First performance: 9 March 1844, Teatro La Fenice, Venice
First performance in:
Even if Verdi was disappointed with the performance at the première ("Guasco had no more voice, he was awfully raucous"; "it is not possible to sing more false notes than Ms. Löwe did"), the opera's popularity, at first only moderate, grew very fast. Even the open disapproval of an angry Victor Hugo, who condemned the way his drama had been arranged by Verdi and Piave, could not slow the opera's storm of all the major and minor theaters of Italy and the world. In the following months Ernani was performed in 14 other Italian cities; it quickly became and remained Verdi's most performed opera until the end of the 1850's. In the period 1844-1859, La Scala in Milan and the San Carlo in Naples each staged Ernani during 8 seasons, totalling 240 performances at those theatres alone!
In the years after 1860 Ernani came to be relegated to the repertoire of the popular and provincial stages, being replaced at the major theaters by newer works. By the turn of the century it was only performed for celebrated singers who had Ernani roles in their own repertoire, especially the baritone Mattia Battistini, known as the greatest interpreter of Carlo. (Verdi called him "The King of the baritones, the baritone of the kings", because of the artistry he brought to aristocratic roles).
Ernani had a brief moment of glory in the 1920's, when it was performed at the Metropolitan with Giovanni Martinelli, Rosa Ponselle, Giuseppe De Luca, and José Mardones. These singers left some wonderful recordings of single arias (see the discography).
In the 1950's Ernani experienced a renewel of interest and began a return to the main repertoire, thanks to conductors like Dimitri Mitropoulos, Thomas Schippers, and Gianandrea Gavazzeni, and singers like Carlo Bergonzi, Mario Del Monaco, and Leontyne Price.
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