This Verdi opera has two acts and a prologue and was first performed at Teatro San Carlo, which is in Naples. It opened to mixed reviews in 1845 and the setting is the Spanish invasion of Peru. The lead, Alzira, has been in prison but her life changes when she is traded for another prisoner, who, in turn, kills Alzira’s suitor and marries her.
In January of 2010, the Theater St. Gallen put on Alzira. They are located in Switzerland.
As native Peruvians drag Alvaro, the Spanish governor, into a square because they wish to execute him, an Incan called Zamoro comes on the scene and asks them to release the governor, and they do so. Zamoro tells everyone that he’s been tortured by the leader of the Spaniards, Gusmano.
Another man, Otumbo, tells Zamoro that his beloved Alzira and her father are being held as captives by the Spaniards. He suggests that the Indian tribes should mount a revolt. He sings “I emerged into the darkness…”
(A Life for a Life)
(The main square of Lima)
Alvaro the governor says he’s handing over the reins of power to his son Gusmano, so the younger man can become governor. Gusmano says he wants to secure peace with the Incas. Ataliba supports Gusmano, but says that his daughter Alzira isn’t ready to marry Gusmano. The latter sings “The eternal memory of a desperate love is weighing her down…” and urges Alzira’s father to persuade her, by singing “Whatever a mortal man can ask for…”
(Ataliba’s apartments in the governor’s palace)
Alzira is thinking about Zamoro when her father enters. She sings about a dream she had featuring Gusmano, “I was fleeing from Gusmano in a frail boat…” Even though she thinks he’s dead, she believes that Zamoro loves her, and sings “On the star that lives most brightly…there lives Zamoro.”
Her father tries again to persuade her to marry Gusmano, when Zamoro enters. Alzira thinks it’s a ghost and not her real lover. When she does, they pledge their love for each other and sing, “The star of my existence has risen again in your eyes.”
Gusmano comes in and sees them and then orders Zamoro arrested and executed. The Inca invasion into Lima is announced long with Alvaro stating that Zamoro had saved him from death. Gusman frees Zamoro so he can fight the invading Incas. He sings “I shall meet you in battle, hated rival.”
(The Vengeance of a Savage)
Scene 1 (The fortifications of Lima)
A new attack, led by Zamoro is mounted against the Spanish and he’s been captured. Gusmano again condemns him to death but tells Alzira that if she’ll marry him, he’ll spare Zamoro’s life. Gusmano then sings “My heart is bursting with joy…”
Scene 2 (A cave, some distance from Lima)
Defeated, the Incas are disappointed and sad. They hear that Zamoro, dressed up as a Spaniard, has escaped. He joins them but is despondent, and sings “Must I drag out my days as a fugitive, bowed down with shame?” He hears that Alzira has agreed to marry Gusmano so he vows to fight, with “This is not the time for cowardly tears, but for blood!” He runs over to the palace.
Scene 3 (Large hall in the governor’s palace)
Gusmano and Alzira are about to be married when a Spanish soldier stabs Gusmano to death. It’s Zamoro in disguise. Before he’s gone, Gusmano confesses to Zamoro that Alzira only agreed to marry him so that he’d let Zamoro go. He is absolved and receives a final blessing from his father, before he dies.
Links to more information on Alzira