Il pirata

Bel Canto at Caramoor presents Il pirata by Bellini

Sat, July 8, 2017, 7:30pm


This season’s operatic centerpiece is a semi-staged production of Bellini’s 1827 breakthrough opera Il pirata (“The Pirate”). Artist-in-Residence Angela Meade, whose revelatory Caramoor performance of the same composer’s Norma was hailed as “a truly perfect night at the opera” by Das Opernglas, takes on the demanding role of Imogene for the first time in her stellar career. Tenor Santiago Ballerini, who triumphed here two seasons ago in La favorite, returns as Gualtiero, the pirate of the title, joined by the brilliant young bass Harold Wilson in his Caramoor debut.

“When we listen to Meade, we begin to know the sound of golden age singing.” – Opera Today

Ernesto Harold Wilson, bassImogene Angela Meade, sopranoGualtiero Santiago Ballerini, tenorItulbo Sean Christensen, tenorGoffredo Joseph Beutel, bass-baritoneAdele Robyn Marie Lamp, sopranoChorus Bel Canto Young Artists
Will Crutchfield, conductor
Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Wine Intermission Reception for All Membership Levels.
Getting to Caramoor

Caramoor Coach GraphicCatch the Caramoor Coach to and from Midtown Manhattan (single-ride and round-trip available), take the train (Metro-North Katonah Station, Harlem Line), or take a scenic drive and enjoy free parking – it’s easy to get here.

Taking the train? We’ll give you a lift! Free Metro-North Katonah Shuttle beginning at 5:30pm.

Enhance your Caramoor experience.

Caramoor Coach

Need a lift from the city? Book round-trip transportation from NYC on the Caramoor Coach, a luxury air-conditioned coach traveling from Grand Central to Caramoor’s front door and back. The coach boards on the west side of Lexington Avenue between 42nd & 43rd street at 3:30pm for Il Pirata by Bellini.

To reserve your spot, note how many of each option you would like while purchasing your seats for Il Pirata by Bellini. Confirm by selecting "Add to Cart."

Buy Tickets

Already purchased your tickets? You can reserve your spot on the Caramoor Coach by using the form below or by calling the Box Office at 914.232.1252.

Symphony Court Dining

Enjoy a relaxed dining experience seated under a tented pavilion adjacent to the Italian Pavilion. Each buffet menu, designed and prepared by Great Performances, includes unlimited wine, beer, and sodas, or you are welcome to bring your own. You may choose to dine at a private table or communally with other concert-goers. Menus vary for each date; check the menu for below for the compete offerings.

Already purchased your tickets? You can still reserve your spot at Symphony Court by ordering online (be sure to select July 8) or by calling the Box Office at 914.232.1252.

Order by Tuesday at 5:00pm for the upcoming week's performance.
Learn MoreView Menu

Pre-Order Picnic Boxes

Let us pack your picnic for you! For heartier options, no lines, and the ease of ordering a picnic in advance this summer, consider choosing from our special picnic boxes offered by our caterer, Great Performances. View the menu and order by noting how many of each option you would like after selecting your seats for Il pirata by Bellini. Confirm by selecting "Add to Cart."

Already purchased your tickets? You can still pre-order your picnic by ordering online (be sure to select July 8) or by calling the Box Office at 914.232.1252.

Order by Tuesday at 5:00pm for the upcoming week's performance.
Learn MoreView Menu


    2:30pm A New Voice
    Bellini was not an innovator when it came to the formal structure of opera, but the way he re-imagined melody and harmony was profoundly important for the whole Romantic era. Will Crutchfield explains his influence on Schumann, Chopin, and Wagner.

    3:30pm  Canzonetta sull’aria (A Song in the Air)
    The Italian composer’s favorite form of chamber music was the song with keyboard accompaniment. Bellini’s contributions to this repertory will be heard on Thursday July 13th; here, the Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices sample other composers’ works in the genre, from Paisiello and Cimarosa at the beginning of the 19th century to Puccini and Tosti at the dawn of the 20th.

    4:30pm Bellini’s First Pirates
    Il pirata was composed for three superstars: Henriette Méric-Lalande, Giambattista Rubini, and Antonio Tamburini. The Bel Canto Young Artists and Apprentices give a vocal portrait of the trio through other excerpts from their other principal roles.

    6:30pm  Bellini’s Breakthrough
    Timothy Cheung introduces Il pirata

Angela Meade

Angela Meade, soprano and Artist-in-Residence

Learn More  Watch

Hailed as “the most talked about soprano of her generation” (Opera News), American soprano Angela Meade is the winner of both the Metropolitan Opera’s 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the 2011 Richard Tucker Award. In 2008 she joined an elite group of history’s singers when, as Elvira in Verdi’s Ernani, she made her professional operatic debut on the Met stage. Since then she has fast become recognized as one of today’s outstanding vocalists, excelling in the most demanding heroines of the 19th-century bel canto repertoire as well as in the operas of Verdi and Mozart. As the New Yorker put it, “Meade is astounding. … She has exceptional dynamic control, able to move from floating pianissimos to sudden dramatic swells. The coloratura effects – rapid runs, trills, delicate turns, and so on – are handled with uncommon ease.”

In the 2016-17 season, Angela Meade will perform with ensembles around the world including joining the Teatro Real in Madrid as Lucrezia in concert performances of Verdi’s I due Foscari as well as her signature role of Norma, and returns to the Met for Donna Anna in Mozart’s Don Giovanni, conducted by Plácido Domingo.

Last season saw Meade – the face of the Opera News 2014 “Diva Issue” – reprise Verdi’s Elvira at the Met, this time singing opposite Plácido Domingo under the leadership of James Levine. She undertook the title role of Ermione at Palacio de la Opera, and, as one of the few sopranos to feature all three of Donizetti’s Tudor queens in her repertoire, headlined Maria Stuarda in concert at Oregon’s Astoria Music Festival. In concert, Verdi’s Requiem was the vehicle for debuts with the New York Philharmonic, under Alan Gilbert; at London’s BBC Proms, with Donald Runnicles leading the BBC Scottish Symphony; and with Spain’s Oviedo Filarmonía.

Ms. Meade was catapulted to prominence in a 2010 concert performance of Norma at the Caramoor International Music Festival

Ms. Meade was catapulted to prominence in a 2010 concert performance of Norma at the Caramoor International Music Festival, where she has also triumphed as Hélène in Verdi’s Les vêpres siciliennes, and in the title roles of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia and Rossini’s Semiramide. In 2010, Meade made her European operatic debut at The Wexford Festival in the title role of Mercadante’s rarely staged Virginia.

A native of Washington State and an alumna of the Academy of Vocal Arts, Angela Meade has triumphed in an astounding number of vocal competitions: 57 in all, including many of the opera world’s most important prizes. In addition to being a winner at the 2007 Met National Council Auditions, as documented in The Audition, a film that was subsequently released on DVD by Decca, she was the first singer to take first prize in both the opera and operetta categories of Vienna’s prestigious Belvedere Competition.


Santiago Ballerini

Santiago Ballerini, tenor

Learn More Watch

Distinguished by the Association Music Critics of Argentina as the upcoming Lyric Singer off 2014, Argentinian tenor Santiago Ballerini has recently received great acclaim for his debut as “Lord Percy” in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena with the Opera Argentino: “Tenor Santiago Ballerini as Percy sings with a beautiful timbre and dramatic quality less commonly found in this repertoire.”

Mr. Ballerini is fast becoming sought after in South America and in the United States. Not yet 30 years old, he has made his debut at the Teatro Colon in the title role of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo. In the summer of 2015 he made his New York debut as Fernand in La Favorite with the Caramoor Festival, and debuted the role of Ernesto in Don Pasquale in Buenos Aires and Nemorino in L’elisir D’amore in Montevideo. In 2015-16 he performed Tebaldo in I Capuleti e i Montecchi in Buenos Aires Lirica, Count Libenskoff in Viaggio a Reims at Teatro de Bellas Artes, and Tyblat in Romeo et Juliette with the Atlanta Opera.

“Tenor Santiago Ballerini as Percy sings with a beautiful timbre and dramatic quality less commonly found in this repertoire.”

Future engagements include Gualtiero in Il Pirata at the Caramoor Festival, Italian Singer in Der Rosenkavalier at Teatro Colon, and he will join the Metropolitan Opera covering the roles of Almaviva in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni.

A winner of the Festivas Musicales Competition in 2013, Mr. Ballerini has been the recipient of many awards including, first place in the American Society Competition and the San Juan Opera Competition. He has also been a semi-finalist in the Francisco Vinas Competition 2015 and the Dresden and Neue Stimmen Competitions.

Santiago received his musical training at the Buenos Aires University and the Opera Studio of Opera Argentino. In the US he has furthered his training under the guidance of legendary baritone Sherrill Milnes in “Voice Experience”.


Harold Wilson

Harold Wilson, bass

Learn More Watch  Listen

Harold Wilson begins his 2016-2017 season in a return to Opera Colorado, singing Ashby in La fanciulla del West. He continues the season debuting the role of Mustafa in L’italiana in Algieri with Sarasota Opera. Last season included returns to several companies for the bass: covering Timur in Turandot with the Metropolitan Opera, Ramfis in Aida with Opera Colorado, and the roles of Rocco and Marcovaldo in productions of Fidelio and La battaglia di Legnano, respectively, with Sarasota Opera. Additionally, he debuted the role of Polonio in Opera Delaware’s anticipated production of Amleto. In concert, he made a company debut with the Grand Junction Symphony as the bass soloist in Verdi’s Requiem, and as the bass soloist in Mozart’s Requiem with MCP at Carnegie Hall.

Mr. Wilson’s 2014-2015 season began with the Dayton Opera singing works by Mussorgsky and Tchaikovsky in a Gala Concert. Subsequently, the American bass debuted with Opera Memphis, as the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, joined the Metropolitan Opera for its production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and made appearances with Tulsa Opera, for Frère Laurent in Roméo et Juliette, and Opera Colorado, for Sarastro in Die Zauberflöte.

Bass Harold Wilson has performed in opera houses around the country and the world including performances in L’italiana in Algieri, Turandot, Marcovaldo, Fidelio, La battaglia di Legnano

Mr. Wilson’s 2013-2014 calendar featured debuts with Hawaii Opera, as Timur in Turandot, Sarasota Opera as Daland in Der Fliegende Holländer, and Dayton Opera for Ramphis in Aida, as well as a return to the Metropolitan Opera to cover the Police Commissioner in Der Rosenkavalier.

Equally comfortable on the concert stage, Mr. Wilson recently sang the bass solo in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Tulsa Symphony. Among the orchestras he has performed with in concert are Indianapolis Symphony, Yakima Symphony, Deutsche Oper Orchester, Hallesche Philharmonie, Brandenburgische Philharmonie Frankfurt, Seattle Symphony and Staatskappelle Orchester Berlin. Previous US engagements have included contracts with Santa Fe Opera (Don Giovanni, La Traviata), Opera Carolina (Nabucco and Lucia di Lammermoor), Lyric Opera of Kansas City (Lucia di Lammermoor), Florentine Opera (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Palm Beach Opera (Tannhäuser), Minnesota Opera (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Opera Theatre of St. Louis (The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein and Miss Havisham’s Fire), and Glimmerglass Opera (Salome).

Mr. Wilson earned his Masters Degree from Indiana University, where he studied with renowned bass Giorgio Tozzi.


Bel Canto Young Artists

About a dozen young singers participate each year in six-to-eight weeks of intensive training in vocal technique and specialized study of the ornamentation that characterizes bel canto singing. Selected by Opera Director Will Crutchfield to participate in the mentoring program, the singers study the repertoire and participate in full scale rehearsals of the summer operas presented at Caramoor, act as understudies to the principal roles, are cast in some of the supporting opera roles, and perform in afternoon recitals that precede the opera performances.

Many graduates of our Bel Canto mentoring program have gone from the Caramoor stage to the world stage. We rely on the incredible support of opera enthusiasts to help these emerging opera stars receive priceless career encouragement.


Joseph Beutel

Joseph Beutel, bass-baritone

“An imposing bass-baritone,” as reviewed by Opera News, Joseph Beutel, has performed all over the United States and internationally. He portrayed the roles of the Duke and Judge in Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès at Skylight Music Theatre in Milwaukee, where he “burned up the stage… singing with gorgeous tone in a huge vocal range and with an actor’s command of language.” Other opera companies include Santa Fe, Minnesota, Loft, Gotham Chamber, and many more. He has sung with symphony orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, American Classical Orchestra, Omaha, Charlotte, Santa Fe, and many others. He originated the role of the British Major in the Pulitzer Prize winning opera Silent Night by Kevin Puts premiered at Minnesota Opera. Beutel was the second place winner of the Lyndon Woodside Oratorio Society Solo Competition this year. He recently made his Carnegie Hall debut singing Peter in Elgar’s The Apostles.


Teresa Castillo

Teresa Castillo, soprano

Hailed by the San Francisco Gate for her vocal “power and florid elegance,” soprano Teresa Castillo was a recent participant at San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Program and sang the role of #1 in Conrad Susa’s Transformations. She recently won First Place in the Anita Cerquetti International Opera Competition, is a winner of the Elaine Malbin Competition, and is a grant recipient from Career Bridges New York. This summer Ms. Castillo returns to Bel Canto at Caramoor as a Young Artist and will sing on the Opening Night Gala Concert with acclaimed soprano, Angela Meade, covers the role of Adele in Il pirata and sings the soprano solo in Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle. In winter 2018 she will make her debut with the Virginia Opera, covering the roles of Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor and Tytania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Sean Christensen

Sean Christensen, tenor

Sean Christensen has been recognized as a tenor with a full, warm, and lyrical timbre, steadily establishing himself professionally in New York City. He has recently appeared as Le Chevalier de la Force in Sarasota Opera’s production of Dialogues des Carmélites, Des Grieux in Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble’s production of Manon, Fernando in Bare Opera’s production of Granados’ Goyescas, Don Ottavio in Opera in Williamsburg’s production of Don Giovanni, Azaël in Bare Opera’s production of Ravel’s L’enfant prodigue, Normanno in Lucia di Lammermoor with Opera in Williamsburg, as well as Tamino in The Magic Flute with the Metropolitan Guild. He was a young artist with Bel Canto at Caramoor in 2016 where he performed as Oraspe in Aureliano in Palmira, and was an apprentice artist at Sarasota Opera in 2016 where he was awarded the Leo M. Rodgers Award for Outstanding Apprentice Artist. He was also a studio artist at Chautauqua Opera in 2015, and an Opera North Young Artist in 2014. He currently studies with Michael Chioldi.


Shirin Eskandani

Shirin Eskandani, mezzo-soprano

Hailed by Opera Today for her “pleasing and pliant voice,” Iranian Canadian mezzo-soprano, Shirin Eskandani, recently made her Metropolitan Opera stage debut as Mercédès in Carmen. She is the recipient of several prestigious awards including first place at the Gerda Lissner Foundation Vocal Competition and fourth place at the Licia Albanese-Puccini Competition. Recent career highlights include company debuts with the Metropolitan Opera, the Rossini Opera Festival, Sarasota Opera, and Opera Southwest. Her recent roles include Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Angelina in La Cenerentola, Zaida in Il turco in Italia, the Mother in Hansel and Gretel, and Ragonde in Le comte Ory. A Midwest district finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, Ms. Eskandani has worked as a young artist with Merola Opera, Palm Beach Opera, Opera Theatre St Louis, Syracuse Opera, the Ash Lawn Opera Festival, and Banff Opera.


Robyn Marie Lamp

Robyn Marie Lamp, soprano

Soprano Robyn Marie Lamp’s luscious, fullbodied voice and commanding stage presence are earning recognition and roles from rare bel canto gems to world premieres. She will be singing the title role of Ariadne auf Naxos in a reduced version of Strauss’s opera with Florida’s Opera Fusion in 2017. Ms. Lamp made her Caramoor debut in 2014, covering the title role in Lucrezia Borgia. The 2017 season has also found Ms. Lamp winning an Encouragement Award in the 2017 Gerda Lissner Competition and appearing as the soprano soloist in Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem with the First Presbyterian Church of Delray Beach, FL. In 2016, Ms. Lamp created the role of Romaine Patterson in Opera Fusion’s world premiere production of Michael Ross’ politically charged opera, Not in My Town. She also took First Place in the prestigious Lois Alba Aria Competition and was a finalist in the Southeast Region of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.


Kyle Oliver

Kyle Oliver, baritone

Kyle Oliver is a baritone hailing from Plano, TX. As an alumnus of the Pittsburgh Opera Resident Artist Training program, he appeared with the Pittsburgh Opera in numerous productions including singing Zurga in The Pearl Fishers, Count Robinson in Il matrimonio segreto and Dandini in La cenerentola. He recently made his return to the Pittsburgh Opera to create the role of Dave Hoskins in the world premiere of The Summer King. Mr. Oliver’s other roles include Prince Yamadori in Madama Butterfly and the Father in Hänsel und Gretel. Oliver has been featured as a soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Erie Philharmonic Orchestra and many other symphony orchestras across the nation. His awards include Grand Prize at the Bel Canto Foundation Competition, the Jeanette Rohatyn “Great Promise” award with the Metropolitan Opera National Council, as well as a career grant from the Sullivan Foundation. Oliver is the recipient of a bachelor’s degree in Music Performance from Northwestern University and a Master’s degree from The Juilliard School.


JoAna Rusche

JoAna Rusche, soprano

JoAna Rusche, soprano, is a resident artist at the Academy of Vocal Arts. Her recent roles at AVA include Giorgetta in Puccini’s Il tabarro, Tamara in Rubinstein’s The Demon, Fiora in Montemenzzi’s L’amore dei tre re, Second Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte, and Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Previous roles as a mezzo-soprano include the title role in Rossini’s La Cenerentola with Opera North, Rosina in the family performance of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia with Palm Beach Opera, and Soeur Mathilde in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites with the Caramoor Music Festival. Ms. Rusche is a 2016 and 2015 District Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and has received second place in the 2014 Birmingham Opera Competition and the 2012 Heafner Williams Vocal Competition, and first place in the 2012 Long Leaf Opera National Vocal Competition and the 2011 Charlotte Opera Guild Auditions.


Joshua Sanders

Joshua Sanders, tenor

Tenor Joshua Sanders is the 2017 winner of the Opera Foundation’s Amber Capital scholarship, and will be engaged as a Resident Artist at the Teatro Regio di Torino for the 2017-18 season. Mr. Sanders recently returned to Wolf Trap Opera for the premiere of a new children’s opera, after having spent two seasons there as a Studio Artist; in 2015 he made his principal debut with Madison Opera as Tobias Ragg in Sweeney Todd. As a concert artist, he made his debut with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in 2016 as the Imaginary Voice in Berlioz’s Lélio. He has also been seen as a featured performer in Ming Wei’s Sonic Blossom exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and as the tenor soloist in Bach’s Magnificat with the Westchester Oratorio Society. Mr. Sanders is a recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music where he studied with Ruth Golden.


Derrek Stark

Derrek Stark, tenor

Derrek Stark, tenor, is a native of Bath, NY. He holds a B.M. from Mansfield University, PA, and a M.M. from the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University, where he studied with Carol Vaness. Derrek joins the roster of the Caramoor Young Artists singing tenor solos in Rossini’s Petite messe solennelle and covering Gualtiero in Bellini’s Il pirata. A former member of the Lyric Opera of Kansas City’s Young Artist Program, Stark sang the Huntsman (Rusalka) and Remendado (Carmen). As a young artist for Santa Fe, Stark covered Flamand (Capriccio) and sang Harry (Fanciulla del West). As a Benenson Artist at Palm Beach Opera, he covered Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), and Duke (Rigoletto). He will return this fall to cover Candide and sing The Governor (Candide). Other roles include: Rodolfo (La bohème); Rinuccio (Gianni Schicchi); Peter Quint (The Turn of the Screw); Tamino (Die Zauberflöte); Alfredo (La traviata) and Fenton (Falstaff).


Will Crutchfield, conductor

Will Crutchfield has been Director of Opera at Caramoor since 1997, leading over thirty operas by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi, and establishing Caramoor as a center for operatic scholarship, training of young singers, revival of rare masterpieces, and influential reinterpretations of familiar works. He has also held conducting posts with the Polish National Opera in Warsaw and the Opera de Colombia in Bogotá, and has appeared as a guest conductor in many theaters elsewhere, recently including a pair of productions at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. The second of those, Rossini’s Aureliano in Palmira, recently won first place for “rediscovered opera” at the International Opera Awards ceremony in London, and was given its American premiere at Caramoor in the 2016 season.

Crutchfield has also contributed to the Grove Dictionary of Opera, the Grove-Norton Handbook of Performance Practice, the Cambridge History of Musical Performance, and several academic journals, and was named a Fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation in 2014 in recognition of his contributions to operatic performance and scholarship.

Will Crutchfield has been Director of Opera at Caramoor since 1997, leading over thirty operas by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, and Verdi


Orchestra of St. Luke's

Orchestra of St. Luke’s

Learn More Watch Listen

Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) is one of America’s most versatile and distinguished orchestras, collaborating with the world’s greatest artists and performing approximately 80 concerts each year—including its Carnegie Hall Orchestra Series, Chamber Music Series at The Morgan Library & Museum and Brooklyn Museum, and the Caramoor Summer Season. In its 41-year history, OSL has commissioned more than 50 new works, has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres; and has appeared on more than 100 recordings, including four Grammy Award winners and seven releases on its own label, St. Luke’s Collection. Pablo Heras-Casado is OSL’s principal conductor.

OSL grew out of a chamber ensemble that began giving concerts at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village in 1974. Today, the 21 virtuoso artists of St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble make up OSL’s artistic core.

In its 41-year history, OSL has commissioned more than 50 new works, has given more than 175 world, U.S., and New York City premieres; and has appeared on more than 100 recordings

OSL owns and operates The DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Midtown Manhattan, where it shares a building with the Baryshnikov Arts Center. The DiMenna Center is New York City’s premier venue for rehearsal, recording, and learning, having quickly gained a reputation for its superb acoustics, state-of-the-art facilities, and affordability. Since opening in 2011, The DiMenna Center has welcomed more than 100,000 visitors, including more than 400 ensembles and artists such as Renée Fleming, Susan Graham, Itzhak Perlman, Emanuel Ax, Joshua Bell, Valery Gergiev, James Levine, James Taylor, and Sting. OSL hosts hundreds of neighbors, families, and school children at its home each year for free community events.

Through its Education & Community programs, OSL has introduced audiences across New York City to live classical music. OSL brings free chamber concerts to the five boroughs; offers free interactive music programs at The DiMenna Center; provides chamber music coaching for adult amateurs; and engages 10,000 public school students each year through its Free School Concerts. In 2013, OSL launched Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s (YOSL), an intensive in- and after-school instrumental instruction program emphasizing musical excellence and social development, in partnership with community organizations and public schools in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.



Scene 1. In a scene preminiscent of Verdi’s Otello, the citizens of Caldora watch Gualtiero’s ship break up, and they pray for the safety of the crew. Their prayers are answered as the pirates struggle ashore. The Caldorans’ leader is the hermit, Goffredo, who was once Gualtiero’s tutor. Gualtiero tells Goffredo that he has never stopped loving Imogene, and they walk off just as Imogene walks on, to offer the hospitality of her house to the shipwrecked sailors. Imogene tells her principal lady-in-waiting, Adele, that she has had a frightful nightmare about Ernesto and Gualtiero. Just as she reaches the climax of her story, Gualtiero catches sight of her and cries out – but Goffredo quickly pulls him away.

Scene 2. The pirates (though they are not known to be such) are carousing in the castle, but they withdraw as Imogene approaches. She wants to talk to the shadowy, reclusive leader of their band, and quickly discovers that it is her beloved Gualtiero. He, in turn, discovers that she has married Ernesto. He reproaches her, but she protests that she had to do it to save her father’s life.

Scene 3. Ernesto and his troops return victorious from battle (the one that caused the pirates’ shipwreck), and are told about Imogene’s hospitality to the stranded sailors. Some probing questions raise Ernesto’s suspicions and he orders the sailors to be imprisoned, but Imogene intercedes and they are released. They are, however, to be gone by dawn. Gualtiero says he will visit Imogene that night before he leaves; Imogene begs him not to; Ernesto glares.


Scene 1. Outside her bedroom Imogene’s ladies-in-waiting recite bedtime prayers, but Imogene is agitated; Adele has told her Gualtiero will not leave without seeing her. Ernesto enters suddenly and rebukes his wife for being cold to him. He charges her with still being in love with Gualtiero – a charge she does not deny. She reminds him that their marriage was the bargain she made to save her father’s life, and that Ernesto had always known of her love for Gualtiero. Gualtiero’s approach is announced, and despite Imogene’s pleas, Ernesto swears vengeance.

Scene 2. Imogene goes out to meet Gualtiero. He begs her to leave with him and she refuses. Unnoticed, Ernesto lurks in the shadows, and his dark mutterings make the original duet a trio. Finally he steps forward, and the two men argue furiously, a desperate Imogene adding a tearful plea here and there. The men rush out to consummate their duel, and Imogene, after a consultation with Adele, rushes after them, determined to stop the duel or die in the attempt.

Scene 3. Gualtiero returns to the castle, victorious; he has killed Ernesto. He surrenders to Ernesto’s forces, and is led off to his trial. Imogene enters; the events of the night have driven her mad. She relives the nightmare of Act I, Scene 1, but she relives it intensified by the frightful reality of present events. From offstage we hear Gualtiero condemned to death; Imogene cries out that she, too, will die. (The original opera ends here.)

Scene 4, written out by Romani, but not set by Bellini. The pirates return to rescue their leader. While the battle is in progress, Imogene rushes on stage and cries out to Gualtiero. Hearing her voice, Gualtiero orders his men to leave, and he kills himself. Imogene faints in the arms of her ladies-in-waiting.

– Charles Briefer



About the Music.


Il pirata (“The Pirate”), opera seria in Two Acts (1827) Libretto by Felice Romani, based on a French translation of the tragedy, Bertram, or the Castle of St. Aldobrando (1816), by the Irish playwright, the Rev. Charles Robert Maturin.

As far as childhoods go, Bellini followed in the footsteps of Mozart: the product of generations of musicians, his talents were recognized early on, and he was forcefed a musical education beginning well before school age. He was instructed in piano by his father, in composition by his grandfather, and he was playing brilliantly and composing meaningfully by the time he was five. Eventually Bellini’s talents outran his family’s teaching abilities and he was shipped off to the conservatory in Naples. There he studied a variety of composers but developed a special interest in Mozart. Imagine: an Italian composer studying the “Italian” operas of an Austrian!

Bellini’s first full-scale opera, composed while he was still a student, was Adelson e Salvini, written for a school performance in 1825 (the female roles in this exclusively male academy were performed in drag). The success of that brought Bellini his first commission, which he filled with the opera, Bianca e Fernando, and the success of that brought him a commission from the prestigious La Scala Opera of Milan and he responded with Il Pirata. He was only twenty-six years old, yet with his third opera he achieved the kind of fame that it took Donizetti more than thirty operas to achieve. He moved to Paris, where he was befriended by Rossini, and created the greatest operas of his life – La Sonnambula, Norma, and I Puritani, among others. Like his idol, Mozart, Bellini was a child prodigy whose fame came early, and like Mozart, he died prematurely, in his mid-thirties. The post-mortem diagnosis was acute inflammation of the digestive system. Among the pallbearers were Paer, Cherubini, and Rossini.

Bellini’s fame preceded him to Milan, and when he got there he had his choice of artistic associates. He quickly fell in with the renowned librettist, Felice Romani, who ended up creating the librettos for all of Bellini’s ensuing operas save the last, I Puritani (Romani claimed to be able to read Bellini’s musical soul, and to choose appropriate subjects for it). Bellini was greatly influenced by Rossini (he was overwhelmed by a performance of Semiramide in 1824), but he quickly added his own unique touches, such as restricting florid coloratura arias so that the music could carry the lyrics forward – a precursor of “through composition,” where the music must never get in the way of the forward thrust of the action. He also became famous for his long lyric lines which impressed even Wagner: “Song, song, and again song, ye Germans” he proclaimed, after producing Bellini’s Norma in Riga.

Romani moved Maturin’s drama to thirteenth-century Sicily, and he softened somewhat its bloodcurdling ferocity. Events which precede the action, below, were written out by Romani as a preface to the libretto. Ernesto loves Imogene, but she loves Gualtiero, Count of Montaldo. The two men are on opposite sides of a struggle for the throne – a struggle which Gualtiero’s side loses. Cast into exile, he becomes a pirate, preying on his enemy and dreaming of Imogene. She, however, has been forced to marry Ernesto, to save her father’s life. During a sea battle Ernesto defeats Gualtiero, and Gualtiero’s pirate ship founders near Ernesto’s castle at Caldora.

– Charles Briefer