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LE VILLI (1883 - 1884)
Land Of PucciniLibrettist, Ferdinando Fontana
Le Villis (1883 - 1884)

Background: Giacomo Puccini wrote this, his first opera, as a struggling and almost destitute young composer after his graduation from the Conservatory of Music in Milan . His future at the time was completely uncertain, and it was in the hopes of winning a publishing contract that he wrote Le Villis in the last few weeks of 1883 in response to a call from a major publisher to find the best new Italian opera in one act. Le Villis was originally written in one act, and later in 1884 after he had been passed over by the competition judges, Puccini expanded the work to two acts. His friends, always believing the work to be worthy of public attention, raised the money themselves for the world premiere on May 31, 1884, given at Teatro dal Verme in Milan .  Le Villis , described at the time as an opera-ballet, was well-received and drew the attention of Giulio Ricordi, the most important music publisher, who signed a publishing contract with Puccini within a short time.

Synopsis: Based on an ancient legend similar to the one found in the ballet, Giselle , in which ghostly creatures called willis force the heroine's unfaithful lover to dance himself to death, the opera revolves around an innocent country girl, her faithless fiance, her father and the ghosts of abandoned maidens who have died of broken hearts due to the desertion of their lovers. Roberto and Anna are celebrating their engagement with the villagers, their friends and neighbors. Roberto must leave that evening to go to the city to claim a fortune left to him by his aunt. Anna is filled with foreboding; she begs Roberto not to go. He tries to dispel her fears with a pledge of undying love and faith, but leaves for the city anyway. After months of waiting for him to return, Anna dies of a broken heart, while in the city, Roberto has succumbed to the allure and charms of a seductress. Eventually, Roberto returns to his village, guilt-ridden and hoping to find his love and beg her forgiveness. Anna's ghostly form appears and at first, rejects Roberto's pleas. At last, she embraces him, and not realizing she has become a villi , Roberto falls into her arms with relief. At that moment, Anna is joined by the other villis, and together, they force Roberto to dance to his death.

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