Giuseppe Verdi • Giovanna d’Arco
Dramma lirico in a prologue and three acts
by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Libretto by Temistocle Solera (1815–1878), based on the drama Die Jungfrau von Orléans by Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)
With German and English surtitles
Print program (PDF)
Paolo Carignani, Conductor
Walter Zeh, Chorus Master
Anna Netrebko, Giovanna d’Arco
Fabio Sartori, Carlo VII.
Plácido Domingo, Giacomo
Roberto Tagliavini, Talbot
Member of the Young Singers Project, Delil
Philharmonia Chor Wien
In the first half of the nineteenth century the French saint Jeanne d’Arc found her way into Italian opera three times. In the winter of 1844/45, when Verdi was composing his Giovanna d’Arco, he had already been preceded by Nicola Vaccai (1827) and Giovanni Pacini (1830). The subject offered the fascinating possibility of combining the portrayal of a charismatic protagonist with spectacular elements of a belligerent conflict, and during the period when the Risorgimento movement was gaining strength, the story of the peasant girl from Domrémy, who rose to become the liberator of her fatherland, was also suitable for appealing to patriotic feelings.
Temistocle Solera wrote the libretto, orienting himself on Schiller’s “romantic tragedy” Die Jungfrau von Orleans (The Maid of Orleans). As in the play, Giovanna does not die at stake but – historically inaccurate – on the battlefield. Solera also took further liberties with the literary model: he did not think it worthy of Giovanna that she fell in love with one of the enemy English soldiers, and so he made her the idol of the French king. Carlo VII brings Giovanna into conflict between erotic inclination and her heavenly mission of going to war for her fatherland – a conflict epitomised by advice offered by supernatural entities. From Schiller’s extensive dramatis personae, besides Giovanna and Carlo only one other main character remains, Giovanna’s father. An obsessed and fanatic bigot, Giacomo sees in Giovanna’s “crazy love for the king” an indication that she is in league with the Devil and does not shy away from delivering his daughter to the English troops.
Solera tailor-made the libretto to suit star soprano Erminia Frezzolini, and Verdi presented her with everything she expected in broadly sweeping melodies and delicate ornamentation. Still largely cast as a melodramma, ultimately always committed to beautiful melodies for the singers, as associated with Bellini or Rossini, there are nevertheless already flashes of a new understanding of music-theatre: the melodic line is more flexible and precise in serving a specific dramatic situation, and conveys a new insistency and power of expression. In Verdi’s subsequent operas this was an approach that was increasingly to tread new ground. Incidentally, despite Nabucco and Ernani, the composer himself at the time regarded Giovanna d’Arco as his most successful work so far.
Translated by Elizabeth Mortimer