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Opera
Mariinsky Theatre - Mariinsky II, Saint Petersburg
World premiere: La Fenice, Venice, 6 March 1853

Giovanna d'Arco (Joan of Arc) is an operatic dramma lirico with a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi set to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, who had prepared the libretti for both Nabucco and I Lombardi. It is Verdi's seventh opera.

The work partly reflects the story of Joan of Arc and appears to be loosely based on the play Die Jungfrau von Orleans by Friedrich von Schiller. After writing the music over the autumn and winter of 1844/45, Verdi's opera had its first performance at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 15 February 1845.


Synopsis
Time: 1429
Place: Domrйmy, Rheims and near Rouen, France

 

Prologue
Scene 1: The French village of Domrйmy

Charles (the not-yet-crowned King of France) describes to his officers and the villagers his vision of the Virgin Mary commanding him to surrender to the invading English army and laying down his weapons at the foot of a giant oak tree. (Aria: Sotto una quercia parvemi – "Beneath an oak I seemed"). Later, he expresses his frustration with the limitations of being a ruler. (Aria: Pondo и letal, martirio – "A deadly burden, a torment").

Scene 2: A forest

By a giant oak tree, Giacomo prays for the safety of his daughter Giovanna, who before she falls asleep by a nearby shrine offers prayers to be chosen to lead the French forces. (Aria: Sempre all'alba ed alla sera – "always at dawn and in the evening"). Suddenly, Charles arrives, prepared to lay down his arms at the base of the tree. Meanwhile, the sleeping Giovanna has visions in which angels ask her to become a soldier and lead France to victory (Tu sei bella, the Demons' Waltz). She cries out that she is ready to do so. Charles overhears her and thrills at her courage. Her father Giacomo weeps, believing that his daughter has given her soul to the Devil out of her devotion to the future King.

Act 1
Scene 1: Near Reims

Commander Talbot of the English army tries to convince his discouraged soldiers that their imminent surrender to the French is not due to forces of evil. Giacomo arrives and offers up his daughter, believing her to be under the influence of the Devil: Franco son io – "I am French, but in my heart ..." and So che per via dei triboli – "I know that original sin ...".

Scene 2: The French court at Reims

Preparations are under way for Charles' coronation. Giovanna longs for her simple life back home. (Aria: O fatidica foresta – "O prophetic forest ..."). Charles confesses his love for Giovanna. She withdraws despite her feelings toward the King, because her voices have warned her against earthly love. Charles is taken to the Cathedral at Reims for his coronation.

Act 2
The Cathedral square

The villagers of Reims have gathered in the Cathedral square to celebrate Giovanna's victory over the English army. The French soldiers lead Charles into the Cathedral. Giacomo has decided he must repudiate his daughter who, he believes, has entered a pact with the Devil. (Aria: Speme al vecchio era una figlia – "An old man's hope was a daughter"). He denounces her to the villagers (Aria: Comparire il ciel m'ha stretto – "Heaven has forced me to appear") and they are persuaded, although the King refuses to listen. Charles pleads with Giovanna to defend herself, but she refuses.

Act 3
At the stake

Giovanna has been captured by the English army and is awaiting her death at the stake. She has visions of battlefield victories and begs God to stand by her, explaining how she has shown her obedience by forsaking her worldly love for the King as the voices had commanded. Giacomo overhears her pleas and recognizes his error. He loosens his daughter's bonds and she escapes. She rushes to the battlefield to turn French defeat into victory once more.

Giacomo pleads with the King, first for punishment and then for forgiveness, which Charles grants. Charles learns of the French victory on the battlefield but also of Giovanna's death. (Aria: Quale al piщ fido amico – "Which of my truest friends"). As her body is carried in, Giovanna suddenly revives. Giacomo reclaims his daughter, and the King professes his love. The angels sing of salvation and victory, as Giovanna dies and ascends into heaven.