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Giuseppe Verdi

Luisa Miller Synopsis

Cast

  • Count Walter, Bass
  • Rodolfo, (his son, Tenor
  • Federica, (Duchess of Ostheim and Walter's niece, Mezzo-Soprano
  • Miller, (a retired soldier, Baritone
  • Luisa, (his daughter, Soprano
  • Laura, (a village girl, Mezzo-Soprano
  • A peasant, Tenor
  • Villagers, attendants to the Duchess, hunters, archers and servants

Setting

A small village in a Tyrolese area ruled by a Count in the first half of the 17th Century.

Act I: | scene one | scene two | scene three
Act II: | scene one | scene two | scene three
Act III


Act I: Love

Scene One

Setting:A pleasant village. The villagers are gathered to celebrate Luisa's birthday.

Laura and the villagers sing a gentle chorus to summon Luisa for her birthday celebration (Ti desta, Luisa). Luisa and her father leave their house and greet their friends, commenting on the beauty of their song and the beautiful day. Luisa notes that "Carlo" has yet to arrive. Rodolfo has told everyone this is his name in order to conceal his true identity. Miller fears the young man, but Luisa tries to assuage his fears (Lo vidi, e'l primo palpito). The villagers are presenting Luisa with flowers and gifts as "Carlo" enters. "Carlo" and Luisa join in a joyful duet (T'amo d'amor ch' esprimere) which develops into an ensemble. Each proclaims their love and devotion for the other. Miller however, expresses a sense of impending doom and doubt about the young man's character. Church bells ring and everyone except Miller goes to the Church.

Wurm enters and tells Miller to stay. He tells him that he loves Luisa and he alone deserves her hand in marriage. Miller replies that he only promised his consent if Luisa loved him. Wurm angrily denounces Miller for not being able to control his daughter at which Miller defends his actions by saying the choice of matrimony is sacred and must be entered into freely (Sacra la scelta). Wurm then tells Miller that "Carlo" is actually Rodolfo, Count Walter's son. He leaves Miller alone with his broken heart and mounting apprehension as he calls upon heaven to keep his daughter safe.

Scene Two

Setting:A large room in Count Walter's castle.

Walter enters followed by Wurm who has been telling him of Rodolfo's intentions of marrying Luisa. Walter tells Wurm that he wants to see Rodolfo and Wurm leaves to fetch him. Walter reflects on his own success to date and how his son could derail his plans for further success (Il mio sangue). He blames God for Rodolfo's rebelliousness declaring parenting to be a hellish torture.

Rodolfo enters and embraces Walter who tells him of his impending marriage to … Federica. Federica's father had forced her to marry the Duke who was later killed in battle. Federica is now rich and held in high esteem at the Imperial Court. Rodolfo tells his father that he does not have ambitious desires to the court. He is about to add that he loves Luisa when the Duchess enters Walter tells Rodolfo to obey him as they go to meet the Duchess and her entourage. Walter tells her that Rodolfo wants to talk to her and on his way out, reminds Rodolfo of his wishes.

Alone with the Duchess, Rodolfo decides that he must trust her and tells her that heaven not his father has picked a bride for him. She asks what he means and he tells her that destiny has bound him to another. Rodolfo begs her for mercy and asks her how he could lie before God by marrying her. Federica declares that no favors shall be given to him from her jealous heart: "Love scorned is a fury that cannot forgive."

Scene Three

Setting:A room in Miller's house.

In the distance can be heard the calls and sounds of a hunt in progress. Luisa is waiting for Rodolfo. Miller enters and collapses into a chair. He tells Luisa that "Carlo" is really Rodolfo, the son of Count Walter and worse, he is about to be married. Luisa doubts the news and Miller reveals he has just come from the castle where he heard the news first-hand. He swears vengeance by his honored uniform. Rodolfo has been at the door listening to their conversation and he tells them that even though his true identity has been found out, his heart is still the same. He then kneels and takes Luisa's hand declaring that he is her spouse and for God and her father to witness his vow. Miller asks who will save them from his father's anger. Rodolfo tells them he knows a secret that if revealed would destroy the Count. At this, the Count enters. He tells them he has come to stop a sinful intrigue. Walter goes on to scoff at Rodolfo and Luisa's love. "Love? The love of a vile seductress?" Rodolfo draws his sword as Miller declares his honor has been wounded. Walter orders chains for Miller and Luisa as Luisa kneels in front of the Count to plead forgiveness. Miller raises her and tells her not to kneel to a wicked oppressor (Fra' mortaili ancora oppressa). An ensemble develops in which Rodolfo declares that anger is raging inside his soul. Walter tells Rodolfo that he must submit to his will. Luisa wonders why the Lord has let this fall upon her. Walter orders the Archers to comply with his commands as Rodolfo, sword still in hand, stands in front of Luisa. He threatens anyone who touches her with death. Walter seizes Luisa and hands her over to the Archers. He then taunts Rodolfo telling him he has touched Luisa, "What are you going to do?" Rodolfo says that if she goes, then so does he. He then threatens to kill Luisa and Walter tells him to go ahead. Rodolfo declares that if Walter insists on imprisoning her, he will reveal the secret of how he became the Count. To everyone's amazement, Walter suddenly orders the pair to be set free.

ACT II: The Intrigue

Scene One

Setting:A room in Miller's cottage.

Villagers rush into the room calling for Luisa. She enters and is told that her father has been taken into custody by the Count. Luisa is about to leave for the castle when Wurm enters. He orders the villagers to leave and tells her that since her father threatened the Count he must be punished. Wurm goes on to tell her she can save him - if she will write a letter. She agrees and he begins dictating this letter to her. The letter is addressed to Wurm himself and it begins by declaring that Luisa never loved Rodolfo - only his position. (Luisa was merely a peasant while Rodolfo was the son of a Count.) "I return to you and want us to elope." Luisa hesitates wondering how she can bring such shame upon herself. She reminds herself that this is necessary to save her father (Tu puniscimi, o Signore). She finishes the letter and gives it to Wurm. Two more conditions are imposed upon her. When asked, she must say that the letter was written voluntarily by her. She has to appear at the castle and swear this in front of the Duchess. She agrees and calls for Wurm to release her father so he can close her dying eyes (A brani, o perfido). Wurm tells her time will heal her wounds and their marriage cannot happen fast enough.

Scene Two

Setting:A room in Count Walter's castle.

The scene opens to Walter expressing distress over Rodolfo's actions (Egli delira). Wurm enters and tells Walter everything is set. Wurm reveals that the letter is on its way to Rodolfo. We then learn the terrible secret Rodolfo threatened to reveal (L'alto retaggio non ho bramato). It seems that Walter coveted the position of his cousin. Wurm adds that he was a part of it because of Walter's promise of whatever bride he wanted. Wurm goes on to add that every evening, the Count passed through a dense forest. He and Walter murdered him one evening. At the sound of their guns, Rodolfo came up to the fallen Count. Barely alive, the Count told Rodolfo the identity of his assassins and died. The villagers believed he had been killed by highwaymen. Wurm cries that he is lost and Walter tells him he is not alone. Either the secret is kept or they both shall be condemned.

The Duchess enters as Wurm leaves. Walter tells her that Rodolfo's heart will soon change. He goes on to tell her that Luisa loves another and will vouch for it in person. Luisa is brought in with Wurm and cannot look at the Duchess. Walter and Wurm blame it on her position as a peasant. Federica asks Luisa if she is in love. Luisa tells her yes and after some goading by Federica admits it is … Wurm. Federica asks about Rodolfo and Luisa replies that he deceived her with his false name. When she learned his real position, she merely wanted him for what he could do for her. Federica's joy is evident as Luisa, alone, bears the humiliation. Federica notices a change in Luisa and asks if there is another secret - or perhaps she is not telling the truth? She hesitates and then points to Wurm declaring her ardent love for him and no one else. To herself she decries her fate while Federica can barely contain her excitement. Walter and Wurm express delight over their impending success.

Scene Three
Setting:A hanging garden in the castle.

A peasant has brought a letter he was asked by Luisa to secretly deliver to Wurm. She told him to avoid Rodolfo and he suspected some plot underfoot. In hopes of a reward, he has brought it to Rodolfo. Rodolfo takes the letter and throws the peasant a purse. He summons a servant and calls for Wurm. Rodolfo's anger builds as he reads the letter and discovers her "treachery". (Oh! Fede negar potessi) His heart is broken and Luisa has betrayed him. He remembers a starry evening in the not too distant past they spent together (Quando le sere al placido).

Wurm enters and Rodolfo gives him the letter which he reads. Rodolfo shoves a gun into Wurm's hand and challenges him to a duel at which Wurm begins to leave. Rodolfo declares that they must die at the same time and Wurm fires his pistol into the air. Soldiers and servants hurry in followed by Walter. Wurm slips through the crowd and leaves. Rodolfo kneels in front of his father who tells him that his virtue has its rewards. "Marry your true love." Walter tells Rodolfo to be happy and asks if he is satisfied. Rodolfo answers no and adds that Luisa has betrayed him Rodolfo says he wants to die and instead Walter tells him to marry the Duchess to extract revenge on Luisa. Rodolfo calms himself and Walter tells him to trust him as he cannot betray him. Rodolfo tells him to prepare either the altar or the grave for him because without her, heaven would be hell (L'ara, o l'avello apprestami).

Act III: The Poison

Setting:A room in Miller's cottage.

Laura and a group of villagers are watching Luisa write as they comment on the quick departure of her happiness (Come in un giorno solo). Laura tries to get Luisa to eat something which she refuses. She asks why the church shines so brightly at which they tell her it is the Count inaugurating his new Seignory. The church is actually being prepared for the marriage of Rodolfo and the Duchess. Miller enters and out of respect, the group leaves them alone. He tells her that Wurm has told him what was involved in his release. He asks after the letter she has been writing and she tells him to make sure it is delivered to its destination. He opens and reads the letter which is addressed to Rodolfo. It is an invitation to visit her at her grave latter that evening. Luisa is contemplating suicide which her father reminds her would be a sin (La tomba è un letto). Miller asks how she could leave him alone and she tears the letter up and tells him she will live for his sake only. They decide to leave the village that evening (Andrem, raminghi e poveri). Miller leaves.

From the church drifts the sound of the organ and Luisa begins to pray. Rodolfo quietly enters the room with a servant. He tells the servant to inform his father he will be here when they are ready for the ceremony. Luisa is still praying as Rodolfo takes a vial from his pocket and pours its contents into a cup. Luisa rises and is startled when she sees Rodolfo. He hands her the letter she wrote to Wurm and asks if she wrote it. She answers yes and he asks for the cup and takes a drink from it. Luisa drinks from it also as Rodolfo tells her another man is waiting at the altar for her while another woman for himself. He tells her they are waiting in vain and says he can hardly breathe. She offers him more drink which he takes and comments, "It almost seems as if she knows what she is offering to me." He insults Luisa and tells her to a least feel pity for his soul. In a beautiful duet, she tells him to weep if he wants because his anguish is more than justified (Piangi, piangi; il tuo dolore). Rodolfo delcares his tears are those of living blood that the heart sheds in dying - not tears of calm and consolation.

The Castle clock strikes and Rodolfo tells her that for them the last hour has struck. He asks her for the truth: "Did you love Wurm?" He warns her not to lie because before the lamp on the table goes out, she will stand before God. She questions this and he tells her that together they drank death. "I am dying innocently." she begins and tells him of the plot of Walter and Wurm as Rodolfo's anger explodes. He curses the day he was born and a hostile God. Luisa calls upon Rodolfo to stop cursing God and for God to spare her life.

Miller enters and Rodolfo tells him he is the murderer of his own blood. In a moving trio, Luisa asks Miller to bless her and for heaven to receive her and Rodolfo (Padre, ricevi l'estremo addio). Miller realizes the end is near for his beloved daughter while Rodolfo asks for forgiveness. Luisa dies as Walter, Wurm and the Villagers enter to see what has happened. Rodolfo sees Wurm at the threshhold of the house and runs him through with his sword. "May death be your punishment, you evil man!" He turns to his father and tells him to look at his punishment and falls dead to the ground.

Copyright © 1996, Stephen L. Parker.

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