Paer around 1819
The plot and the music
Following the ouverture
the scene opens with a night storm where the main character Agnese is lost in the woods (Coro: «Agnese misera»
She is fleeing from Ernesto, who seduced her and for whom she has abandoned her father. However, Ernesto’s infidelity prompted Agnese to run away from him with the little daughter born from that unhappy union.
Agnese meets a mysterious character in chains on her path. This is a mental patient escaped from the asylum, none else than Agnese’s father, Uberto, gone mad as he believed his daughter had died. The two discuss excitedly, but Uberto does not recognize his daughter (Duetto: «Quel sepolcro che racchiude»
Furthermore, the caretaker and the hospital attendants suddenly burst onto the scene, grab Uberto and take him away. Agnese desperate then decides to contact Don Pasquale, intendant of the hospital.
The latter is joined in his office by his daughter Carlotta and Vespina, who announce Agnese’s arrival and beg him to help her. Pasquale, who disapproves Agnese’s past, at first refuses, but then, overcome by the insistent prayers of the two, agrees to receive her (Terzetto: «Si dirà che siete un orso»
During the meeting, Agnese prays Don Pasquale to take her to her father so that she can try in some way to remedy the suffering inflicted on him.
Thus, Agnese, Don Pasquale, the doctor Don Girolamo and the custodian arrive at the inmate’s cell. The saddest scene appears to them: Uberto, who believes Agnese is dead, draws tombs on the wall and in his folly mixes crying and laughter, quiet and fury (Cavatina: «Quando lo troverò»
Then, he suddenly calms down and hums a melancholy song, which Agnese often used to sing to him. When Agnese herself enters the cell singing the second stanza, Uberto has a jolt and seems to recognize his daughter. Everyone then hopes in a speedy recovery of the patient, but that hope turns sour when Uberto, once again taken by a fit of rage, brutally attacks Don Pasquale, who had come to amicably shake his hand, throwing everyone into despair and confusion (Finale I: «Ecco il soggiorno orribile»
After the crisis is over, at the beginning of the second act, Uberto is deeply asleep. The doctor is confident to have a plan that might perhaps heal the patient. He had reproduced the home environment around Uberto and recommended everyone to behave as if nothing had ever happened and tell him about Agnese as if she had never left. So, when Uberto wakes up, the maid Vespina serves him coffee saying it was prepared by Agnese and answers his questions by saying that Agnese must be in the garden picking roses or playing the harp. At this point Uberto is quite confused and unable to tell what is dream and what is reality (Scena: «Agnese il fé, gran dio»
On the other hand, Agnese is desperate for the pain caused to her father and prays Heaven for his recovery (Aria: «Da te solo, o Ciel clemente»
Meanwhile Ernesto, who has followed his bride’s spurs, stops Don Pasquale and asks for his help to convince Agnese to forgive him (Duetto: «Sì, capisco, ora v'intendo»
Don Pasquale accompanies him to her, who after some resistance finally yields to Ernesto’s insistent prayers, forgives him, and welcomes him into her arms. A short, joyous chorus celebrates the predictable healing of the patient (Coro: «Evviva, il Ciel ci rende»
But Uberto arrives while all retire ready to carry out the doctor’s plan. The first to approach Uberto is Don Pasquale, but once again he is attacked by the patient. Suddenly one hears the sound of a harp, which stops Uberto throwing him in a state of utmost confusion. He is told by everybody that it is Agnese who is playing the instrument. While accompanying herself on the harp, she sings a song dear to her father and that works the miracle: Uberto awakens completely restored, recognizes his daughter and forgives Ernesto, who swears eternal love to Agnese (Finale II: «Se sentissi qual fiamma vorace»
The opera closes on a joyous final chorus