1Le Nozze di Figaro ( Marcellina)
ACT I A manor house near Seville, the 1930s. In a storeroom that they have been allocated, Figaro and Susanna, servants to the Count and Countess Almaviva, are preparing for their wedding. Figaro is furious when he learns from his bride that the Count has tried to seduce her. He’s determined to have revenge on his master. Dr. Bartolo appears with his former housekeeper, Marcellina, who is equally determined to marry Figaro. She has a contract: Figaro must marry her or repay the money he borrowed from her. When Marcellina runs into Susanna, the two rivals exchange insults. Susanna returns to her room, and the Count’s young page Cherubino rushes in. Finding Susanna alone, he speaks of his love for all the women in the house, particularly the Countess. When the Count appears, again trying to seduce Susanna, Cherubino hides. The Count then conceals himself when Basilio, the music teacher, approaches. Basilio tells Susanna that everyone knows Cherubino has a crush on the Countess. Outraged, the Count steps forward, but he becomes even more enraged when he discovers Cherubino and realizes that the boy has overheard his attempts to seduce Susanna. He chases Cherubino into the great hall, encountering Figaro, who has assembled the entire household to sing the praises of their master. Put on the spot, the Count is forced to bless the marriage of Figaro and Susanna. To spite them and to silence Cherubino, he orders the boy to join the army without delay. Figaro sarcastically sends Cherubino off into battle. ACT II In her bedroom, Rosina, the Countess, mourns the loss of love in her life. Encouraged by Figaro and Susanna, she agrees to set a trap for her husband: They will send Cherubino, disguised as Susanna, to a rendezvous with the Count that night. At the same time, Figaro will send the Count an anonymous note suggesting that the Countess is having an assignation with another man. Cherubino arrives, and the two women lock the door before dressing him in women’s clothes. When Susanna steps into an adjoining room, the Count knocks and is annoyed to find the door locked. Cherubino hides himself in the dressing room, and the Countess lets her husband in. When there’s a sudden noise from behind the door, the Count is skeptical of his wife’s story that Susanna is in there. Taking his wife with him, he leaves to get tools to force the door. Meanwhile, Susanna, who has reentered the room unseen and observed everything, helps Cherubino escape through the window before taking his place in the dressing room. When the Count and Countess return, both are astonished when Susanna emerges from the room. Figaro arrives to begin the wedding festivities, but the Count questions him about the note he received. Figaro successfully eludes questioning until the gardener, Antonio, bursts in, complaining that someone has jumped from the window. Figaro improvises quickly, feigning a limp and pretending that it was he who jumped. As soon as Antonio leaves, Bartolo, Marcellina, and Basilio appear, putting their case to the Count and holding the contract that obliges Figaro to marry Marcellina. Delighted, the Count declares that Figaro must honor his agreement and that his wedding to Susanna will be postponed. ACT III Later that day in the great hall, Susanna leads on the Count with promises of a rendezvous that night. He is overjoyed but then overhears Susanna conspiring with Figaro. In a rage, he declares that he will have revenge. The Countess, alone, recalls her past happiness. Marcellina, accompanied by a lawyer, Don Curzio, demands that Figaro pay his debt or marry her at once. Figaro replies that he can’t marry without the consent of his parents for whom he’s been searching for years, having been abducted as a baby. When he reveals a birthmark on his arm, Marcellina realizes that he is her long-lost son, fathered by Bartolo. Arriving to see Figaro and Marcellina embracing, Susanna thinks her fiancé has betrayed her, but she is pacified when she learns the truth. The Countess is determined to go through with the conspiracy against her husband, and she and Susanna compose a letter to him confirming the meeting with Susanna that evening in the garden. Cherubino, now dressed as a girl, appears with his sweetheart, Barbarina, the daughter of Antonio. Antonio, who has found Cherubino’s cap, also arrives and reveals the young man. The Count is furious to discover that Cherubino has disobeyed him and is still in the house. Barbarina punctures his anger, explaining that the Count, when he attempted to seduce her, promised her anything she desired. Now, she wants to marry Cherubino, and the Count reluctantly agrees. The household assembles for Figaro and Susanna’s wedding. While dancing with the Count, Susanna hands him the note, sealed with a pin, confirming their tryst that evening. ACT IV At night in the garden, Barbarina despairs that she has lost the pin the Count has asked her to take back to Susanna as a sign that he’s received her letter. When Figaro and Marcellina appear, Barbarina tells them about the planned rendezvous between the Count and Susanna. Thinking that his bride is unfaithful, Figaro curses all women. He hides when Susanna and the Countess arrive, dressed in each other’s clothes. Alone, Susanna sings of love. She knows that Figaro is listening and enjoys making him think that she’s about to betray him with the Count. She then conceals herself—in time to see Cherubino try to seduce the disguised Countess. When the Count arrives looking for Susanna, he chases the boy away. Figaro, by now realizing what is going on, joins in the joke and declares his passion for Susanna in her Countess disguise. The Count returns to discover Figaro with his wife, or so he thinks, and explodes with rage. At that moment, the real Countess steps forward and reveals her identity. Ashamed, the Count asks her pardon. Ultimately, she forgives him, and the entire household celebrates the day’s happy ending.
2La Clemenza di Tito (Vitellia)
ACT I Rome, first century AD. The Roman emperor Tito is in love with Berenice, daughter of the king of Judea. Vitellia, the former emperor’s daughter, feels that she should hold the throne herself and asks her young admirer Sesto to assassinate Tito. Though he is a close friend of the emperor, Sesto will do anything to please Vitellia, so he agrees. When Sesto’s friend Annio tells him that Tito, for reasons of state, will not marry Berenice, Vitellia becomes hopeful again and asks Sesto to put off the assassination plot. Annio reminds Sesto of his own wish to marry Sesto’s sister Servilia. The two men affirm their friendship. At the forum, the Romans praise Tito. The emperor tells Annio and Sesto that since he has to take a Roman wife he intends to marry Servilia. Diplomatically, Annio assures Tito that he welcomes his decision. Tito declares that the only joy of power lies in the opportunity to help others. When Annio tells Servilia of the emperor’s intentions, she assures him of her love. In the imperial palace, Tito explains his philosophy of forgiveness to Publio, the captain of the guard. Servilia enters and confesses to the emperor that she has already agreed to marry Annio. Tito thanks her for her honesty and says he will not marry her against her wishes. Vitellia, unaware that Tito has changed his mind, furiously insults Servilia and asks Sesto to kill the emperor at once. He assures her that her wish is his command. After he has left, Publio and Annio tell Vitellia that Tito has decided to choose her as his wife. Vitellia desperately tries to stop Sesto but realizes it is too late. Sesto has launched the conspiracy and set fire to the Capitol. Full of shame, he runs into Annio, evades his questions and rushes off. Servilia appears, then Publio, and finally Vitellia. They are all searching for Sesto and believe that Tito has died. Sesto returns, looking for a place to hide. He is about to confess his crime but is silenced by Vitellia. ACT II In the palace, Annio tells Sesto that the emperor is still alive. When Sesto confesses his assassination attempt but refuses to give any reason, Annio advises him to admit everything to Tito and hope for forgiveness. Vitellia rushes in, begging Sesto to flee, but she is too late: a fellow conspirator has betrayed him, and Publio enters with soldiers to arrest him. Sesto asks Vitellia to remember his love. The Roman people are thankful that the emperor has survived. Tito struggles to understand the conspirators’ motives and doubts Sesto’s disloyalty. Publio warns him against being too trusting. When it is announced that Sesto has confessed and been sentenced to death by the Senate, Annio asks Tito to consider the case compassionately. The emperor will not sign the death decree until he has had the chance to question Sesto himself. Alone with Tito, Sesto assures him that he did not want the throne for himself, but he hesitates to implicate Vitellia. Tito, not satisfied with this explanation, dismisses him. Sesto asks Tito to remember their friendship and is led off. The emperor signs the decree, then tears it up: he cannot become a tyrant and execute a friend. He cries out to the gods, saying that if they want a cruel ruler, they have to take away his human heart. Servilia and Annio beg Vitellia to help save Sesto. She realizes that she must confess her crime rather than accept the throne at the price of Sesto’s life. In a public square, Tito is about to pronounce Sesto’s sentence, when Vitellia appears and admits that she alone is responsible for the assassination attempt. The bewildered emperor explains that his intention was to forgive Sesto anyway. He finally decides to pardon all the conspirators. The Roman people praise Tito for his kindness and ask the gods to grant him a long life.
ACT I In Seville by a cigarette factory, soldiers comment on the townspeople. Among them is Micaëla, a peasant girl, who asks for a corporal named Don José. Moralès, another corporal, tells her he will return with the changing of the guard. The relief guard, headed by Lieutenant Zuniga, soon arrives, and José learns from Moralès that Micaëla has been looking for him. When the factory bell rings, the men of Seville gather to watch the female workers—especially their favorite, the Gypsy Carmen. She tells her admirers that love is free and obeys no rules. Only one man pays no attention to her: Don José. Carmen throws a flower at him, and the girls go back to work. José picks up the flower and hides it when Micaëla returns. She brings a letter from José’s mother, who lives in a village in the countryside. As he begins to read the letter, Micaëla leaves. José is about to throw away the flower when a fight erupts inside the factory between Carmen and another girl. Zuniga sends José to retrieve the Gypsy. Carmen refuses to answer Zuniga’s questions, and José is ordered to take her to prison. Left alone with him, she entices José with suggestions of a rendezvous at Lillas Pastia’s tavern. Mesmerized, he agrees to let her get away. As they leave for prison, Carmen escapes. Don José is arrested. ACT II Carmen and her friends Frasquita and Mercédès entertain the guests at the tavern. Zuniga tells Carmen that José has just been released. The bullfighter Escamillo enters, boasting about the pleasures of his profession, and flirts with Carmen, who tells him that she is involved with someone else. After the tavern guests have left with Escamillo, the smugglers Dancaïre and Remendado explain their latest scheme to the women. Frasquita and Mercédès are willing to help, but Carmen refuses because she is in love. The smugglers withdraw as José approaches. Carmen arouses his jealousy by telling him how she danced for Zuniga. She dances for him now, but when a bugle call is heard he says he must return to the barracks. Carmen mocks him. To prove his love, José shows her the flower she threw at him and confesses how its scent made him not lose hope during the weeks in prison. She is unimpressed: if he really loved her, he would desert the army and join her in a life of freedom in the mountains. José refuses, and Carmen tells him to leave. Zuniga bursts in, and in a jealous rage José fights him. The smugglers return and disarm Zuniga. José now has no choice but to join them. ACT III Carmen and José quarrel in the smugglers’ mountain hideaway. She admits that her love is fading and advises him to return to live with his mother. When Frasquita and Mercédès turn the cards to tell their fortunes, they foresee love and riches for themselves, but Carmen’s cards spell death—for her and for José. Micaëla appears, frightened by the mountains and afraid to meet the woman who has turned José into a criminal. She hides when a shot rings out. José has fired at an intruder, who turns out to be Escamillo. He tells José that he has come to find Carmen, and the two men fight. The smugglers separate them, and Escamillo invites everyone, Carmen in particular, to his next bullfight. When he has left, Micaëla emerges and begs José to return home. He agrees when he learns that his mother is dying, but before he leaves he warns Carmen that they will meet again. ACT IV Back in Seville, the crowd cheers the bullfighters on their way to the arena. Carmen arrives on Escamillo’s arm, and Frasquita and Mercédès warn her that José is nearby. Unafraid, she waits outside the entrance as the crowds enter the arena. José appears and begs Carmen to forget the past and start a new life with him. She calmly tells him that their affair is over: she was born free and free she will die. The crowd is heard cheering Escamillo. José keeps trying to win Carmen back. She takes off his ring and throws it at his feet before heading for the arena. José stabs her to death.
1Un Ballo in maschera (Amelia)
ACT I Stockholm, Sweden. Courtiers await an audience with King Gustavo III, including a group of conspirators led by Counts Horn and Ribbing. The king enters. He notices the name of Amelia, wife of his secretary and friend, Count Anckarström, on the guest list for a masked ball, and thinks about his secret love for her. Left alone with Gustavo, Anckarström warns the king of a conspiracy against him, but Gustavo ignores the threat. The young page Oscar tells the king about the fortuneteller Madame Ulrica Arvidsson, who has been accused of witchcraft and is to be banished. Deciding to see for himself, the king arranges for his court to pay her an incognito visit. In a building by the port, Madame Arvidsson invokes prophetic spirits and tells the sailor Cristiano that he will soon become wealthy and receive a promotion. The king, who has arrived in disguise, slips money and papers into Cristiano’s pockets. When the sailor discovers his good fortune, everybody praises Madame Arvidsson’s abilities. Gustavo hides as she sends her visitors away to admit Amelia, who is tormented by her love for the king and asks for help. Madame Arvidsson tells her that she must gather a magic herb after dark. When Amelia leaves, Gustavo decides to follow her that night. Oscar and members of the court enter, and the king asks Madame Arvidsson to read his palm. She tells him that he will die by the hand of a friend. Gustavo laughs at the prophecy and demands to know the name of the assassin. Madame Arvidsson replies that it will be the first person that shakes his hand. When Anckarström rushes in Gustavo clasps his hand saying that the oracle has been disproved since Anckarström is his most loyal friend. Recognizing their king, the crowd cheers him as the conspirators grumble their discontent. ACT II That night in an abandoned warehouse, Amelia, who has followed Madame Arvidsson’s advice to find the herb, expresses her hope that she will be freed of her love for the king. When Gustavo appears, she asks him to leave, but ultimately they admit their love for each other. Amelia hides her face when Anckarström suddenly appears, warning the king that assassins are nearby. Gustavo makes Anckarström promise to escort the woman back to the city without lifting her veil, then escapes. Finding Anckarström instead of their intended victim, the conspirators make ironic remarks about his veiled companion. When Amelia realizes that her husband will fight rather than break his promise to Gustavo, she drops her veil to save him. The conspirators are amused and make fun of Anckarström for his embarrassing situation. Anckarström, shocked by the king’s betrayal and his wife’s seeming infidelity, asks Horn and Ribbing to come to his house the next morning. ACT III In his apartment, Anckarström threatens to kill Amelia. She asks to see their young son before she dies. After she has left, Anckarström declares that is it the king he should seek vengeance on, not Amelia. Horn and Ribbing arrive, and Anckarström tells them that he will join the conspirators. The men decide to draw lots to determine who will kill the king, and Anckarström forces his wife to choose from the slips of paper. When his own name comes up he is overjoyed. Oscar enters, bringing an invitation to the masked ball. As the assassins welcome this chance to execute their plan, Amelia decides to warn the king. Gustavo, alone in his study, resolves to renounce his love and to send Amelia and Anckarström to Finland. Oscar brings an anonymous letter warning him of the murder plot, but the king refuses to be intimidated and leaves for the masquerade. In the ballroom, Anckarström tries to learn from Oscar what costume the king is wearing. The page answers evasively but finally reveals Gustavo’s disguise. Amelia and the king meet, and she repeats her warning. Refusing to leave, he declares his love one more time and tells her that he is sending her away with her husband. As the lovers say goodbye, Anckarström stabs the king. The dying Gustavo forgives his murderer and admits that he loved Amelia but assures Anckarström that his wife is innocent. The crowd praises the king’s goodness and generosity.
1La Boheme (Mimi)
ACT I Paris, in the 1830s. In their Latin Quarter garret, the near-destitute artist Marcello and poet Rodolfo try to keep warm on Christmas Eve by feeding the stove with pages from Rodolfo’s latest drama. They are soon joined by their roommates—Colline, a philosopher, and Schaunard, a musician, who brings food, fuel, and funds he has collected from an eccentric nobleman. While they celebrate their unexpected fortune, the landlord, Benoit, comes to collect the rent. After getting the older man drunk, the friends urge him to tell of his flirtations, then throw him out in mock indignation at his infidelity to his wife. As the others depart to revel at the Café Momus, Rodolfo remains behind to finish an article, promising to join them later. There is another knock at the door—the visitor is Mimì, a pretty neighbor, whose candle has gone out in the stairwell. As she enters the room, she suddenly feels faint. Rodolfo gives her a sip of wine, then helps her to the door and relights her candle. Mimì realizes that she lost her key when she fainted, and as the two search for it, both candles go out. Rodolfo finds the key and slips it into his pocket. In the moonlight, he takes Mimì’s hand and tells her about his dreams. She recounts her life alone in a lofty garret, embroidering flowers and waiting for the spring. Rodolfo’s friends call from outside, telling him to join them. He responds that he is not alone and will be along shortly. Happy to have found each other, Mimì and Rodolfo leave, arm in arm, for the café. ACT II Amid the shouts of street hawkers near the Café Momus, Rodolfo buys Mimì a bonnet and introduces her to his friends. They all sit down and order supper. The toy vendor Parpignol passes by, besieged by children. Marcello’s former sweetheart, Musetta, makes a noisy entrance on the arm of the elderly, but wealthy, Alcindoro. The ensuing tumult reaches its peak when, trying to gain Marcello’s attention, she loudly sings the praises of her own popularity. Sending Alcindoro away to buy her a new pair of shoes, Musetta finally falls into Marcello’s arms. Soldiers march by the café, and as the bohemians fall in behind, the returning Alcindoro is presented with the check. ACT III At dawn at the Barrière d’Enfer, a toll-gate on the edge of Paris, a customs official admits farm women to the city. Guests are heard drinking and singing within a tavern. Mimì arrives, searching for the place where Marcello and Musetta now live. When the painter appears, she tells him of her distress over Rodolfo’s incessant jealousy. She says she believes it is best that they part. As Rodolfo emerges from the tavern, Mimì hides nearby. Rodolfo tells Marcello that he wants to separate from Mimì, blaming her flirtatiousness. Pressed for the real reason, he breaks down, saying that her illness can only grow worse in the poverty they share. Overcome with emotion, Mimì comes forward to say goodbye to her lover. Marcello runs back into the tavern upon hearing Musetta’s laughter. While Mimì and Rodolfo recall past happiness, Marcello returns with Musetta, quarreling about her flirting with a customer. They hurl insults at each other and part, but Mimì and Rodolfo decide to remain together until springtime. ACT IV Months later in the garret, Rodolfo and Marcello, now separated from their girlfriends, reflect on their loneliness. Colline and Schaunard bring a meager meal. To lighten their spirits, the four stage a dance, which turns into a mock duel. At the height of the hilarity, Musetta bursts in with news that Mimì is outside, too weak to come upstairs. As Rodolfo runs to her aid, Musetta relates how Mimì begged to be taken to Rodolfo to die. She is made as comfortable as possible, while Musetta asks Marcello to sell her earrings for medicine and Colline goes off to pawn his overcoat. Left alone, Mimì and Rodolfo recall their meeting and their first happy days, but she is seized with violent coughing. When the others return, Musetta gives Mimì a muff to warm her hands, and Mimì slowly drifts into unconsciousness. Musetta prays for Mimì, but it is too late. The friends realize that she is dead, and Rodolfo collapses in despair.
2Tosca (Floria Tosca)
ACT I Rome, June 1800. Cesare Angelotti, an escaped political prisoner, rushes into the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle. After finding the key his sister has hidden for him, he hides in his family’s private chapel. Soon, the painter Mario Cavaradossi arrives to work on his portrait of Mary Magdalene. The painting has been inspired by Angelotti’s sister, the Marchesa Attavanti, whom Cavaradossi had seen praying in the church. Angelotti, who was a member of the former Bonapartiste government, emerges from his hiding place. Cavaradossi recognizes him and promises help, then hurries him back into the chapel as the singer Floria Tosca, his lover, calls from outside. When he lets her into the church, she jealously asks Cavaradossi to whom he has been talking and reminds him of their rendezvous that evening. Suddenly recognizing the Marchesa Attavanti in the painting, she accuses him of being unfaithful, but he assures her of his love. When Tosca has left, Angelotti again comes out of hiding. A cannon signals that the police have discovered the escape, and he and Cavaradossi flee to the painter’s home. The sacristan enters with choirboys who are preparing to sing in a Te Deum celebrating the recent victory against Napoleon at the Battle of Marengo. At the height of their excitement, Baron Scarpia, chief of the secret police, arrives, searching for Angelotti. When Tosca comes back looking for Cavaradossi, Scarpia shows her a fan with the Attavanti crest that he has just found. Seemingly confirming her suspicions about her lover’s infidelity, Tosca is devastated. She vows vengeance and leaves as the church fills with worshippers. Scarpia sends his men to follow her to Cavaradossi, with whom he thinks Angelotti is hiding. While the congregation intones the Te Deum, Scarpia declares that he will bend Tosca to his will. ACT II That evening in his chambers in the Palazzo Farnese, Scarpia anticipates the pleasure of having Tosca in his power. The spy Spoletta arrives with news that he was unable to find Angelotti. Instead, he brings in Cavaradossi. Scarpia interrogates the defiant painter while Tosca sings at a royal gala in the palace courtyard. Scarpia sends for her, and she appears just as Cavaradossi is being taken away to be tortured. Frightened by Scarpia’s questions and Cavaradossi’s screams, Tosca reveals Angelotti’s hiding place. Henchmen bring in Cavaradossi, who is badly hurt and hardly conscious. When he realizes what has happened, he angrily confronts Tosca, just as the officer Sciarrone rushes in to announce that Napoleon actually has won the battle, a defeat for Scarpia’s side. Cavaradossi shouts out his defiance of tyranny, and Scarpia orders him to be executed. Once alone with Tosca, Scarpia calmly suggests that he would let Cavaradossi go free if she’d give herself to him. Fighting off his advances, she declares that she has dedicated her life to art and love and calls on God for help. Scarpia becomes more insistent, but Spoletta bursts in: Faced with capture, Angelotti has killed himself. Tosca, now forced to give in or lose her lover, agrees to Scarpia’s proposition. Scarpia orders Spoletta to prepare for a mock execution of Cavaradossi, after which he is to be freed. Tosca demands that Scarpia write her a passage of safe-conduct. After he has done so, he attempts to make love to Tosca, but she grabs a knife from the table and stabs him. She takes the pass and flees. ACT III At dawn, Cavaradossi awaits execution on the ramparts of Castel Sant’Angelo. He bribes the jailer to deliver a farewell letter to Tosca, and then, overcome with emotion, gives in to his despair. Tosca appears and explains what has happened. The two imagine their future in freedom. As the execution squad arrives, Tosca implores Cavaradossi to fake his death convincingly, then watches from a distance. The soldiers fire and depart. When Cavaradossi doesn’t move, Tosca realizes that the execution was real, and Scarpia has betrayed her. Scarpia’s men rush in to arrest her, but she cries out that she will meet Scarpia before God and leaps from the battlement.
3Il Tabarro (Giorgetta)
Paris, 1927. Giorgetta, the young wife of the barge-owner Michele, is having an affair with the deckhand Luigi. At the end of a day’s work, she offers wine to him and the two other stevedores, Tinca and Talpa. They begin a playful dance, which is interrupted by Michele. Giorgetta asks him why he seems so troubled, but he remains silent. Talpa’s wife, Frugola, arrives to take him home. When Tinca claims he loves nothing more than to drink, Luigi suddenly blurts out that drink seems to be the only way to cope with their bleak existence (“Hai ben ragione”). Frugola dreams of a little house in the country and Giorgetta wishes she could leave the barge for a happier life. She and Luigi consider the beauty of the city (Duet: “È ben altro il mio sogno”). Michele appears from the cabin and Luigi, who can’t bear to see Giorgetta with her husband, asks to be left in Rouen on the next trip out. Michele dissuades him, arguing that there will be no work there. Giorgetta and Luigi arrange to meet later that evening; she will light a match once Michele has gone to sleep. Luigi goes off and Michele again comes on deck. He tries to evoke Giorgetta’s past love for him by recalling happier days before the death of their infant child a year earlier, but she rejects him. Alone, Michele expresses his suspicions that she is in love with another man (“Nulla! Silenzio!”). He settles down on the deck and lights his pipe. Seeing the lit match from a distance, Luigi rushes on board believing it is Giorgetta’s signal. Michele grabs him and forces him to confess his love for Giorgetta, then strangles him and conceals the body under his cloak. Giorgetta reappears on deck to apologize to Michele, who throws open his cloak exposing Luigi’s dead body.
4Suor Angelica (Suor Angelica)
Tuscany, 1938. Banished to live in a convent after having an illegitimate child, Sister Angelica has not heard from her family in seven years. Finally a visitor is announced: it is Angelica’s aunt, the princess. Rejecting Angelica’s gestures of affection, she explains that when Angelica’s parents died, she was made guardian of both her and her younger sister. The sister is to be married, and the princess demands Angelica sign her share of the inheritance over to her. Crushed by her aunt’s cruelty, Angelica asks about her little son. The princess coldly tells her that he died two years earlier. The devastated Angelica signs the document, and the princess leaves. Angelica grieves that her child died without her mother by her side (“Senza mamma”). She drinks poison, then suddenly realizes that suicide is a mortal sin. Praying for forgiveness, she dies with a vision of her son greeting her in heaven.
1Der fliegende Holländer (Senta)
ACT I A violent storm has driven Daland’s ship several miles from his home on the Norwegian coast. Sending his crew off to rest, he leaves the watch in charge of a young steersman, who falls asleep as he sings a ballad about his girl (“Mit Gewitter und Sturm”). A ghostly schooner drops anchor next to Daland’s ship. Its captain steps ashore and, with increasing despair, reflects on his fate (“Die Frist ist um”): Once every seven years he may leave his ship to find a wife. If she is faithful, she will redeem him from his deathless wandering. If not, he is condemned to sail the ocean until Judgment Day. When Daland discovers the phantom ship, the stranger, who introduces himself as “a Dutchman,” tells him of his plight and offers gold and jewels for a night’s lodging. When he learns that Daland has a daughter, the Dutchman asks for her hand in marriage. Happy to have found a rich son-in-law, Daland agrees and sets sail for home. ACT II Daland’s young daughter, Senta, is captivated by the portrait of a pale man in black—the Flying Dutchman—while her friends sit spinning under the watchful eye of Mary, Senta’s nurse. The girls tease Senta about her suitor, Erik, who is not a sailor but a hunter. When the superstitious Mary refuses to sing a ballad about the Dutchman, Senta sings it herself (“Traft ihr das Schiff im Meere an”). The song reveals that the Dutchman’s curse was put on him for a blasphemous oath. To Mary and the girls’ horror, Senta suddenly declares that she will be the one to save him. Erik enters with news of the sailors’ return, and Mary and the others hurry off. Erik reminds Senta of her father’s intention to find her a husband and asks her to plead his cause, but she remains distant (“Mein Herz, voll Treue bis zum Sterben”). Realizing how much the Dutchman’s picture means to her, he tells her of a frightening dream in which he saw her passionately embrace the Dutchman and sail away on his ship. Senta exclaims that this is what she must do, and the despairing Erik rushes away. A moment later, the Dutchman enters. Senta stands transfixed. Daland quickly follows and asks his daughter to welcome the stranger, whom he has brought to be her husband (“Mögst du, mein Kind”). After he has left, the Dutchman, who is equally moved by the meeting, asks Senta if she will accept him as her husband (Duet: “Wie aus der Ferne”). Unaware that she realizes who he is, he warns her of making a rash decision, but she ecstatically vows to be faithful to him unto death. Daland returns and is overjoyed to learn that his daughter has accepted the suitor. ACT III At the harbor, the villagers celebrate the sailors’ return with singing and dancing (Chorus: “Steuermann, lass die Wacht!”). Perplexed by the strange silence aboard the Dutchman’s ship, they call out to the crew, inviting them to join the festivities. Suddenly the ghostly sailors appear, mocking their captain’s quest in hollow chanting. The villagers run away in terror. Quiet returns and Senta enters, followed by the distressed Erik. He pleads with her not to marry the Dutchman, insisting that she has already pledged her love to him (“Willst jenes Tag’s”). The Dutchman, who has overheard them, loses all hope of salvation and goes toward his ship. Senta tries to stop him but he explains that since she has not yet proclaimed her vows before God, she will escape eternal damnation—the fate of those who betray him. His crew prepares to cast off and he declares that he is the Flying Dutchman of legend. Senta ecstatically replies that she knows who he is. As the ship pulls away, she throws herself into the sea, crying that she is faithful unto death.
ACT I Wartburg castle and environs, medieval Germany. The minnesinger Tannhäuser, having spent a year in the magical underground realm of Venus, the goddess of love, longs to return to the human world. He pays tribute to Venus in a song but ends by asking her to let him go. Surprised, Venus promises him even greater pleasures, but when he insists and repeats his pleas, she furiously dismisses him and curses his desire for salvation. Tannhäuser cries out that his hope rests with the Virgin Mary—and suddenly finds himself transported to a valley near the castle of the Wartburg. A procession of pilgrims passes on the way to Rome. Tannhäuser is deeply moved and praises the wonders of God, as horns announce the arrival of a hunting party. It is Landgrave Hermann with his knights. Recognizing Tannhäuser as their long-lost friend, they beg him to return to the castle with them, but Tannhäuser is reluctant. Wolfram, one of the knights, reminds him that his singing once won him the love of Elisabeth, the Landgrave’s niece. On hearing her name, Tannhäuser understands what he must do and joins his companions. ACT II Elisabeth joyfully greets the Wartburg’s Hall of Song, which she hasn’t set foot in since Tannhäuser left. He is now led in by Wolfram. Elisabeth, at first shy and confused, tells Tannhäuser how she has suffered in his absence, but then joins him in praise of love. Observing their emotional reunion, Wolfram realizes that his own affection for Elisabeth is hopeless. Landgrave Hermann is delighted to find his niece in the Hall of Song, and together they welcome their guests who have come for a song contest. The Landgrave declares love the subject of the competition and promises the victor to receive whatever he asks from the hand of Elisabeth. Wolfram opens the contest with a heartfelt tribute to idealized love. Tannhäuser, his thoughts still on Venus, replies with a hymn to worldly pleasures. Other singers counter his increasingly passionate declarations until Tannhäuser breaks out into his prize song to Venus, to the horror of the guests. As the men draw their swords, Elisabeth throws herself between the parties to protect Tannhäuser and begs the knights for mercy. The Landgrave pronounces his judgment: Tannhäuser will be forgiven if he joins the pilgrims on their way to Rome to do penance. Tannhäuser falls at Elisabeth’s feet and rushes from the hall. ACT III Several months later, Wolfram comes across Elisabeth praying at a shrine in the valley. A band of pilgrims, back from Rome, passes by, but Tannhäuser is not among them. Broken with grief, Elisabeth prays to the Virgin Mary to receive her soul into heaven. Wolfram gazes after her and asks the evening star to guide her way. Night falls, and a solitary pilgrim approaches. It is Tannhäuser, ragged and weary. He tells Wolfram of his devout penitence on the way to Rome—of his joy at seeing so many others pardoned, and of his despair when the Pope proclaimed that he could no more be forgiven for his sins than the papal staff bear green leaves again. Left without hope, all he wants now is to return to Venus. He summons her and she appears, just as Wolfram once again brings Tannhäuser to his senses by invoking Elisabeth’s name. At this moment, Elisabeth’s funeral procession comes winding down the valley. With a cry, Venus disappears. Tannhäuser implores Elisabeth to pray for him in heaven and collapses dead. As dawn breaks, another group of pilgrims arrives, telling of a miracle: the Pope’s staff, which they bear with them, has blossomed.