Luisa Miller
  • Giuseppe Verdi. Melodramma tragico in three acts. 1849.
  • Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, after Friedrich von Schiller’s play Kabale und Liebe (Cabal and Love).
  • First performance at the Teatro S Carlo, Naples, on 8th December 1849.
CHARACTERS
Count Walter bass
Rodolfo, his son tenor
Federica, Duchess of Ostheim, Walter’s niece contralto
Wurm, Walter’s steward bass
Miller, a retired soldier baritone
Luisa, his daughter soprano
Laura, a peasant-girl mezzo-soprano
A Peasant tenor

The first act has the title Love. In a village of the Tyrol, in the early 17th century, Luisa is in love with Carlo, in fact Rodolfo in disguise, who has come there with the new Count. Her father is suspicious of the young man and is angry when Wurm, who has asked for her hand, reveals the identity of Carlo. In the castle Count Walter tells his son to marry the widowed Duchess Federica, but he admits to her that he loves another. Miller, at home, tells Luisa of Carlo’s true identity, and Rodolfo enters, assuring Luisa of his love for her. The Count now has Miller and his daughter arrested. Rodolfo threatens to reveal a terrible secret, forcing the Count to release Luisa. In the second act, Intrigue, Wurm comes to Luisa, demanding that she renounce Rodolfo and elope with him, if she wishes to have her father released. In the castle again Wurm and the Count discuss the plot against Luisa and make it clear that they have murdered the old Count and that Rodolfo has discovered their secret. Luisa is now made to renounce Rodolfo, before Federica, and claim that she loves Wurm. In the castle gardens Rodolfo reads Luisa’s letter of renunciation, that Wurm had dictated to her. He challenges Wurm to a duel, but this is avoided, and his father persuades him to marry Federica. In the third act, Poison, Miller understands what Luisa has really done, as she writes a letter to Rodolfo suggesting a suicide pact, but then tears it up. Rodolfo arrives, forcing Luisa to admit the circumstances in which her earlier letter had been written. Together they drink wine that Rodolfo has poisoned, and die together, but not before Luisa has explained what happened and Rodolfo has killed Wurm.

With the success of Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) in Milan in 1842, Verdi began a period he later described as his years in the galley, with 14 more operas in a period of nine years. Luisa Miller was the second of the two operas he wrote for the Teatro S Carlo in Naples. La battaglia di Legnano (The Battle of Legnano) had been staged in Rome in January 1849, with the new opera 11 months later, to be followed by Stiffelio in Trieste in November 1850 and Rigoletto at La Fenice in Venice in March 1851. Luisa Miller opens with a symphonic overture, based on a single theme, and not a medley of tunes from what is to follow. Luisa offers her well-known prayer in the second act, when confronted by Wurm, Tu puniscimi, o Signore (Punish me, O Lord), followed by her later cabaletta in which she contemplates her death, after her act of renunciation, A brani, a brani, o perfido (Torn in shreds, traitor). With La tomba è un letto (The tomb is a bed) she tells her father that death is only a sleep and in Padre, ricevi l’estremo addio (Father, receive this last farewell) she dies, in the presence of her father and Rodolfo, so soon to die himself. Rodolfo has notable moments in the third scene of the second act, when he recalls his earlier happiness in Cuando le sere al placido (In those evenings).