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Theatre / I Vespri Siciliani

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I vespri siciliani (The Sicilian Vespers, French Les vêpres siciliennes) is an opera by Giuseppe Verdi. The libretto, written by a popular French dramatist Eugène Scribe, and Very Loosely Based on a True Story, was originally in French but the opera has since become better known in its Italian translation.

It’s the island of Sicily, 1282 (or whatever year the production director decides it to be). The French have just conquered the island, killing its ruler Duke Frederick in the process, and have set their own governor, Guy de Montfort. The Sicilian La Résistance, led by Elena, sister of the deceased Duke, and Procida, a Sicilian doctor, plans to assassinate Montfort and start a rebellion. The situation becomes much more complicated when one of the rebels, a young Henri/Arrigo, turns out to be Montfort’s long-lost son

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Noted for its extremely difficult tenor part (with a high D, no less!), the opera is rarely performed today, although its grand overture and two arias (the soprano and the bass ones) are well known.


Tropes:

  • Break the Cutie: Poor Arrigo. First he learns that his worst enemy is his father, then the said father captures and threatens to kill Ariigo's girlfriend, then the girlfriend treats Arrigo like a piece of shit because she thinks he has betrayed their common cause... And finally, La Résistance members kill Arrigo's newfound father. Geez, does this guy need a break.
  • Counterpoint Duet: Arrigo and Montfort in Act I. The tenor is singing of how he hates the baritone, and the baritone admires his spirit.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Sure, Montfort and the French have killed the Duke and taken over the country, but the revolutionaries are perfectly willing to instigate a Downer Ending if it serves their purposes.
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  • Informed Ability: the list of characters says that Procida is a doctor (the historical Giovanni da Procida was one), but it’s never mentioned in the opera itself.

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