Love curdles into jealousy, then murder, in Verdi’s powerful tragedy.
About the opera
Village girl Luisa has fallen in love with the mysterious stranger ‘Carlo’. But Carlo is really Rodolfo, son of the scheming Count Walter, who has much more ambitious plans for his only child’s bride. Kidnap, blackmail and murder follow, in a tragedy fuelled by jealousy and desire.
Luisa Miller marks the end of the young Verdi’s ‘years in the galleys’ and the beginning of the composer’s maturity. An intimate domestic drama, rich in human detail and emotion, it shares not just its themes of love, family and class conflict with Rigoletto and La traviata, but also their memorable musical language. From village dances to courtly conspiracies, Verdi paints a broad musical canvas, climaxing in some of the most striking ensembles and finales the composer would ever create.
Christof Loy directs Glyndebourne’s first ever production of Verdi’s tragedy, and Enrique Mazzola conducts.
We have worked with artist Tom Hammick to create a series of images to illustrate the six operas that make up Festival 2021.
You can find out more about Tom’s work at hammickeditions.com and he will be exhibiting works inspired by our repertoire at Glyndebourne throughout Festival 2021. A selection of original works and prints will be available from Glyndebourne Shop.
This work is entitled Luisa and Rodolfo.
Images © Tom Hammick. All rights reserved, DACS 2021
Jonathan Bloxham (16, 19, 22, 25 August)
London Philharmonic Orchestra
Leader Pieter Schoeman
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Chorus Director Aidan Oliver
Ivan Magrì (19, 22, 25, 29 August)
Rita de Letteriis
In a small village under the rule of Count Walter, the widower Miller lives a quiet and secluded life with his daughter, Luisa. She has just come of age, and more than a few young men are taken with her natural charm and grace. So, too, is Wurm – in service as secretary at Count Walter’s castle, he has already asked Luisa’s father for her hand in marriage. But Miller has left the decision to Luisa, and she would not choose Wurm.
Meanwhile, the former Count Walter was murdered under mysterious circumstances; Wurm is secretary to his successor and stands in high favour with him.
Act I: Love
It is Luisa’s birthday. Full of joy, she awaits Carlo, who has recently appeared in the area in the entourage of the new Count. Both young people are inflamed by a fierce mutual passion, and for Luisa, only Carlo can be the man she wants to marry. Luisa’s father is reluctant to agree to his daughter’s wishes, as they still know too little about the newcomer. Filled with jealousy, Wurm informs old Miller of the true identity of Luisa’s lover. His name is not Carlo, but Rodolfo; he is the son of Count Walter. Miller is shocked that a young aristocrat seems to be toying with his daughter, likely impregnating her only to ultimately abandon her.
Rodolfo’s father, in turn, is horrified that his son is having an affair with a girl of lowly status. He wants to arrange for him to marry a rich young widow, the duchess Federica. He anticipates splendid opportunities for advancement through her connections to the royal family. But Rodolfo cannot hide his feelings from either his father or Federica herself. He confesses that he loves someone else. The duchess feels that her honour has been offended. She swears revenge.
Now events come to a head. Miller informs his daughter of Rodolfo’s deception; though he admits to dishonesty, Rodolfo asks Miller for Luisa’s hand in marriage and swears that his love for her is sincere. Rodolfo’s father, however, wishes to force the marriage between the duchess and his son. He wants to have Miller and his daughter arrested on false charges, but Rodolfo prevents this by threatening his father with the revelation of a terrible secret: he knows the machinations of his father’s ascent to power.
Act II: Intrigue
Wurm, who still wants to win Luisa for himself, urges the Count to take increasingly larger risks. They succeed in taking Luisa’s father into custody and having him interrogated. Wurm then threatens Luisa with extortion: if she drafts a love letter to Wurm in which she renounces Rodolfo – writing that she never loved him, and only seduced him out of social ambition – her father will be released.
Full of disgust, she has the letter dictated and ultimately signs it. But further torture awaits her: the duchess insists that Luisa tell her face-to-face that she never loved Rodolfo, but rather solely and exclusively Wurm. Meanwhile, Wurm also knows how much is at stake for him, since Walter has admitted that Rodolfo was indeed witness to the cloak-and-dagger murder of his predecessor and relative: a murder committed with Wurm’s assistance. It is now a matter of completely breaking Rodolfo’s will as well so that he does not make use of this knowledge.
Wurm accomplishes this by sending him the fictitious love letter. Rodolfo’s world comes crashing down; in a fit of rage, he wishes to shoot and kill Wurm in a duel. But the coward flees, and in the same moment Rodolfo’s father approaches in a false display of affection. Count Walter claims that he no longer opposes Rodolfo’s marriage to Luisa. But Rodolfo declares that he wants to forget Luisa and marry the duchess. Count Walter and Wurm have achieved their goal.
Act III: Poison
In great haste, the wedding ceremony for Rodolfo and Federica has been arranged. Luisa’s friends try to conceal this from her. Luisa herself sees no other way out of her disgrace but to take her own life.
When her father arrives and reads the suicide note she has left him, he is able to convince Luisa to continue living. The best thing for both would be to leave the village, even if it means rebuilding a new life somewhere else in extreme poverty.
But yet again, Luisa has a final encounter with Rodolfo. Before walking down the aisle, he insists on a conversation with her. He wants to hear directly from her whether she wrote the love letter to Wurm. When she answers in the affirmative, he forces her to drink from a glass of water – one he had poisoned, and from which he had already taken a sip himself.
In this gesture, once again, guilt and innocence meet; once again, confessions must follow. Rodolfo reveals to Luisa that they only have minutes to live. For Luisa, this is a relief: she can now tell Rodolfo the truth and unveil Wurm’s extortionary schemes. This admission drives Rodolfo to the depths of madness. As Luisa lies dying in her father’s arms, Rodolfo becomes a murderer – even in the moment of his own death – and stabs the scheming Wurm to death.
– Christof Loy
Sponsored by The Winrocc Charitable Settlement and supported by the Bischoff family, in memory of Lady Rosemary Bischoff