Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Le Villi - Puccini
(English title: The Villis)
An Opera by Giacomo Puccini
"Le Villi" (The Willis), signifying the ghosts of maidens deserted by their lovers, is the title of a two-act opera by Puccini, words by Ferdinando Fortuna, produced May 31, 1884, Dal Verme Theatre, Milan, after it had been rejected in a prize competition at the Milan Conservatory, but revised by the composer with the aid of Boito. It is Puccinis first work for the lyric stage. When produced at the Dal Verme Theatre, it was in one act, the composer later extending it to two, in which form it was brought out at the Reggio Theatre, Turin, December 26, 1884; Metropolitan Opera House, N.Y., December 17, 1908, with Alda (Anna), Bonci (Robert), Amato (Wulf).
Of the principal characters Wulf is a mountaineer of the Black Forest; Anna, his daughter; Robert, her lover. After the betrothal feast, Robert, obliged to depart upon a journey, swears to Anna that he will be faithful to her. In the second act, however, we find him indulging in wild orgies in Mayence and squandering money on an evil woman. In the second part of this act he returns to the Black Forest a broken-down man. The Willis dance about him. From Wulfs hut he hears funeral music. Annas ghost now is one of the wild dancers. While he appeals to her, they whirl about him. He falls dead. The chorus sings "Hosanna" in derision of his belated plea for forgiveness.
Most expressive in the score is the wild dance of the Willis, who "have a character of their own, entirely distinct from that of other operatic specters" (Streatfield). The prelude to the second act, "LAbbandono," also is effective. Attractive in the first act are the betrothal scene, a prayer, and a waltz. "Le Villi," however, has not been a success outside of Italy.
"Manon Lescaut," on the other hand, has met with success elsewhere. Between it and "Le Villi" Puccini produced another opera, "Edgar," Milan, La Scala, 1889, but unknown outside of the composers native country.