Composer: Giuseppe Verdi
Premiered: November 16, 1850 - Teatro Grande, Trieste
Setting of Stiffelio:
Verdi's Don Carlo
takes place in Salzburg, Austria during the 19th century.
Other Verdi Opera Synopses:
, La Traviata
, & Il Trovatore
The Story of Stiffelio
Stiffelio, ACT 1
Outside Count Stankar's castle, his daughter awaits the return of her husband, Stiffelio (a Protestant minister), who has been away on a mission trip. A group of people including Lina, her father and cousins, and Raffaele, pray for Stiffelio as he arrives. Secretly, Raffaele and Lina are lovers and frequently met while her husband was away. Stiffelio approaches Lina and tells her that he encountered one of Stankar's boatmen, claiming that he witnessed a man and a woman jump from the castle window. The pair dropped a packet of letters which Stiffelio now possesses. However, Stiffelio does not wish to cause strife by exposing the guilty party, and throws the unopened letters into a fire. Lina's father suspects his daughter. Lina and Raffaele are relieved. Without being noticed, he tells her that he will leave a note for her within a locked book in the library detailing the time and place of their next meeting.
After visiting with friends, Lina and Stiffelio share a moment alone. He discusses the decline of morality he saw throughout his travels. When he realizes Lina is being distant, he recounts their wedding day and the vows they pledged to one another. As he describes the ring he gave to her, an heirloom passed down to him from his mother, he sees that Lina is not wearing it. Angrily, he begins demanding answers, but is interrupted by Lina's father who has come to take him to an arranged party. Stiffelio is determined to understand his wife's actions. Lina, full of remorse, begins to write a confession letter. Before she can finish, her father returns and forbids her from completing the letter. He will not have her ruin the family's name anymore than she already has.
Raffaele enters the library and places the note in the locked book (Klopstock’s Messiah), but is unaware he has been seen by Jorg, an old preacher. Jorg informs Stiffelio, and Stiffelio decides to preach a sermon about Judas Iscariot. In the midst of his sermon, he calls for Klopstock's Messiah. When he is handed the book, he finds that it is locked. Knowing that his wife has a key, she refuses to open it for him. Stiffelio breaks the book open, but before he can read the note, it is snatched out of his hands by Stankar. Stankar shreds the paper to pieces, infuriating Stiffelio.
Stiffelio, ACT 2
Lina prays by her mother's grave, seeking for guidance and forgiveness. Raffaele, wanting to meet with her, sits next to her and tells her he loves her. She begs him to leave before demanding he return her ring to her. Stankar arrives before Raffaele leaves. The two men begin to fight and Stankar challenges him to a duel. Moments later, Stiffelio arrives and declares that no fighting can take place in a cemetery. Instead, Stiffelio tries to reconcile the two men. He takes their hands and joins them, but before he can say a prayer, Stankar tells him that he has touched the hand of his wife's secret lover. Stiffelio does not understand Stankar's statement and demands to know the truth. Lina comes back to the cemetery and asks Stiffelio for forgiveness. It finally dawns on him that his wife has been having an affair with Raffaele. Just as he starts to fight with Raffaele, Jorg interupts him to say that the congregation is waiting for his sermon. Conflicted, Stiffelio calms down and remembers that Christ pardoned the sins of every man. But when he departs, he curses his wife.
Stiffelio, ACT 3
Back in Stankar's castle, Stankar reads a letter addressed to his daughter. It's from Raffaele, who has fled the area. He seeks for Lina's companionship. Depressed and out of answers and means to end his daughter's shameful affair, Stankar resigns to committing suicide. As he writes his farewell letter to Stiffelio, he is interrupted by Jorg. Jorg has learned that Raffaele is returning to the castle, and Stankar's depression ceases - for revenge is near. When Raffaele enters the castle, he is taken aside by Stiffelio. Stiffelio asks him what he would do if Lina were free to marry, but Raffaele is unable to answer. Stiffelio instructs him to wait nearby and listen to his conversation with Lina in the adjacent room. Stiffelio explains to Lina that their marriage can be annulled and she would be free to be with Raffaele. She declares that her love for her husband has been unwavering - she would die for him. Regretfully, she was seduced by Raffaele. Just then, Stankar enters the room with a blood-soaked sword shouting that Raffaele is dead. Jorg urges them to flee to the church.
Within the church, Stiffelio begins preaching to the congregation. Opening the bible, he randomly opens to the passage about Jesus and an adulterous woman. When he reads the story of how Jesus forgives her, he knows it is a sign for his wife, that she, too, is forgiven.