Ernani was Verdi’s fifth opera, written when he was just 30. His previous works had been made for Teatro alla Scala; Ernaniwas his first commission from La Fenice in Venice and it introduced his collaboration with librettist Francesco Maria Piave, then in his early 30s. It was the beginning of two exceptionally fruitful relationships from which came, among others, Rigolettoand La traviata. Ernaniwas a big hit for the composer and much performed after its premiere in 1844. Australia even managed to see it as early as 1857, when local impresario John Black presented Ernaniin Melbourne – the first Verdi opera to be seen in Australia. (In another coup, in 1904 it became the first opera to be recorded in its entirety.)

Opera Australia's Ernani Vitalij Kowaljow as Don Ruy Gomez de Silva and the Opera Australia Chorus in the 2021 production of Ernaniat the Sydney Opera House. Photo © Prudence Upton

These days it is rather less frequently staged despite its marvellous score and wonderful opportunities for singers with lyric gifts and dramatic...

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