To start an opera evening by coming to the opera house 10 minutes before the opera starts is not the best way, but I soon calmed down to enjoy this, for me almost unknown opera. Knowing only "Spirto gentil" and "O mio Fernando" of this opera. But here they sang in French.
Having read the critic on beforehand, I was not too disappointed by the tenor singing of the top notes, they hurt my ears. After the tenor first aria, polite applause from the audience, they respects very much Giuseppe Sabattini. First act is in the convent where Fernand is a novice, the abbed wants Fernand to take the vows, but Fernand has met a very beautiful woman and is in love. Baltasar throws Fernand out of the convent, since F. does not want to forget the unknown woman. Next scene. An island where Leonor and her maids is enjoying life, Fernand comes there. He wants to marry Leonor, but she refuses, says she cannot and beseeches Fernand to forget her. He will not. Wonderful duet.
Act 2. The king and Leonor, with Ines and Don Gaspar in the royal garden of the moor king that Fernand have helped King Alphonse to win over. The king understands not that Leonor can be unhappy with being his mistress. The court despise Leonor, but the King sings of his great love, and Leonor tells that he deceived her to think that she was following her husband, when she left her father castle. Bah, I want to make you my queen. Then Don Gaspar, the courtier, has found out that a love letter to Leonor was given Ines, he gives the king the letter, who gets very angry with Leonor, especially since she refuses to give him the name of her lover. Then Baltasar comes with an urgent message from the pope, if the King and his mistress does not depart for ever, by the next day, they are excommunicated. In vain Alphonse tries to threaten Baltasar, King against the Church. The queen is there, thinking she can win over Alphonse to her side, just by evicting Leonor.
Act 3. The kings palace. Aphonse wants revenge. Fernand comes as a hero, and he wants a noble woman as a bride, suddenly A. finds out that F. is his rival. The perfect revenge is clear, marrying of his mistress to the hero, who does not know that this is a clear way to loose his honor, something Leonor knows perfectly. "O mon Fernand", wonderfully sung by Violeta Urmana. She orders Ines to tell Fernand all, but Ines is taken prisoner by Don Gaspar on the command of the king. She thinks Fernand know it all and still wants to marry her. But know this only gets cleared when the contempt of the court, and Baltasar is told about the wedding. Fernand you have lost your honor, marrying the mistress of the King. F. is furious. And they all see Fernand was innocent he REALLY did not know.
Act 4 in the monastery, Fernand is finally convince of making his vows, even though the thought of Leonor still haunts him "Ange si pur". Then Leonor has followed Fernand. She hears him taking to vows, and then she collapses and so they meet. She asks desperately for forgiveness before she dies. When at last Fernand give in, he tells her that he still loves her, and that he is willing to sacrilege to have her. To leave the monastery to marry her, and live in another country. Leonor is forgiven, and happy to have Fernands love again, and that her own death saves Fernand from the sacrilege.
Wonderful and sad end. Even though Sabbattini lacked the top notes to make it really remarkable (bel canto), he still gave Fernand the verve and poignancy that made it a great performance (verismo!)!!