Oberto conte di San Bonifacio
A delectable countryside.
The action is laid at Bassano in 1228. Near the castle of Ezzelino da Romano, knights, ladies and vassals go out to greet Riccardo, lord of Salinguerra, who is about to be married to Cuniza, Ezzelino’s sister (introductory chorus «Di vermiglia, amabil luce»). Riccardo expresses his joy and ambition (cavatina «Son fra voi! Già sorto è il giorno»). Everybody then moves off towards the castle. Cautiously
comes Leonora, daughter of Oberto, count of San Bonifacio. Some time ago Leonora was seduced by Riccardo who, under a false name, had promised to marry her. Having heard of his forthcoming marriage, she has come to the castle to reveal his former betrayal and to seek revenge. Her remorse
towards her father is mingled with sorrow over her lost love (scena and cavatina «Sotto il paterno tetto»). Oberto now enters, having received a message from his sister informing him of Leonora’s guilt. Oberto is deeply moved by the sight of his beloved homeland, on which he has not set foot since
being forced into exile after defeat by Ezzelino. Leonora recognizes her father, who reprimands her for dishonouring their name. But he relents and they make peace when his daughter placates him with her idea of imminent revenge (scena and duet «Guardami! Sul mio ciglio»).
A magnificent hall in Ezzelino’s castle.
Cuniza is cheered by the knights, ladies and vassals (chorus «Fidanzata avventurosa»), but is perturbed by forebodings. Riccardo however reassures her of a radiant future and allays her fears (scena and duet «Il pensier d’un amore felice»). Cuniza’s confidante, Imelda, introduces Leonora (recitative «Alta
cagione adunque») and the Princess, to whom this unexpected visit had been announced, welcomes her. Leonora reveals that she is the daughter of her enemy and Cuniza’s dread is aggravated by the appearance of Oberto in person, who has entered the castle by stealth to witness Leonora’s revenge
(scena and trio «Son io stesso! a te davanti»). Leonora tells Cuniza of Riccardo’s betrayal. At first the girl is appalled, but then she promises justice and summons all to her presence. With the others enters Riccardo.When he catches sight of Leonora he grasps the situation and, to protect himself, accuses her of having been unfaithful to him. But Oberto refuses to accept these false accusations against his daughter and, to avenge the offence, challenges Riccardo to a duel. The latter however is moved to compassion by Oberto’s advanced years and rejects the provocation. In the general agitation, Leonora
openly derides Riccardo for his guilt and Cuniza feels her love turn to contempt (first finale).
The Princess’s private rooms.
The ladies-in-waiting express their sorrow to Cuniza (chorus «Infelice! nel core tradito»), as her thoughts dwell mournfully on the days of her lost love. But Cuniza’s sense of virtue gains the upper hand and she decides that she must convince Riccardo to return to his former love, Leonora (scena and aria «Oh,
chi torna l’ardente pensiero»). Once the accusation of infidelity has been proven false, Cuniza takes Leonora in her arms: the two women find comfort in their common misfortune (scene and duet «Pria
che scenda sull'indegno»).
A secluded spot near the castle gardens.
A chorus of knights comments on the recent sad events (chorus «Dov’è l’astro che nel cielo»). Oberto enters and while waiting to meet Riccardo for the duel, condemns the sins of betrayal and dishonour. The knights announce that Ezzelino, by Cuniza’s intercession, has granted him pardon. But the old man pays little heed to their words (scena and aria «L’orror del tradimento»), and when he sees Riccardo approaching, his anger rises to a pitch. Conscious of his physical superiority, the young man would rather avoid the duel, but when he hears the house of Salinguerra insulted he takes up the challenge. The two men draw swords but are interrupted by the arrival of Leonora and Cuniza, who releases Riccardo from his pledge,
declaring that she will forgive him only if he promises to love Leonora again forever. Riccardo pretends to accept, in order then to resume the duel. On hearing his consent, Leonora is overjoyed (scena and quartet «Vili all’armi, a donne eroi»). While the knights comment on this latest turn of events (chorus «Li vedeste. – Ah sì! la mano»), the duel continues offstage. Oberto is slain by Riccardo, who is deeply shaken. He prays to heaven for forgiveness (romanza «Ciel, che feci!... di qual sangue») and makes his escape. In the meantime Cuniza re-enters in dismay, with the knights who inform of her of what has happened. Cuniza welcomes Leonora, who has witnessed the killing (scena and adagio «Vieni, o misera, cresciuta») and accuses herself of her father’s death.A letter is delivered in which Riccardo, forced to flee to a foreign land, begs Leonora to forgive him and to be reunited with him as in the days of their first love. But Leonora is overcome with remorse at having caused the death of her father. Seeing no other future but that of a convent cell, she faints into the arms of her ladies-in-waiting (scena and final rondò «Sciagurata! a questo lido»).