The opera partly reflects the story of Joan of Arc and appears to be loosely based on the play Die Jungfrau von Orleans by Friedrich von Schiller, Solera denied this assertion in letters to Verdi's publisher, and claimed that the work was "an entirely original Italian drama."
Notable performances in the United States include two concert versions at Carnegie Hall: with Teresa Stratas (1966) and June Anderson (1996). The opera was also performed in concert at Avery Fisher Hall in 1985, with Welsh soprano Margaret Price, Carlo Bergonzi and Sherrill Milnes. A fully staged production was mounted by New York City Opera in 1999, with Lauren Flanigan.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, November 3, 1844|
(Conductor: - )
|Carlo VII, King of France||tenor||Antonio Poggi|
|Giacomo, shepherd and father of Giovanna||baritone||Filippo Colini|
|Talbot, an English Commander||bass||Francesco Lodetti|
|Delil, a French officer||tenor||Napoleone Marconi|
|French and English soldiers, French courtiers, villagers, nobles, angels, demons - Chorus|
Scene 1: The French village of Domremy
Charles (the not-yet-crowned King of France) describes to his officers and the villagers his vision of the Virgin Mary commanding him to surrender to the invading English army and laying down his weapons at the foot of a giant oak tree. (Aria: Sotto una quercia parvemi - "Beneath an oak I seemed"). Later, he expresses his frustration with the limitations of being a ruler. (Aria: Pondo è letal, martirio - "A deadly burden, a torment").
Scene 2: A forest
By a giant oak tree, Giacomo prays for the safety of his daughter Giovanna, who before she falls asleep by a nearby shrine offers prayers to be chosen to lead the French forces. (Aria: Sempre all'alba ed alla sera - "always at dawn and in the evening"). Suddenly, Charles arrives, prepared to lay down his arms at the base of the tree. Meanwhile, the sleeping Giovanna has visions in which angels ask her to become a soldier and lead France to victory. She cries out that she is ready to do so. Charles overhears her and thrills at her courage. Her father Giacomo weeps, believing that his daughter has given her soul to the Devil out of her devotion to the future King.
Commander Talbot of the English army tries to convince his discouraged soldiers that their imminent surrender to the French is not due to forces of evil. Giacomo arrives and offers up his daughter, believing her to be under the influence of the Devil: Franco son io - "I am French, but in my heart..." and So che per via dei triboli - "I know that original sin...".
Scene 2: The French court at Reims
Preparations are under way for Charles' coronation. Giovanna longs for her simple life back home. (Aria: O fatidica foresta - "O prophetic forest..."). Charles confesses his love for Giovanna. She withdraws despite her feelings toward the King, because her voices have warned her against earthly love. Charles is taken to the Cathedral at Reims for his coronation.
The villagers of Reims have gathered in the Cathedral square to celebrate Giovanna's victory over the English army. The French soldiers lead Charles into the Cathedral. Giacomo has decided he must repudiate his daughter who, he believes, has entered a pact with the Devil. (Aria: Speme al vecchio ora una figlia - "An old man's hope was a daughter"). He denounces her to the villagers (Aria: Comparire il ciel m'ha stretto - "Heaven has forced me to appear") and they are persuaded, although the King refuses to listen. Charles pleads with Giovanna to defend herself, but she refuses.
Giacomo pleads with the King, first for punishment and then for forgiveness, which Charles grants. Charles learns of the French victory on the battlefield but also of Giovanna's death. (Aria: Quale al più fido amico - "Which of my truest friends"). As her body is carried in, Giovanna suddenly revives. Giacomo reclaims his daughter, and the King professes his love. The angels sing of salvation and victory, as Giovanna dies and ascends into heaven.
(Giovanna, Carlo VII, Giacomo)
Opera House and Orchestra
|1972|| Montserrat Caballe,|
| James Levine,|
London Symphony Orchestra,
Ambrosian Opera Chorus
| Audio CD: EMI Classics|
|1990|| Susan Dunn,|
Vincenzo La Scola,
| Riccardo Chailly,|
Teatro Comunale di Bologna Orchestra and Chorus
| DVD: Kultur|