Ernani is an operatic dramma lirico in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Hernani by Victor Hugo. First production: La Fenice Theatre, Venice, March 9, 1844.
There are several recordings of the opera, and it is occasionally performed.
Mountains of Aragon. The bandits demand the reason for Ernani's gloom. (Chorus of bandits: "To you we drink"; and "Ernani, so gloomy? Why, oh strong one, does care sit on your brow?") Ernani replies (Recitative: "Thanks, dear friends"; Cavatina: "As the flower turns to the sun") that he loves Elvira, who is to be led unwillingly to the altar by old Gomez de Silva. He asks the bandits to abduct her. Change of scene: Elvira's apartment. (Scene: "Now sinks the sun and Silva does not return"; Cavatina: "Ernani, Ernani, save me.") Silva's wedding presents are brought in, for which Elvira makes acknowledgment. King Carlos, poorly attired, enters, but is recognised by Elvira and his love repulsed. As he attempts to use force, she grasps a dagger, but Ernani suddenly arriving, interferes. (Terzett: "A friend comes quickly to your aid.") Carlos recognises in Ernani the leader of the bandits, and he in turn expresses his hate for the king, who has robbed him of his lands. As he invites the king to fight, Silva appears. (Finale: "Dreadful sight"; Cavatina of Silva: "Unfortunate one, could you deem!") Ernani offers to fight them both when Riccardo approaches and recognises the king. Ernani whispers to Elvira to prepare for flight.
A hall in Silva's palace. Ernani comes thither disguised as a pilgrim. (Terzett, Silva, Ernani, Elvira: "The pilgrim may appear.") He alleges that he is pursued and is seeking safety, which is granted him by Silva. A scene between Ernani and Elvira follows. The latter believes Ernani dead and intends to kill herself at the altar. (Duet: "Ha, false one, you hypocrite.") Ernani reveals his identity; Silva surprises them. (Terzett: "Shameless ones, ye shall rue it.") He keeps his word to Ernani and saves him from the king, but only postpones his personal vengeance. Carlos arrives and wishes to know why the castle is barred. Silva refuses to surrender Ernani. (Carlos's aria: "Let us see, thou prater of virtue.") Don Carlos's men do not find the hiding-place of the bandit; Silva keeps his word, even when the king secures Elvira as a hostage. He releases Ernani, and then challenges him to a duel. Ernani refuses to fight with his saviour, but unites with Silva in his plans to free Elvira from the king. Ernani swears to appear at the summons of Silva, wherever he may be at that time.
In the burial vault of Charles the Great at Aix la Chapelle. Carlos visits the grave of the emperor. (Cavatina: "Ye golden dreams of youth.") Standing behind the vault, he overhears the conversation of the conspirators; Silva and Ernani are among them, and the latter resolves to murder Carlos. The conspiracy is foiled by the appearance of Carlos's attendants upon the scene. The king commands that all the noblemen be executed. Ernani then steps forward, declaring that he also must die. He announces himself as Don Juan of Aragon, who has been proscribed. Elvira begs mercy for her lover, and Carlos, whose mood has changed, forgives them both and places Elvira's hand in that of Ernani.
Castle of Ernani. Elvira and Ernani have just been married, when, in consternation, Ernani hears a bugle call. Silva arrives and silently hands Ernani a dagger. Ernani keeps his oath and stabs himself to the heart. (Terzett: "Cease, oh music, put out the lights.")
Plot taken from The Opera Goer's Complete Guide by Leo Melitz, 1921 version.