ⓘ Luisa Miller


ⓘ Luisa Miller

Luisa Miller is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, based on the play Kabale und Liebe by the German dramatist Friedrich von Schiller.

Verdis initial idea for a new opera – for which he had a contract going back over several years – was rejected by the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. He attempted to negotiate his way out of this obligation and, when that failed, Cammarano came up with the idea of adapting the Schiller play, with which Verdi was familiar. The process was set in motion, with Verdi still living and working on initial ideas from Paris, where he had been living for almost two years before moving back to his home town of Busseto in the summer of 1849. It was from there that he wrote the music and traveled to Naples for rehearsals. The first performance was given on 8 December 1849.

This was Verdis 15th opera and it is regarded as the beginning of the composers "middle period".


1. Composition history

In August 1848, Verdi had written to the Naples opera house cancelling his contract of three years previous, in which he had agreed to write an opera for them. However, the management held him to it by threatening his librettist for failing to provide a libretto, and Verdi relented, encouraging Cammarano to develop "a brief drama with plenty of interest, action and above all feeling – which would make it easier to set to music"

In Verdis mind, he had the perfect subject, to be based on the novel Lassedio di Firenze "The Siege of Florence" by Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi, which glorified the life of the 16th Century Florentine soldier Francesco Ferruccio. This new subject was also a patriotic piece: Verdi had taken to heart the admonitions of the poet Giuseppe Giusti, who had pleaded with him after Macbeth and after Milans political turmoil of March 1848 and its aftermath to "do what you can to nourish the it feeds on the extraordinary fascination we have for everyday violent crimes. Nothing so far written by Verdi comes close to the concept of realism" and he also comments on the essentially "private" nature of the opera; before Luisa, "something had always been raging, striving beyond the limits of private interests,"


2.1. Performance history 19th century

The premiere, on 8 December 1849, was well received, although for Verdi, the experience of dealing with the authorities at the San Carlo Opera in Naples caused him to vow never to produce another opera there. In fact, he never did, in spite of having initially written Un ballo in maschera for that house.

In Italy following the premiere, Luisa was given in Rome in 1850 and in Venice, Florence and Milan again up to 1852. Out, the opera was arrived to Barcelona in 1851. The US premiere was staged by the Caroline Richings Company at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia on 27 October 1852 with Caroline Richings in the title role. This was followed on 3 June 1858 by the first UK presentation at Her Majestys Theatre in London.


2.2. Performance history 20th century and beyond

While not as popular as the most often performed of Verdis works such as Rigoletto, La Traviata or Aida, Luisa Miller is fairly often seen on the stages of the worlds opera houses.

Following its initial six performances during the 1929/30 season at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, the opera was not given there again until 1968 under Thomas Schippers. The Luisa was Montserrat Caballe, the Rodolfo Richard Tucker, the Miller Sherrill Milnes, the Walter Giorgio Tozzi, and the Wurm Ezio Flagello. The Met has revived the work numerous times since then.

Notable revivals include those featuring Caballe at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in January 1972 and at the Teatro alla Scala in May 1976. Katia Ricciarelli sang the title role along with Luciano Pavarotti several times in those years, particularly in San Francisco and again in Turin along with Jose Carreras. In 1978 the opera was presented at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, also with Ricciarelli in the title role. Luciano Pavarotti sang the role of Rodolfo in the original run; later seasons saw Ricciarelli reprising the title role with tenor Jose Carreras, followed by Placido Domingo and then Carlo Bergonzi

Three opera companies, which plan to present all of Verdis operas, have given this opera: the Sarasota Opera in 1999 as part of its "Verdi Cycle"; the Teatro Regio di Parma in October 2007 as part of their ongoing "Festival Verdi"; and the ABAO in Bilbao, Spain, in 2012 as part of its "Viva Verdi" series. The Paris Opera at the Bastille Opera presented the work with Ana Maria Martinez and Ramon Vargas as Luisa and Rodolfo respectively on 8 March 2008.

In April–May 2010, a new production of the Zurich Opera House included Barbara Frittoli as Luisa, Fabio Armiliato as Rodolfo and Leo Nucci as Miller. In 2012, productions were seen in three German cities including Berlin, Stuttgart, and Munich, as well as Malmo in Sweden. In 2013, the opera was presented by the Israeli Opera company in Tel Aviv, by the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg and Dusseldorf, and in Budapest. The San Francisco Opera opened their 93rd season in September 2015 by performing the opera.


3.1. Synopsis Act 1

Scene 1: A village

On Luisas birthday, the villagers have gathered outside her house to serenade her. She loves Carlo, a young man she has met in the village Lo vidi e l primo palpito /"I saw him and my heart felt its first thrill of love" and looks for him in the crowd. Luisas father, Miller, is worried by this mysterious love since Carlo is a stranger. Carlo appears and the couple sing of their love Duet: tamo damor chesprimere / "I love you with a love that words can only express badly". As the villagers leave to enter the nearby church, Miller is approached by a courtier, Wurm, who is in love with Luisa and wishes to marry her. But Miller tells him that he will never make a decision against his daughters will Sacra la scelta e dun consorte / "The choice of a husband is sacred". Irritated by his reply, Wurm reveals to Miller that in reality Carlo is Rodolfo, Count Walters son. Alone, Miller expresses his anger Ah fu giusto il mio sospetto / "Ah! My suspicion was correct".

Scene 2: Count Walters castle

Wurm informs the Count of Rodolfos love for Luisa and is ordered to summon the son. The Count expresses his frustration with his son Il mio sangue la vita darei / "Oh, everything smiles on me". When Rodolfo enters, the Count tells him that it is intended that he marry Walters niece Federica, the Duchess of Ostheim.

When Rodolfo is left alone with Federica, he confesses that he loves another woman, hoping that the duchess will understand. But Federica is too much in love with him to understand Duet: Deh! la parola amara perdona al labbro mio / "Pray forgive my lips for the bitter words".

Scene 3: Millers house

Miller tells his daughter who Rodolfo really is. Rodolfo arrives and admits his deception but swears that his love is sincere. Kneeling in front of Miller he declares that Luisa his bride. Count Walter enters and confronts his son. Drawing his sword, Miller defends his daughter and Walter orders that both father and daughter be arrested. Rodolfo stands up against his father and threatens him: if he does not free the girl, Rodolfo will reveal how Walter became count. Frightened, Walter orders Luisa to be freed.


3.2. Synopsis Act 2

Scene 1: A room in Millers home

Villagers come to Luisa and tell her that her father has been seen being dragged away in chains. Then Wurm arrives and confirms that Miller is to be executed. But he offers her a bargain: her fathers freedom in exchange for a letter in which Luisa declares her love for Wurm and states that she has tricked Rodolfo. Initially resisting, she gives way and writes the letter at the same time being warned that she must keep up the pretense of voluntarily writing the letter and being in love with Wurm. Cursing him, Luisa wants only to die.

Scene:2: A room in Count Walters castle

At the castle Walter and Wurm recall how the Count rose to power by killing his own cousin and Wurm reminds the Count how Rodolfo also knows of this. The two men realize that, unless they act together, they may be doomed Duet: Lalto retaggio non ho bramato / "The noble inheritance of my cousin". Duchess Federica and Luisa enter. The girl confirms the contents of her letter.

Scene 3: Rodolfos rooms

Rodolfo reads Luisas letter and, ordering a servant to summon Wurm, he laments the happy times which he spent with Luisa Quando le sere al placido / "When at eventide, in the tranquil glimmer of a starry sky". The young man has challenged Wurm to a duel. To avoid the confrontation the courtier fires his pistol in the air, bringing the Count and his servants running in. Count Walter advises Rodolfo to revenge the offense he has suffered by marrying Duchess Federica. In despair, Rodolfo abandons himself to fate Lara o lavello apprestami / "Prepare the altar or the grave for me".


3.3. Synopsis Act 3

A room in Millers home

In the distance echoes of the celebration of Rodolfo and Federicas wedding can be heard. Old Miller, freed from prison, comes back home. He enters his house and embraces his daughter, then reads the letter she has prepared for Rodolfo. Luisa is determined to take her own life La tomba e un letto sparso di fiori / "The grave is a bed strewn with flowers", but Miller manages to persuade her to stay with him. Alone now, Luisa continues praying. Rodolfo slips in and unseen pours poison into the water jug on the table. He then asks Luisa if she really wrote the letter in which she declared her love for Wurm. "Yes," the girl replies. Rodolfo drinks a glass of water and passes a glass to Luisa, inviting her to drink. Then he tells her that they are both condemned to die. Before she dies, Luisa has time to tell Rodolfo the truth about the letter Duet: Ah piangi; il tuo dolore / "Weep your sorrow is more justified". Miller returns and comforts his dying daughter; together the three say their prayers and farewells. As she dies, peasants enter with Count Walter and Wurm and before he too dies, Rodolfo runs his sword through Wurms breast declaring to his father La pena tua mira / "Look on your punishment".


4. Orchestration

Luisa Miller is scored for piccolo, two flutes, two oboes, 2 clarinets, two bassoons, four horns, four offstage horns, two trumpets, three trombones, one cimbasso, one harp, timpani, a bell representing a church bell, a bell representing the castle clock, bass drum and cymbals, organ and strings.


5. Music

Julian Budden provides a summary of the strengths of this opera and demonstrates how it takes on many new dimensions based on several things: the relatively longer time-frame for completing the piece, the fact that Verdi did make sketches of some of the music in advance, the opportunity "to allow the newly-acquired Parisian elements to become assimilated into his Italian style" – resulting in "the best of it set a new standard in Verdian opera." He demonstrates how in act 3, "the sensitive scoring, the flexibility of the musical forms, the growing importance of the role which Verdi assigned to the orchestra. permits him to write two lengthy dialogue recitatives Luisa and Miller; Luisa and Rodolfo. Of these two duets, David Kimball notes that they "best illustrate Verdis habit of fashioning the musical forms to match the dramatic purpose", although Parker slightly qualifies this by stating that he sees the operas importance amongst those written pre- Rigoletto as being not so much "for its formal experiments as for its control of conventional musical forms, especially the grand duet." In that regard, he sees it as resembling Il trovatore.

As to the overall importance of Luisa, Baldini goes as far as to state that:

in terms of artistic value the opera is comparable only to Nabucco, Ernani, and Macbeth. It is, in short, the fourth Verdi opera which may be taken completely seriously: and up to this point he had written fourteen.

Another musical example has been noted by Budden See "Composition history" above: that Verdi was unwilling to set a conventional stretta to end act 2. In musical terms, Budden notes that Verdi agreed and:

Ended with an allegro in three mounting stages; but it is nothing like a conventional stretta. Nor is there any operatic model for this type of ending. Verdi had gone far beyond the example of his Italian predecessors in allowing the original drama to dictate his formal ideas.

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