The Life of Vincenzo Bellini(1802-1835)

composer of "La Sonnambula" "Norma" and "I Puritani"

Libretto "I Puritani"

Plot summary

Synopsis: I puritani

THE action takes place at the fortress of Plymouth during the civil war of the Cavaliers and Roundheads. Queen Henrietta, widow of Charles I., is a prisoner in the fortress, her identity not being generally known; but the fact is accidentally discovered by a young cavalier, Lord Arthur Talbot, who has been granted admission to the fortress, in order to be united to his Puritan sweetheart, Elvira, daughter of the Governor.

Elvira's hand had formerly been sought by Sir Richard Forth, a prominent officer in the Puritan army; but the maiden's love having been given so irrevocably to the young cavalier, her father has, after much tearful entreaty on her part, given his consent to their marriage, to the great chagrin of Sir Richard, who is also in attendance at the fortress in great gloom.

On discovering that the unfortunate Queen Henrietta is a captive in the castle, Lord Arthur's loyalty is stirred; and a favourable opportunity unexpectedly occurring, he determines to effect her escape at once, even though his beloved Elvira is even now awaiting his presence at the altar. Snatching up the bridal veil which his sweetheart has dropped on passing into the chapel, Lord Arthur manages to envelop the Queen in it as she is taking exercise with the other prisoners; and, hurrying her to the gates, the pair are suffered to pass through by Sir Richard Forth, who is on guard there, and thinks that the veiled lady can be none other than the bride, Elvira.

The deception, however, is soon discovered, but not before Lord Arthur has found means to bestow his royal charge safely in a vessel bound for the Continent. He himself is proscribed as a traitor, with a price on his head; and he is compelled to keep in hiding, being very closely hunted.

Meanwhile, Elvira, thinking that her lover is faithless, because he deserted her at the moment they were to be married, has lost her reason; and she wanders forth constantly into the woods surrounding the fortress, now singing snatches of songs, and anon bewailing her sad fate.

Here she is at last met one day by Lord Arthur, who has determined to see his lady-love once more, in spite of the danger he runs in exposing himself; and at the sound of her lover's voice, the distraught maiden regains her reason, and joyfully listens to his greetings and the explanation of his enforced desertion of her on their marriage day.

Their joy, however, is quickly turned to dismay on the sudden appearance of Sir Richard Forth with a company of Puritan soldiers; and Lord Arthur is seized, bound, and condemned to be shot immediately as a proscribed traitor.

Ere the sentence can be carried out, however, a messenger arrives post haste, bringing news of a Parliamentary defeat, and bearing a free pardon for Lord Arthur.

The prisoner is released; and, full of joy, the lovers return to the fortress, where they are at last united.