Il Pirata at Monte-Carlo Opera

The Vincenzo Bellini opera Il Pirata makes its way to the Auditorium Rainier III, Salle Yakov Kreizberg for two spectacular shows this week.

Touted as one of the key operatic pieces in the emergence of Italian lyrical opera in the early 19th century, Il Pirata is thought to be a sort of prequel to the Gaetano Donizetti hit, Lucia di Lammermoor.

The female lead, Imogene, is thought in some circles to be Lucia’s elder sister, though that fact is not confirmed. In any case, the opera in two acts is thrilling and tragic, as all good opera was meant to be.

Imogene is forced into marrying Ernesto, the Duke of Caldara, who has threatened to kill her father. Gualtiero, exiled Count of Montaldo, has turned to a life of piracy to survive, and is being tracked by Ernesto. When Gualtiero’s boat is shipwrecked near Imogen and Ernesto’s castle, Imogene takes Gualtiero in and they declare their mutual love. 

Imogene cannot be convinced to leave her husband and child, despite her passions, so Ernesto returns home and breaks the news to his wife that his heart lies elsewhere. A duel ensues and Gualtiero kills Ernesto, who is then sentenced to death. Imogene, faced with life without her love, goes mad.

Il Pirata was Bellini’s undisputed first major success. The demanding crowd of La Scala praised his work and it was a smash hit of its time. But for reasons unknown, the opera disappeared and for over a century no one even thought of it. In the mid twentieth century, Tullio Serafin, then Maria Callas revived the opera, but it was difficult for modern singers to wrap their heads around as the style was vastly different than what they had been schooled in.

In the past half century, the rebirth of the bel canto repertoire and the advent of new performers trained in this manner, has allowed operas. Such as Il Pirata to be performed again as they were in days gone by. 

Spanish tenor Celso Albelo will be performing as Gualtiero. Mr Albelo is currently one of the best singers in the international scene, and has been acclaimed in Monte Carlo for singing operas such as Rigoletto, Guillaume Tell or I Puritani.
The opera will take place on 5th and 8th March.
Top photo: Celso Albelo, copyright Javier del Real