I lombardi alla prima crociata, Opera by G. Verdi
Riding high on the success of his previous opera Nabucco, Giuseppe Verdi found himself on a roll of epic historical works. His dramatic opera I Lombardi alla prima crociata tackles some of the historical events around the First Crusade and pairs them with a classic family and love melodrama. This composition polarised critics but received a warm audience welcome at its premiere on 11 February 1843 at Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Nowadays it is regarded as a continuation of Verdi’s expressive and epic style, and audiences at Gran Teatro La Fenice in Venice will surely identify the Maestro’s special touch as they dive into the convoluted, dramatic story.
I Lombardi alla prima crociata (or “The Lombards on the First Crusade”) traces its roots to the epic poem by Tommaso Grossi. Librettist Temistocle Solera adapted the complex narrative to the needs of the opera stage and retained the emotional charge, fast pace, and plot twists that made the original stand out. To the fiery libretto, Verdi added a score of rousing choruses, intense arias and ensembles, and extended instrumental passages. The end result is a fiery performance that promises to set the stage of La Fenice ablaze with confrontations, sharp turns, and breath-taking resolutions.
The plot of I Lombardi alla prima crociata rests on a classic love triangle: the brothers Arvino and Pagano love the same woman, Viclinda. When she chose Arvino, this caused a major rift that forced Pagano into exile. At the start of the opera, the two brothers are reconciling, but Pagano has not let go of his hurt and secretly plans a vendetta for the love he feels was stolen from him. By chance, he murders not Arvino but their father, Lord Folco, which causes him to be banished again. With his vengeful brother gone, Arvino leads a group of crusaders towards Antioch, where many forget their holy mission and sink into a life of debauchery and marauding. Giselda, Arvino’s daughter, is so appalled by the damage and hurt his father’s army is causing that she switches sides to the Antiochians and falls in love with their ruler’s son Oronte. The familial and military conflict races towards a shocking resolution.