him for Arturo. Both men persuade her to return to her room to rest and she leaves. Wanting nothing more than to restore her health, Giorgio asks Riccardo, with great sincerity, to help save Arturo’s life. Riccardo is staunchly opposed to his requests, but Giorgio appeals to his heart and finally convinces Riccardo to help. Riccardo agrees upon one condition: however Arturo returns to the castle (as friend or foe) will determine how Riccardo acts.

I puritani, ACT 3

Three months later, Arturo has yet to be captured. In the woods near the castle, Arturo has returned to Elvira for respite. He overhears her singing and calls out to her. When he doesn’t receive a reply, he recalls how they used to sing together on their walks through the gardens. He begins singing their song, stopping occasionally in order to hide from passing troops. Finally, Elvira steps into view and becomes upset when he stops singing. She confronts the source of the melody within her haze of madness. In a moment of clarity, she realizes he is Arturo there in the flesh. He assures her he has always loved her, and the woman he left with on their wedding day was actually the Queen he was trying to save. Elvira’s heart is nearly restored, but with the sound of approaching drums, she slips back into madness knowing that her lover is about to be taken away.

Giorgio and Riccardo arrive with the troops and it is announced that Arturo is sentenced to death. Elvira is shocked back to reality and can finally think straight. The two lovers make desperate pleas to save him from death, and even Riccardo is moved. The soldiers do not give in and push harder for his execution. As they are about to escort him to a prison cell, a diplomat from the Parliament arrives and declares victory over the Royalists. He also announces Oliver Cromwell has pardoned all Royalist prisoners. Arturo is released and they celebrate well into the night.

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