'Perhaps this revival will prompt other companies to take on Poliuto, but you’ll be unlikely to hear it better sung.'
‘[Michael Fabiano] sang with unfailing intensity and bravado, projecting a chesty forcefulness redolent of legendary Italians of yore [...] Ana María Martínez spun some exquisitely floated tone and deliquescent phrasing.'
'Every now and then the world of opera unearths a forgotten masterpiece [...] Poliuto needs at least three world-class singers, and Glyndebourne has them.'
A UK premiere for Festival 2015
The Glyndebourne premiere of Poliuto on 21 May also marks the opera’s UK professional premiere.
Donizetti’s grand opera has a human love story at its heart. Persecuted and punished for his religious conversion, Poliuto’s courage is so moving that his wife, though in love with another man, follows him to his tragic fate.
Poliuto, Glyndebourne Festival 2015. Poliuto (Michael Fabiano). Photographer: Tristam Kenton
Listen to the Poliuto podcast:
Presenter: Katie Derham. Produced by Katherine Godfrey for Whistledown Productions for the 2015 Glyndebourne Festival. Music from Poliuto courtesy of EMI Classics (Warner). Music from Verdi’s Aida courtesy of Decca Classics.
Appearing on stage
Poliuto will be sung by the exciting American tenor Michael Fabiano, who made his Glyndebourne debut in La traviata at Festival 2014. Conceived as a vehicle for the great French tenor Adolphe Nourrit, the title role demands a tenor of lyricism and suppleness but also power and stamina.
Puerto Rican soprano Ana María Martínez returns to Glyndebourne as Paolina, a role often associated with Maria Callas. It is her first appearance at the Festival since her memorable debut in the title role of Rusalka in 2009.
French director Mariame Clément stages the production, returning after her acclaimed production of Don Pasquale at Festival 2014.
Enrique Mazzola returns to conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Influence on Verdi
Donizetti’s rarely produced masterwork Poliuto reveals the epic side of the bel canto genius. Poliuto contrasts fierce personal conflict with sweeping heroic scale, in the manner of French grand opera – a choice that would wield great influence on Verdi. Poliuto’s grand Temple Scene in Act II clearly foreshadows the famous Triumphal Scene in Aida .
Based on Corneille’s French Neoclassical tragedy Polyeucte , Poliuto weaves the tale of Saint Polyeuctus (d. 259 AD), an early Christian martyr. The opera portrays Poliuto’s spiritual crisis after his conversion to Christianity incites persecution by Armenia’s Roman occupiers. His wife, Paolina, though in love with another man, is so moved by Poliuto’s courage that she finally follows him to his tragic fate.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Peter Moores Foundation
Jon and Julia Aisbitt
Critical Edition by William Ashbrook and Roger Parker
Property of Casa Ricordi, Milan (Universal Publishing Srl)
By arrangement with G. Ricordi & Co (London) Ltd.
Cast and creative team
Conductor Enrique Mazzola
Director Mariame Clément
Designer Julia Hansen
Lighting Designer Bernd Purkrabek
Video fettFilm (Momme Hinrichs and Torge Möller)
Poliuto Michael Fabiano
Paolina Ana María Martínez
Severo Igor Golovatenko
Callistene Matthew Rose
Felice Timothy Robinson
Nearco Emanuele D’Aguanno
London Philharmonic Orchestra
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Date Start Interval Finish Train departs Victoria Thu 21 May 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Sun 24 May 2015 4.50pm 6.30pm 8.25pm 1.47pm Fri 29 May 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Tue 2 Jun 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Fri 5 Jun 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Sun 7 Jun 2015 4.50pm 6.30pm 8.25pm 1.47pm Thu 11 Jun 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Sun 14 Jun 2015 4.50pm 6.30pm 8.25pm 1.47pm Thu 18 Jun 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Sun 21 Jun 2015 4.50pm 6.30pm 8.25pm 1.47pm Fri 26 Jun 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Thu 2 Jul 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Thu 9 Jul 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm Sun 12 Jul 2015 4.50pm 6.30pm 8.25pm 1.47pm Wed 15 Jul 2015 5.05pm 6.45pm 8.40pm 1.46pm
Armenia, c. 257-9 AD
Armenia has been conquered by the Romans, who have outlawed Christianity, the growing new faith, and condemned all Christians to death. Paolina, who had loved the Roman general Severo, married the Armenian nobleman Poliuto under pressure from her father Felice, governor of Armenia, who had told her that Severo had been killed in battle.
Act I: The Baptism
During the night, worshippers secretly gather to be baptised into the forbidden new faith, Christianity. Poliuto confides in his friend Nearco, leader of Armenia’s Christians, his worries about being baptised and about his wife Paolina’s fidelity. Nearco advises him to remain calm and turn his thoughts toward God. Poliuto enters the hidden sanctuary for the sacrament of baptism and Paolina soon arrives outside. Suspecting that Poliuto has converted to Christianity, she confronts Nearco, who warns her not to disclose Poliuto’s secret, since her father Felice has decreed death for all Christians. Paolina feels moved by the prayers emanating from the sanctuary. After the baptism ceremony, Poliuto finds Paolina waiting. She warns Poliuto of the danger he faces by converting, but he tells her that he has no fear. As sounds of celebration are heard, Nearco tells them that their enemy, the Roman general Severo, has returned from Rome. Paolina feels both joy and despair at learning that her former lover still lives, for she knows that they can never be reunited. The Christians declare that they will defy death for their faith.
A cheering crowd welcomes Severo, who assures the people that he will destroy the sacrilegious Christian upstarts in their midst. After secretly expressing his desire to reunite with his beloved, he encounters Felice and asks after Paolina. Felice informs Severo that Paolina is now Poliuto’s wife. Severo vents his rage, while Callistene, the High Priest of Jupiter, vows revenge and Felice and Poliuto voice their worries.
Act II: The Neophyte
At Felice’s home, the High Priest Callistene has arranged a meeting between Paolina and Severo. Paolina is surprised to find Severo in her father’s house. He reproaches her for betraying him. Paolina feels her passion for Severo rekindled but resolves to remain faithful to Poliuto and demands that Severo leave. Meanwhile, Callistene has brought Poliuto to witness his wife’s clandestine meeting with Severo. Poliuto is now convinced that Paolina is unfaithful and vows to avenge this stain on his honour. He is interrupted by the news that Nearco has been arrested by the Romans. Poliuto rushes off to save Nearco.
Before the crowd assembled at the Temple of Jupiter, Callistene invokes the vengeance of the gods upon the Christians. When the captive Nearco is escorted in, Callistene demands to know the name of the person baptised the night before. Nearco refuses to betray the convert, but when Severo threatens him with torture, Poliuto confesses that he is the man they seek. Paolina begs her father, Severo and Callistene to spare Poliuto. The enraged Poliuto momentarily breaks free from his captors, denounces Jupiter as a false god, and rejects Paolina. Poliuto and Nearco are led away.
Act III: Martyrdom
In a sacred wood near the Temple of Jupiter, the people can be heard discussing the impending executions. Callistene arrives and informs his priests that other Christians have decided to follow Poliuto’s example and seek martyrdom by confessing their faith, and that Paolina continues to plead for Poliuto. Callistene exhorts the priests to stir the people to vengeance.
In his prison cell, Poliuto dreams of Paolina transfigured by a strange light. He awakes to find Paolina there, and the two are reconciled. Paolina tells Poliuto that he need not die if he will renounce his Christian faith, but he refuses, believing that eternal salvation awaits him after death. Inspired by his courage and faith, Paolina begs Poliuto to baptise her so that she might die with him. At first he is unwilling, but when he realises that her conversion is authentic, he agrees. They look forward to eternal life together.
Severo and his men arrive to take Poliuto to the arena for his execution. Paolina announces her conversion to Christianity and asks to die with her husband. Severo urges her to reconsider, but she refuses. Callistene and his priests demand the couple’s execution. Poliuto and Paolina go off to face death together.