Villi, Le (The Willis)
  • Giacomo Puccini. Opera-ballo in two acts. 1883.
  • Libretto by Ferdinando Fontana, after the short story Les Willis by Alphonse Karr.
  • First performance at the Teatro Dal Verme, Milan, on 31st May 1884.

Roberto is engaged to Anna, daughter of the head forester Guglielmo, but he leaves for the city, where he forgets her. Anna dies of grief, joining the Willis, the spirits of girls who have been abandoned by their lovers. Roberto returns, penitent and impoverished, and meets the Willis, who dance around him until he dies.

Puccini wrote Le villi for a competition and although the opera was not the winning entry, it was staged in Milan with the support of Arrigo Boito, Ponchielli and Ricordi. Its relative success gave a promising start to Puccini’s career, leading to a further commission. Anna’s gift of flowers to Robert, whom she urges to remember her, is marked by Se come voi piccina io fossi (If I were tiny like you). The score opens with an evocative prelude and includes a ghostly dance for the Willis.