A tragedy of childhood love crushed under the weight of family expectations.
The opera begins as a crowd gathers to sing for the birthday celebration of Luisa, daughter of Miller, a retired soldier. Within the crowd, Luisa looks for Carlo, a young man with whom she is in love. Miller disapproves of Carlo, believing him to be a stranger. After a duet between Luisa and Carlo, Miller is greeted by Wurm, a courtier who desires Luisa’s hand in marriage. When Miller asserts that he will honor Luisa’s decision on whom she will marry, Wurm reveals that Carlo is in fact Rodolfo, son of Count Walter. When Wurm reveals to Count Walter his son’s intentions, the Count summons Rodolfo and explains that he is meant to wed Federica, who is Duchess of Ostheim as well as Rodolfo’s cousin. Later, after Miller informs his daughter of Rodolfo’s identity, the young suitor returns to Luisa and pleads the sincerity of his love. Count Walter soon arrives on the scene, ordering for Miller and Luisa to be arrested; only by threatening his father with exposing how he became count, by killing his cousin, does Rodolfo manage to secure Luisa’s freedom.
Wurm later arrives at the Miller home with an ultimatum for Luisa: her father is sentenced to execution but may be spared if Luisa will write a letter declaring her love for Wurm and admitting to manipulating Rodolfo. Luisa complies, her heart torn by the decision she has made. When the contents of Luisa’s letter are confirmed in the court, Rodolfo challenges Wurm to a duel, but the courtier fires a pistol to hastily summon the Count and his servants. When Count Walter encourages his son to marry Count Walter, Rodolfo resigns himself to whatever fate holds in store.
While Luisa is now reunited with her father, she plans to take her own life over what she has done to Rodolfo, who enters the house unseen and poisons the water jug nearby. He asks Luisa for the truth concerning the letter and Luisa confirms that the words were her own, prompting Rodolfo to drink a cup of water which he has Luisa share. When he reveals that their fate is sealed, Luisa reveals the truth of her love for Rodolfo. Luisa dies shortly before Count Walter and Wurm enter, and with his last ounce of strength Rodolfo pierces Wurm’s heart with his sword, avenging his death and that of his Luisa.
Opera in 3 acts
Sung in Italian
About 2 hours 20 min + intervals
The Tyrol, early 17th Century
On Luisa's birthday, the villagers have gathered outside her house to serenade her. She loves Carlo, a young man she has met in the village (Lo vidi e 'l primo palpito /"I saw him and my heart felt its first thrill of love") and looks for him in the crowd. Luisa's father, Miller, is worried by this mysterious love since Carlo is a stranger. Carlo appears and the couple sing of their love (Duet: t'amo d'amor ch'esprimere / "I love you with a love that words can only express badly"). As the villagers leave to enter the nearby church, Miller is approached by a courtier, Wurm, who is in love with Luisa and wishes to marry her. But Miller tells him that he will never make a decision against his daughter's will (Sacra la scelta è d'un consorte / "The choice of a husband is sacred"). Irritated by his reply, Wurm reveals to Miller that in reality Carlo is Rodolfo, Count Walter's son. Alone, Miller expresses his anger (Ah fu giusto il mio sospetto / "Ah! My suspicion was correct").
Count Walter's castle
Wurm informs the Count of Rodolfo's love for Luisa and is ordered to summon the son. The Count expresses his frustration with his son (Il mio sangue la vita darei / "I would give my life's blood"). When Rodolfo enters, the Count tells him that it is intended that he marry Walter's niece Federica, the Duchess of Ostheim.
When Rodolfo is left alone with Federica, he confesses that he loves another woman, hoping that the duchess will understand. But Federica is too much in love with him to understand (Duet: Deh! la parola amara perdona al labbro mio / "Pray forgive my lips for the bitter words").
Miller tells his daughter who Rodolfo really is. Rodolfo arrives and admits his deception but swears that his love is sincere. Kneeling in front of Miller he declares that Luisa is his bride. Count Walter enters and confronts his son. Drawing his sword, Miller defends his daughter and Walter orders that both father and daughter be arrested. Rodolfo stands up against his father and threatens him: if he does not free the girl, Rodolfo will reveal how Walter became count. Frightened, Walter orders Luisa to be freed.
A room in Miller's home
Villagers come to Luisa and tell her that her father has been seen being dragged away in chains. Then Wurm arrives and confirms that Miller is to be executed. But he offers her a bargain: her father's freedom in exchange for a letter in which Luisa declares her love for Wurm and states that she has tricked Rodolfo. Initially resisting (Tu puniscimi, O Signore / "Punish me, o Lord"), she gives way and writes the letter at the same time being warned that she must keep up the pretense of voluntarily writing the letter and being in love with Wurm. Cursing him (A brani, a brani, o perfido / "O perfidious wretch"), Luisa wants only to die.
A room in Count Walter's castle
At the castle Walter and Wurm recall how the Count rose to power by killing his own cousin and Wurm reminds the Count how Rodolfo also knows of this. The two men realize that, unless they act together, they may be doomed (Duet: L'alto retaggio non ho bramato / "The noble inheritance of my cousin"). Duchess Federica and Luisa enter. The girl confirms the contents of her letter.
Rodolfo reads Luisa's letter and, ordering a servant to summon Wurm, he laments the happy times which he spent with Luisa (Quando le sere al placido / "When at eventide, in the tranquil glimmer of a starry sky"). The young man has challenged Wurm to a duel. To avoid the confrontation the courtier fires his pistol in the air, bringing the Count and his servants running in. Count Walter advises Rodolfo to revenge the offense he has suffered by marrying Duchess Federica. In despair, Rodolfo abandons himself to fate (L'ara o l'avello apprestami / "Prepare the altar or the grave for me").
A room in Miller's home
In the distance echoes of the celebration of Rodolfo and Federica's wedding can be heard. Old Miller, freed from prison, comes back home. He enters his house and embraces his daughter, then reads the letter she has prepared for Rodolfo. Luisa is determined to take her own life (La tomba è un letto sparso di fiori / "The grave is a bed strewn with flowers"), but Miller manages to persuade her to stay with him. (Duet: La figlia, vedi, pentita / "Your child, see, repentant"). Alone now, Luisa continues praying. Rodolfo slips in and unseen pours poison into the water jug on the table. He then asks Luisa if she really wrote the letter in which she declared her love for Wurm. "Yes," the girl replies. Rodolfo drinks a glass of water and passes a glass to Luisa, inviting her to drink. Then he tells her that they are both condemned to die. Before she dies, Luisa has time to tell Rodolfo the truth about the letter (Duet: Ah piangi; il tuo dolore / "Weep; your sorrow is more justified"). Miller returns and comforts his dying daughter; together the three say their prayers and farewells (Trio, Luisa: Padre, ricevi l'estremo addio / "Father, receive my last farewell"; Rodolfo: Ah! tu perdona il fallo mio / "Oh, forgive my sin"; Miller: O figlia, o vita del cor paterno / "Oh, child, life of your father's heart"). As Luisa dies, the peasants enter with Count Walter and Wurm. Rodolfo runs his sword through Wurm's breast, declaring to his father La pena tua mira / "Look on your punishment" before he dies.
Miller – Baritone (dramatic)
A retired soldier
Luisa Miller – Soprano (dramatic coloratura)
Count Walter - Bass (lyric)
Rodolfo - Tenor (Helden/dramatic)
Count Walter's son
Federica, Duchess of Ostheim – Contralto
Wurm – Bass
Count Walter's steward
Laura – Mezzo-soprano (lyric)
A village girl
A peasant – Tenor
Place of birth: Le Roncole, Italy
Place of death: Milan, Italy
Verdi is one of our most beloved opera composers with hits like Rigoletto, Aida and Falstaff. He was a very productive composer, writing nearly 30 operas spanning from 1839 to 1893.
In his twenties tragic events unfolded when Verdi lost his two children in infancy and shortly thereafter his first wife. He remarried years later to the renowned soprano Giuseppina Strepponi who became his life companion.
Verdi is known for modernising Italian opera by writing long passages of through-composed music and unifying acts for a more continuous dramatic development. This is more noticeable in his later works. He came to dominate the opera scene after an era of bel canto composers such as Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini.
“To copy the truth can be a good thing, but to invent the truth is better, much better. ”
Verdi was a food lover, adored Shakespeare and the only piece of chamber music he wrote was a string quartet.
Verdi and Wagner were born in the same year. They were known to be rivals even though they never met.
Most prominent operas
I masnadieri 1847
Luisa Miller 1849
Il trovatore 1853
La traviata 1853
I vespri Siciliani 1855
Simon Boccanegra 1857
Un ballo in maschera 1859
La forza del destino 1862
Don Carlo 1867
Salvadore Cammarano was an Italian librettist and playwright most known for writing the libretto for Lucia di Lammermoor. Cammarano also wrote a few librettos for Verdi, Luisa Miller and Il trovatore being his most successful. Unfortunately Cammarano died before finishing Il trovatore and the libretto was completed by Leone Emanuele Bardare.
2+1, 2, 2, 2 - 4, 2, 3, 1
timp, perc, harp, organ, strings
Premiering in 1849 at Teatro San Carlo in Naples, Luisa Miller is the 15th opera composed by Giuseppe Verdi. Originally, Verdi was interested in adapting the novel “The Siege of Florence” by Francesco Domenico Guerazzi, but the censors in Naples had rejected this idea. Verdi would then try for an adaptation of “Kabale und Liebe” by the German playwright Friedrich von Schiller, a title which translates to “Intrigue and Love”. These themes, as explored through the eyes of the upper class, would later influence one of Verdi’s most enduring works, namely La traviata.
Aria - Ah! fu giusto il mio sospetto (Miller)
Aria - Tu puniscimi, o Signore (Luisa)
Aria – Quando le sere placido (Rodolfo)
Aria – Andrem raminghi e poveri (Miller, Luisa)