The Epiphany Festival at the Novaya Opera
January 19 – 30, 2021
The opera Il pirata was Vincenzo Bellini’s first composition written in cooperation with Felice Romani (1788–1865),the best librettist of that time. The work with him was proof of the young composer’s success. Bellini wrote most of the operas, including I Capuleti e i Montecchi, La sonnambula and Norma, to Romani’s texts.
The libretto to Il pirata is based on Charles Robert Maturin’s play Bertram, or The Castle of St. Aldobrand. This is a tragic story of love and enmity. Count Gualtiero is expelled from Sicily by Duke Ernesto. The enmity between the Count and the Duke is exacerbated by personal motives: Ernesto is in love with Imogene, Gualtiero’s bride, and compels her to marry him. Gualtiero gathers a band of pirates to oust the enemies from the island, but he loses the battle. He secretly meets Imogene, urging her to elope with him. Ernesto interrupts their date. They fight, and Gualtiero kills Ernesto. The Knights’ Council condemns the Count to death. Imogene goes mad with grief. The storm and the madness of the heroine – these scenes open and close the opera Il pirata. They subsequently became very typical of Italian opera.
Il pirata was premiered on October 27, 1827 in Teatro alla Scala, Milan. The success was incredible: the production was shown 15 times during a month. Having listened to this composition, Gioachino Rossini congratulated Bellini: “Bravo, young man! You start out the way others end.”
Il pirata was one of the findings of the Novaya Opera’s founder Evgeny Kolobov (1946–2003). The opera’s piano reduction and fragments of its full score were found in the library of the Mariinsky Theatre. The conductor created his own version and orchestration of the opera and presented it in concert in the Grand Hall of the Leningrad (St. Petersburg) Philharmonia in 1984. It was the first time in the Soviet Union that the composition was performed in the original language – Evgeny Kolobov was convinced that the opera music is inseparable from the melody of the language in which it is written.
In 1989, the maestro produced Il pirata at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theatre. In 2008, excerpts from the opera were released on CD (the recording of 1985). In 2021, the composition will be performed in concert at the Epiphany Festival in the Novaya Opera to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Evgeny Kolobov’s birth.