"No Joan has ever had music that is so philosophical, so beautiful. The terrifying introduction, the magnificent piece Maledetti cui spinse rea voglia are enough to strike a poor fellow dumb. The choruses of the demons are original, earthy, truly Italian; the first is a really delightful waltz, full of winning motifs, the sort of thing to set you off singing after listening to it just a couple of times; the second is a piece of diabolical exultation, music that makes one shiver and tremble. In short, it’s divine stuff; this opera is going to have every type of music: operatic music, religious music, martial music, etc."
This is how Emanuele Muzio, Verdi’s secretary and assistant, described Giovanna d’Arco in a letter of December 1844.
The libretto by Temistocle Solera was loosely based on Schiller’s Jungfrau von Orleans. Solera maintained in his libretto the catastrophe that Schiller had invented to avoid having his heroine burnt at the stake and he developed – up to the point of making them the basis of his delineation of his own characters – two of the opera’s points of strength: Charles’s dream in the first act and the father-daughter relationship, admirably represented in the marvellous duet at the beginning of the final act.
The opera was performed at the Scala on 15th February, 1845, with Erminia Frezzolini in the role of the Maid of Orleans, provoking a range of reactions: certain grand scenes, especially the final one, met with unanimous approval, whereas Verdi’s decision to step back from the powerful sonority of Nabucco and I Lombardi and his new inclination towards a more intimate sonority were not greeted so favourably. Nonetheless, the opera enjoyed an immense success with the public, as evidenced by the numerous performances of it in many other prestigious opera houses.
From 1st October (additional performances on 3rd, 7th, 12th, 17th and 25thOctober , at the Teatro Regio in Parma as part of the Festival Verdi it will be possible to see the production of Giovanna d’Arco based on the new critical edition edited by Alberto Rizzuti and published by the University of Chicago and Ricordi. In the cast conducted by Bruno Bartoletti the principle roles have been assigned to Evan Bowers (Carlo VII), Renato Bruson (Giacomo) and Svetla Vassileva (Giovanna). The direction is by Gabriele Lavia and the scenery by Alessandro Camera.