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The Story

Hélène longs for vengeance on Montfort, who murdered her brother. She enlists the help of her lover, Henri, and the rebel Procida – although Henri will discover that Montfort is his father.

Against his wishes, Henri betrays his friends to save his father. In return for Henri’s acceptance, Montfort pardons Hélène and Procida. But Procida remains determined to destroy Montfort. Wedding bells give the signal for a desperate act that destroys them all.

Background

Stefan Herheim’s production of Verdi’s French grand opera Les Vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers) was The Royal Opera’s first, created in 2013 to mark the composer’s bicentenary. This epic, five-act work was Verdi’s first written specifically for the Paris Opéra, and in it he fully embraces the elaborate style and traditions of the grand opera genre, while remaining true to his own inimitable style. The result is thrillingly ambitious, including impressive choruses, passionate duets and spectacular showpiece arias for the four principals.

Herheim relocates the action to the time of the opera’s 1855 premiere, in the opulence of the Paris Opéra for which it was written. Set designs by Philipp Fürhofer provide a visually stunning setting for Verdi’s intense drama of personal and political tragedies. The production was acclaimed at its premiere, with The Telegraph writing, ‘executed at every artistic level with terrific flair and verve, this is grand opera at its grandest – a gorgeous visual and musical treat’.

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On Wikipedia

A scene from the Italian version of the opera

Les vêpres siciliennes (The Sicilian Vespers) is a grand opéra in five acts by the Italian romantic composer Giuseppe Verdi set to a French libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier from their work Le duc d'Albe, which was written in 1838. Les vêpres followed immediately after Verdi's three great mid-career masterpieces, Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata of 1850 to 1853 and was first performed at the Paris Opéra on 13 June 1855. Today it is better-known in its post-1861 Italian version as I vespri siciliani and it is occasionally performed. The story is based on a historical event, the Sicilian Vespers of 1282, using material drawn from the medieval Sicilian tract Lu rebellamentu di Sichilia.

Abstract taken from the Wikipedia article Les vêpres siciliennes, available under a Creative Commons license.