Classical Music Home

Welcome to Naxos Records

Keyword Search
  Classical Music Home > Opera Libretti

Opera Libretti

Beethoven | Bellini | Berg | Berlioz | Bizet | Cavalieri | Cavalli | Clerambault | Debussy | Donizetti | Falla | Gluck | Gounod | Granados | Hallstrom | Handel | Hartke | Haydn | Kalman | Leoncavallo | Mascagni | Massenet | Mercadante | Meyerbeer | Monteverdi | Mozart | Pacius | Petitgirard | Portugal | Puccini | Purcell | Rachmaninov | Rossini | Sacchini | Strauss Johann II | Verdi | Wagner Richard | Wagner Siegfried | Walton | Weber
Wagner Richard
Act I
Act II
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen (Rienzi, the Last of the Tribunes)
  • Richard Wagner. Grosse tragische Oper in five acts. 1840.
  • Libretto by the composer, after the novel by Edward Bulwer- Lytton.
  • First performance at the Königlich Sächsisches Hoftheater, Dresden, on 20th October 1842.
Cola Rienzi, a Roman tribune tenor
Irene, his sister soprano
Steffano Colonna, a nobleman bass
Adriano, his son mezzo-soprano
Paolo Orsini, a nobleman bass
Cardinal Raimondo, Papal Legate bass
Baroncelli, a Roman citizen tenor
Cecco del Vecchio, a Roman citizen bass
Messenger of Peace soprano

The Pope has fled from Rome and open conflict has broken out between the two noble families, the Colonna and the Orsini. One of the latter seeks to abduct Rienzi's sister Irene, who is rescued by Adriano Colonna. Order is restored in the city by Rienzi, supported by fellow-citizens. Cardinal Raimondo pledges Rienzi the support of the Church in curbing the powers of the feuding nobles and Adriano eventually agrees to act with him. In spite of the public support seemingly offered to Rienzi, the nobles scheme against him, as Adriano warns him. An attempt at assassination is foiled but the guilty members of the nobility are spared at the urging of Irene and Adriano. Further attempt at insurrection is made, and Orsini and Colonna are killed, but the loss of life has led the citizens now to plot against their tribune, while the Church, with the Holy Roman Emperor, joins in his condemnation. Adriano tries to persuade Irene to desert her brother, but she is resolute and she and Rienzi retreat to the Capitol, where they die as the building burns.

Rienzi was Wagner's first significant operatic success, following the earlier Die Feen and Das Liebesverbot. The plot, with its championship of the citizens against the nobility, political partisanship with which the composer concurred, was calculated to appeal to Paris, but when no performance there proved possible, Wagner offered it to Dresden, where it at first proved impossibly long with a first performance that lasted some six hours. Later cuts reduced the work to more manageable proportions. The overture remains particularly well known, while vocal excerpts that may be heard in the concert-hall include Rienzi's declaration to the people of Rome Erstehe, hohe Roma, neu! (Arise, great Rome, anew!), Adriano's divided loyalties in Gerechter Gott! (God of justice!) and, best known of all, Rienzi's prayer Allmächt'ger Vater! (Almighty Father!), the theme of which is heard in the overture.


Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group