Premiered Teatro Municipal, Rio de Janeiro, 1861
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Count Orlando, Leonor's father
Henrique, Leonor's husband (supposedly dead)
Fernando, Leonor's husband to be
Ignez, Lady in waiting to Leonor
Raymundo, the Count's servant
Setting: The action takes place in Count Orlando's
castle, at the time of the First Crusade.
Act I: A hall in Orlando's Castle
Noblemen, ladies and villagers are celebrating the coming wedding of Leonor and Fernando (Viva Fernando). A page tells all assembled that despite their merriment, Raymundo will soon arrive and tell them a terrible story. Everyone is curious, wondering what tale Raymundo will tell. Raymundo enters and in his aria, "It was a dark night" (Era noite alta), he narrates that on a horrible dark night, while he was sitting at the door of his house meditating, he he heard a strange moaning voice calling, Leonor.
When he lifted his eyes, he almost died from fear; he saw the ghost of a knight, dressed in full armor, staring at the castle whispering Leonor's name. When the court asks the identity of the strange knight, Raymundo explains that he is too old, his vision too poor to be sure, but he feels that it was the ghost of the Count's nephew Henrique, who had supposedly died in battle in Zion. The court comments on the fact that Leonor can not possibly marry another if by chance Henrique has returned and is truly alive. Raymundo says that, on the other hand, if it is actually the ghost of Henrique, then, awful disasters shall fall upon all.
Suddenly a strange knight enters the room dressed in full armor. It's him. The court wonders who this strange man, whose face is hidden by his helmet, might be. The strange knight finishes by cursing all, especially Leonor, whom he accuses of breaking her vows of eternal love. When he swears revenge, the court assumes that that the knight is the ghost of Henrique and withdraws in terror.
The scene changes to Leonor's room in the castle, where Fernando has come to escort her to join the festivities. Fernando realizes that Leonor is troubled, and in her aria "In calm sleep" (Em sono plácido), she tells him of a constant dream which begins sweetly, then changes into a nightmare when a ghostly knight raises a threatening hand against her. Fernando tries to convince her that it is just a bad dream, but she recoils in horror, seeing, somewhere in the room, the terrible apparition of her dream. Fernando is able to calm her, suggesting that she was hallucinating. They hear the chorus singing "Long live Leonor and Fernando." They promise each other everlasting love and join the ladies and gentlemen who have come to salute them.
Suddenly the black knight again appears at the hall door. All draw back in fear, as the knight explains that he has returned from the Holy Land and has sworn an oath not to reveal his face to anyone. Fernando offers him a cup of wine as a gesture of hospitality, but the knight rejects it and says that he has come for revenge. He says that long ago two children had sworn eternal love, and after the Church had united them, the man was called away by duty to fight in the Holy Land. There he was captured by the enemy, but bravely managed to escape and to return home only to see his beloved in another's arms. Leonor is about to faint; everyone is moved by the story. The knight takes out a blue ribbon, saying it was given to him by the false one who had promised him eternal love. He throws the ribbon at Leonor's feet. Leonor faints, and Fernando and the noblemen withdraw their swords and expel the knight.
Scene 1: The Garden of the Castle
The strange knight enters with his servant Roberto, whom he tells to wait for him at an appointed place. When the servant exits, the knight sings of his love for Leonor and his thirst for revenge, "I've missed her so much," (Oh, sim sofri crueis saudades). Hearing the sound of someone approaching, he conceals himself among some bushes.
Leonor and Fernando enter. Fernando insists that they go into
the castle, but Leonor hesitates. The knight then confronts them.
He challenges Fernando to a duel. Leonor faints, and the knight
brutally drags her off, hotly pursued by Fernando. The nobles who
have been searching for the strange knight enter, followed by the
Count. Leonor rushes back and tells her father that the knight
has killed Fernando. Then, beside herself with grief, she
imagines that her father, the Count, is the avenging knight and
begs him to have mercy on her. The chorus comments that she has
obviously gone mad.
Scene 1: A courtyard outside the Chapel of the Castle
xit from the chapel and for the mysterious knight and kill him. After they leave, Count Orlando enters. In his aria, "You Fernando whom I adopted as my own son" (Tu Fernando que adotei por filho), he reflects that it was Fernando who had betrayed him, and that Henrique, who had died in battle, was the true gentlemen. He muses that an unknown knight had to appear to accuse Leonor and Fernando of their disgrace. The noblemen enter and tell the Count that they are taking Fernando's body to the chapel. He asks if they have found the murderer, and when they reply that their search has been fruitless, he vows to lead them in their search.
Scene 1: Leonor's room
Ignez is trying to convince the disturbed Leonor to go to bed and get some sleep, but Leonor imagines that she sees her presumed dead husband. In her aira (Henrique, Henrique) she recalls their love. When the clock strikes midnight, she asks for Fernando, and tells Ignez that Fernando is about to come. Ignez is distraught, and when Leonor hears footsteps approaching, she runs to the door calling Fernando's name.
Henrique enters, sword in hand. Leonor embraces him, calling him Fernando. He pushes her away violently; she finally recognizes him. Ignez and Leonor embrace in terror. Henrique closes the door and the windows. He accuses Leonor of treachery and cruelty. She explains that she had in vain tried to die when she learned that he had been killed in Zion. But, she explains, time had healed her wounded heart and she had fallen in love again. In a fury, Henrique demands that she kneel before him and beg for God's mercy. She is about to do so, when suddenly she defies him and says that she refuses to kneel before anyone. In her aria "You that to me, since childhood" (Tu que a mim desde criança), she reminds him of their love since their childhood.
Henrique pushes her away, and, as she continues to declare her love for him, his fury increases. Ignez rushes to the window and calls for help, but as the Count and his soldiers enter, Henrique stabs Leonor. The Count withdraws his sword and stabs Henrique. He then recognizes his victim and tries to help him stand up. The dying Henrique begs forgiveness for his blind love, the dying Leonor asks him to forgive her. They forgive each other in their dying breaths, as the Count comments on the fatal destiny that has reunited both his chiIdren.
A native of Campinas, São Paulo, Gomes travelled to Rio de Janeiro to enroll at the Conservatorio de Musica, where his composition teachers included Joaquin Giannini, and the author of the Brazilian national anthem, Francesco Manoel. Two student cantatas caught the attention of José Amat, director of the Opera Lirica Nacional, who entrusted him with the writing of a three act opera, A noite do castelo. Its clamorous success on its premiere, 4 September 1861, confirmed Gomes as a major force in Brazilian music and won him the patronage of Emperor Dom Pedro II, who awarded him the titIe of Cavalliero da Ordem do Rosa.
The libretto was based upon a Portuguese translation and expansion by A. J. Fernades dos Reis of a poem by A. F. de Castilho. The poem, a gothic horror tale in four cantos, emphasizes the melodramatic, supernatural aspects of the story. In the poem Inez is the heroine, and Leonor is her nurse; in the opera the names are reversed, Leonor becomes the heroine and Ignez (Inez) is her lady-in-waiting. Adolfo in the poem becomes Fernando in the opera.
To suit operatic convention dos Reis invents the character of the Count's servant, Raymundo, whose function is to describe in his aria the first appearance of the mysterious black knight. In the poem the black knight first appears, unseen but heard, in the bell tower of Count Orlando's castle, slashing flowers and uttering dire warnings during the pre-nuptual party. A page is sent to investigate, and it is the page who tells Orlando that the mysterious knight's voice "sounds something like Henrique's." The black knight does not appear at the party in the poem, but makes his first appearance in whe wood where he kills Adolfo. In the poem Inez and Leonor have a long scene in which Inez tells Leonor of her love for the presumed dead Henrique. Then, after the nurse leaves, Henrique confronts Inez.
There is no reconcilliation, in the poem, between Henrique and Inez. He kills her, everyone flees in horror, Count Orlando goes mad, the castle is abandoned. "it is the death of a Dynasty," and a lonely figure wanders through the abandoned castle, now overgrown with vegetation - it is the shadow of Henrique, dead or alive?
The libretto emphasizes the chilvalric conventions. The scene between Leonor, Fernando and Henrique which closes Act 1 has no counterpart in the poem. The opening scene of Act 2, Henrique's aria, is loosely adapted from the beginning of Canto IV in the poem (after Henrique's encounter with Inez) where he agonizes what course of action to take. Count Orlando's role is expanded. His aria in Act 3, scene 1 is an invention of the librettist, and the ending, as noted above, is quite different.
Recorded in Campinas, Brasil, 14 September 1978
de Castro Tank
Count Orlando, Leonor's father...................José Dainese
Henrique, Leonor's husband (supposedly dead).....Luis Tenaglia
Fernando, Leonor's husband to be.................Alcides Acosta
Ignez, Lady in waiting to Leonor.................Lucia Pessagno
Raymundo, the Count's servant....................José A. Marson
A page...........................................Fernando J. C. Duarte
Orchestra & Chorus, Teatro Municipal, São Paulo, Brazil
Performance conducted by Maestro Benito Juarez
A. Carlos Gomes
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