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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 Theatremarker, Venicemarker on March 9, 1844.

Performance history

The UKmarker premiere took place at Her Majesty's Theatremarker in Londonmarker on 8 March 1845 followed on 13 April 1847 by its US premiere in New Yorkmarker..

Today, Ernani is a seldom-heard 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. It 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 Scalamarker (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" which plans to present all of Verdi's operas before the bi-centenary of his birth in 2013. The Teatro Regio di Parmamarker, another company with a similar aim, gave it in October 2005..

Recently, it was given in May 2008 by Opera Boston, a company which presents unusual or rarely staged works, and the Melbourne City Opera presented it in late March and early April 2009. It also is part of the Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2009/10 season in October/November 2009.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 9 March 1844
(Conductor: - )
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


Time: 1519.
Place: Aragonmarker, Aix-la-Chapellemarker, and Saragossamarker.

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 (Scene: "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"). 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 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, mourir potessi adesso / "Ah, if I could die now"). unfortunately, Silva walks in at that moment, discoveres 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") while Don Carlos' 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 with his saviour, 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") and the act ends with Ernani's aria of vengeance (Sprezzo la vita ne più m'alletta / "Life means nothing to me, only hope of vengeance").

Act 3

Shrine of Charles at Aix la Chapelle.
In the burial vault of Charles the Great at Aix la Chapelle

Carlos visits the grave of the emperor (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 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

Ernani's Castle

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 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").


Year Cast
(Ernani, Elvira, Don Carlo, Silva)
Opera House and Orchestra
1950 Gino Penno,
Caterina Mancini,
Giuseppe Taddei,
Giacomo Vaghi

Fernando Previtali,
Orchestra Sinfonica e Coro di Roma della Rai
Audio CD: Warner Fonit
1967 Carlo Bergonzi,
Leontyne Price,
Mario Sereni,
Ezio Flagello

Thomas Schippers,
RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Audio CD: RCA Victor
1969 Plácido Domingo
Raina Kabaivanska
Carlo Meliciani
Nicolai Ghiaurov

Antonino Votto,
Teatro alla Scalamarker Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Opera D'Oro
Cat: ODO 1468
1983 Luciano Pavarotti
Leona Mitchell
Sherrill Milnes
Ruggero Raimondi

James Levine,
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
DVD: Pioneer Classics
Cat: PC-99-102-D
1984 Plácido Domingo
Mirella Freni
Renato Bruson
Nicolai Ghiaurov

Riccardo Muti,
Teatro alla Scalamarker Orchestra and Chorus
(Production by Luca Ronconi)

DVD: Kultur Video
Cat: D72913



Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.

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