Of Verdi’s mature masterpieces none is less performed than I vespri siciliani (originally Les vêpres siciliennes). Verdi, of course, is best known for his father-daughter interactions, but in this opera it’s a father and son who come into an intense and emotional conflict.
Montforte the French governor of conquered (1282) Sicily has just discovered that the young Sicilian patriot Arrigo, and his enemy, is his son. In a long duet he reveals his paternity to the young man who reacts with surprise, horror, and finally rejection. This is the the longest duet by Verdi that I can think of; it’s also one of the best. It contains the theme that is prominent in the opera’s famous overture. It’s emotional range and intensity is extraordinary. It’s a piece that only a supreme master of the lyric stage could conjure.
In this 2011 performance tenor Gregory Kunde is Arrigo and baritone Franco Vassallo is Monforte.