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8.110259-60 - BELLINI: Puritani (I) (Callas, Di Stefano) (1953)
The action of I Puritani takes place in the middle of the seventeenth century, towards the end of the English Civil War. England is divided between the Royalists, faithful to the Stuart monarchy and leaning towards Catholicism, and the Roundheads, the supporters of Oliver Cromwell and siding with Puritan religious views. King Charles I has been executed and his wife Queen Henrietta has escaped in disguise. The setting is Plymouth, a Puritan stronghold.
 The Introduction opens with an orchestral Sinfonia, setting the scene in a fortress in Plymouth. Battlements and turrets are seen, against the mountains in the background. The sun is rising.  The voice of the Puritan officer Sir Bruno Roberton is heard, with the soldiers on guard, as the trumpet signals mark the dawn of a new day and the men express their determination to defeat the Stuarts.  A bell rings and the sound of the organ is heard, as the Puritans are heard in prayer, with Elvira, daughter of the governor of the town, Lord Gualtiero Valton, the retired Puritan colonel Sir Giorgio, his brother, and the Puritan colonel Sir Riccardo Forth.  The people in the fortress sing in celebration of the coming wedding of Elvira. They go, leaving Bruno, who stands aside, observing Riccardo.  Riccardo laments Elvira’s failure to return his love. Bruno interrupts his musing and suggests that he still has his country and heaven as consolation. Riccardo explains how Elvira’s father had agreed to her marriage to him, but when he had approached him, Lord Valton had told him that he had no command over his daughter’s heart, and that she was in love with the cavalier, Arturo Talbo.  Riccardo laments again his loss of Elvira.  Soldiers march past and Bruno urges Riccardo to think of his country and honour, but the latter continues to dwell on the memory of his tender love.
 The new scene is set in Elvira’s room. The Gothic windows are open and the battlements of the fortress can be seen. Elvira, in some distress, addresses Giorgio, her uncle, telling him she will never marry Riccardo.
 She would rather die than marry him, but he tells her that he has persuaded her father to allow her to marry Arturo, in spite of his support for the royalists. Elvira is overjoyed, and Giorgio explains how he had convinced her father, telling him that Elvira would die if she were forced into this marriage.  The sound of hunting horns are heard, heralding the arrival of Arturo, granted a safe conduct to the Puritan fortress. Elvira and Giorgio express their joy at the occasion.  All gather for the wedding, as Arturo and his retinue, squires and pages, appear, and there is a chorus of praise for the couple, beauty now to be united to valour.  Arturo addresses Elvira and the onlookers express their delight at the happiness of the couple.  Valton gives Arturo the necessary pass and tells his brother Giorgio to accompany the couple to their wedding. Turning to Enrichetta, he courteously tells her that she is to appear before Parliament, which she realises will mean her death. Arturo privately asks Giorgio about the prisoner.  As the latter leaves, together with Elvira and her attendants, and Valton with his guards goes to prepare for Enrichetta’s arraignment, she addresses Arturo, who has lingered behind, seeking his help and revealing her identity as the captive Queen. He promises to help her.  Elvira enters, dressed for her wedding, wearing a garland of roses and carrying the fine bridal veil that Arturo has given her. She seeks Enrichetta’s help in wearing it, before leaving with Giorgio and her attendants.  Once they have gone, Arturo realises the possible use of the veil as a means of disguise and escape for the Queen.  At this moment Riccardo appears, with drawn sword, determined to seize the supposed Elvira. The two men are about to fight, when the Queen draws aside her veil, showing Riccardo that she is not Elvira. He recognises the prisoner, but allows them to pass.  Elvira returns, with her uncle and father, and others, to find Arturo and the prisoner gone, bringing hue and cry after them.  Elvira is now out of her mind, and raves in her madness, calling on Arturo, to the pity of the onlookers.  She seems to see him running from her, while the others lament her fate and vow revenge.
 In another part of the fortress people express their pity for Elvira.  Giorgio appears, and they ask what news he has.  He describes the scene of Elvira’s madness, again exciting their pity, and anger at Arturo’s treachery.  Riccardo enters, with a document condemning Arturo, vowing revenge on him.  Elvira, meanwhile, is heard continuing her lament, calling only for death, overheard by Riccardo and Giorgio.  She enters, recalling Arturo’s promises, and not recognising the two men. She imagines she is with Arturo,  calling on him to hurry to her.  Riccardo vows revenge, while Giorgio tells him that the death of Arturo will bring about the death of Elvira.  He will be haunted by Elvira’s ghost.  Giorgio is convinced by Riccardo’s reply, and the two agree to join together in vengeance.  Let the trumpets sound, calling them to arms to fight with Arturo and avenge Elvira.
 In a garden near the fortress a storm is breaking. Arturo rushes in, casting aside his cloak. Now he is safe, and declares again his loyalty to his country and his love.  He hears the voice of Elvira, singing his own song of a lovelorn troubadour. He calls out to her, and when there is no answer, he sings the same song himself.  He hears people approaching, dons his cloak and hides. His pursuers declare their intentions, but do not see Arturo.  Once they are gone, he emerges from hiding, but is in doubt what to do. He sings again his song.  Now Elvira hears him. To her amazement she sees Arturo, who kneels before her.  She asks how long they have been apart, three months that have seemed to her three centuries, in which she called out for him. He seeks her forgiveness.  He would embrace her, and she can find no words to express her joy. Drums are heard, and Elvira’s demeanour changes, to Arturo’s increasing alarm. He understands that his enemies are approaching, while she welcomes the sound as for their wedding.  His pursuers draw near, and she clasps his knees, calling on them for help, in case Arturo escapes from her again. Arturo is surrounded, and Elvira’s mood changes once more, when she hears his death pronounced.  Arturo is moved by Elvira’s plight. Under the threats of the Puritans, he tells them to desist, and have some pity for Elvira.  At this moment the sound of heralds is heard. A message is given to Giorgio and Riccardo, who announce, with joy, the defeat of the Stuarts and the freedom of the country, with the pardoning of all prisoners, an event that brings Elvira to her senses once more, so that the lovers can be together.
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