Les Vêpres Siciliennes

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)

Information on the piece

Opera in five acts
Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier
First performed on 13 June 1855 at the Théâtre Impérial de L'Opéra Paris as part of the Paris World's Fair
Premiere at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 20 March 2022

recommended from 16 years

3 hrs 45 mins / 1 interval

In French language with German and English surtitles

Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance

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Kindly supported by the Förderkreis der Deutschen Oper Berlin e. V. – Presented by rbb Kultur and taz

About the performance

For his first commission for the Paris Opéra Verdi demanded a libretto that was “immense, passionate and original”. What he eventually got from star author Eugène Scribe was a text whose political edginess rivalled the grand opéras of Giacomo Meyerbeer, with whom Scribe had collaborated on LES HUGUENOTS and LE PROPHETE. Like these two works, LES VÊPRES SICILIENNES explored a subject that was not only historical but also highly topical. Parallels could easily be drawn between the “Sicilian Vespers” uprising in 1282 against the island’s French occupiers and the most conspicuous of France’s mid-19th-century expansionist ventures, the conquest and colonialization of Algeria, which began in 1830 and was dogged by an ongoing series of brutally quelled revolts. This link likewise serves as the slant for the current production by French director Olivier Py, who has already shown his sensibility for the grand-opéra approach to political material in his staging of Meyerbeer’s LE PROPHETE at the Deutsche Oper Berlin: the French occupation of Algeria, which extended from Verdi’s period to the 1950s, provides the setting for Py’s version of the story, which, after LA TRAVIATA and RIGOLETTO, was another example of Verdi expanding the focus of his musical dramas. His regard is no longer fixed only on the fate of individual characters; in LES VÊPRES SICILIENNES he is interested in the fortunes and woes of entire nations. Undiluted hatred, a desire for reconciliation and the tension between these two extremes are what drive the actions of the main protagonists and the interactions of occupiers with the subjugated.

LES VÊPRES SICILIENNES has long been overshadowed by Verdi’s other great operas, but here the Deutsche Oper Berlin presents the original 1855 French version of the work, not the Italian adaptation that became the standard. Taking the stand will be Enrique Mazzola, Principal Guest Conductor at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and already acclaimed for his baton work on LE PROPHETE, L’AFRICAINE and DINORAH.

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