Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen
Opera in Five Acts
Characters
Cola Rienzi, the Pope's Notary (Tenor)
Irene, his sister (Soprano)
Stefano Colonna, head of the House of Colonna (Bass)
Adriano, his son (Mezzo Soprano)
Paolo Orsini, head of the House of Orsini (Bass)
Raimondo, Papal Legate (Bass)
Baroncelli, a Roman citizen (Tenor)
Cecco del Vecchio, a Roman citizen (Bass)
A Messenger of Peace (Soprano)
A Herald (Tenor)
Ambassadors, Roman nobles, Priests and Monks
 
Location:
Rome, in the middle of the 14th century
 
Rienzi Libretto, MIDI, and Links
Libretto in German
Rienzi, The Last of the Roman Tribunes Download the complete novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton
Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen sheet music, including Vocal and Complete Scores
Download the overture to Rienzi in MIDI format
 

 

Rienzi, der Letzte der Tribunen. Complete opera. Audio only.
Synopsis

Act I

Scene 1:

A street at night, with the Lateran Church in the background. Paolo Orsini is trying to abduct Irene, Rienzi's sister. She screams for help, and Adriano, who is in love with her, defends her. Adriano is the son of Steffano Colonna, the head of another very influential family of Rome. A crowd assembles, and a brawl ensues, with the people choosing sides for either Colonna or Orsini. Rienzi enters imperiously, squelching the uprising by his very appearance, and declares his intent to unite Rome and lead it to grandeur.

Scene 2:

Rienzi embraces Irene, and expresses to Adriano his amazement that a member of the Colonna family has saved his sister, asking Adriano where his loyalties really lie. Adriano wants to atone for his family, one of whom murdered Rienzi's brother. His feelings, though, are mixed, and he is troubled by Rienzi's plans. Rienzi insists that under his leadership the Romans can become truly noble and free, but Adriano fears he is leading the Roman people to ruin. Though he too wishes to uphold the law, Adriano warns Rienzi that his plans are too bold and will end in bloodshed. However, despite his reservations, he pledges his further support. Rienzi entrusts Irene to his protection, and leaves.

Scene 3:

Alone together, Adriano and Irene prophetically declare that their love will remain steadfast, even if the world around them should crumble disastrously. Adriano expresses his trepidations, and predicts Rienzi's downfall, foretelling that the people will betray him, and the nobles will punish him for being too bold. The scene ends with the sound of offstage trumpets.

Scene 4:

A herald enters. Dawn has arrived. An organ sounds inside the church, and the public rushes onstage. Rienzi appears in full armor before the people, who fall to their knees. He is accompanied by Raimondo, the papal legate. The portals of the Lateran Church open, and the people greet him with wild enthusiasm. Rienzi proclaims that as protector of Rome he will uphold freedom and law. The populace greets Rienzi joyously as their hero. The people hail him as the new tribune who will liberate them, and swear that they will remain loyal to him.

Act II

Scene 1:

A hall in the Capitol. Rienzi enters, magnificently clad, followed by the senators, among them Baroncelli and Cecco. Messengers bring Rienzi news of their travels, and they report that the Roman lands are peaceful and free. Colonna, Orsini, the senators, and the nobles pay homage to their new tribune. Rienzi insists that he is not concerned with his own glory, but rather, that he will free Rome and uphold the law. He leaves with the senators.

Scene 2:

Orsini and Colonna are outraged at Rienzi's arrogance, and as they talk, the nobles start listening in. The people idolize Rienzi, whom he has captivated. He is a demagogue, they say, who holds the people in his charismatic spell. Though Rienzi is a mere plebeian, he has grasped enormous power, and Orsini and Colonna refuse to tolerate this. They find his climb to fame somehow insulting, and also potentially dangerous, as the masses are now armed. The nobles, headed by Orsini and Colonna, therefore plot against Rienzi, and devise a murderous scheme for the imminent feast. Adriano enters and demands to know their intentions. They tell Adriano their plans to assassinate Rienzi that day. Though in confusion over his divided loyalties, Adriano vows to stand by Rienzi in defiance of his own family.

Scene 3:

Ceremonial pomp. A banquet has been prepared. Rienzi greets nobles and diplomats from all parts of Italy. Adriano softly warns Rienzi that he is about to be betrayed. A performance begins, a play, pantomime, and ballet: Brutus avenges the death of Lucretia and frees Rome from the tyranny of Tarquinius. Meanwhile, Orsini, who has stolen closer to Rienzi during the performance, tries to stab him, but Rienzi reveals that he is protected by armor. Tumult ensues. Rienzi pardons him, despite the warnings of his nobles, who lament the blindness of his mercy.

Act III

Scene 1:

A square in Rome. The scene depicts ruins, decrepit columns. Bells sound. Wild, unruly crowds fill the scene. They seek Rienzi. The nobles have fled the city. Rienzi appears and promises to guard the freedom of Rome, thereby rousing the people to war. The crowds appeal to Rienzi and with cries of homage and subservience, express their trust in him and their intent to follow him.

Scene 2:

Adriano enters; he is dejected, horrified, and in despair over his divided loyalties. He hears, sounds of war, and chaos intrudes into his solitude. The people enter armed, and Adriano rushes to bring about a reconciliation between his family and that of Rienzi.

Scene 3:

Hymns of war resound, Rienzi goes to battle, surrounded by monks and the populace, and urges the people on to protect freedom and the law. Adriano implores Rienzi to desist, but Rienzi refuses to heed him. Adriano is left with Irene; they lament their imminent parting. Adriano tells Irene that Rienzi is murdering his people. Warriors enter, and Rienzi embraces Irene in farewell. To the horror of all, the body of Steffano Colonna is brought into view, and then other corpses as well. Adriano curses Rienzi and the fate that will forever part him and Irene. Despite the tumult, Rienzi departs triumphantly.

Act IV:

Scene 1:

In a street before the Lateran church, at night, in a secret meeting Baroncelli informs other citizens, all in disguise, that the German diplomats have left Rome forever. Rienzi is at odds with the princes of Germany over the choice of the Roman Emperor. The Cardinal, Baroncelli informs them, has also departed, and therefore Colonna had turned to the Pope and promised to use his power to defend the Church. Baroncelli feels that Rienzi pardoned Colonna for the sole purpose of gaining the support of the nobles, and thus considers Rienzi a traitor of the people. Adriano enters and identifies himself. He declares Rienzi unworthy of the power that he has amassed, and vows to have vengeance. A feast is being prepared by Rienzi, to celebrate his victory. Rienzi approaches in full glory.

Scene 2:

A ceremony is beginning. The procession nears, Rienzi with Irene. The nobles feign obeisance. As Rienzi ascends the steps to the church, he is stopped by the conspirators, who bar his entrance to the church. Raimondo curses him and all who are true to him. The chanting of monks can be heard from within the church. Rienzi shames them by appeals to their patriotism, and urges them to trust in him. Feigning sincerity, they hypocritically hail him as their tribune. Rienzi is taken aback when he hears the TeDeum from the church, and all shudder. Raimondo appears and bars Rienzi's entrance to the church. The doors of the church slam shut with a crash, and on them a papal bull is nailed banning Rienzi. Adriano tells Irene that Rienzi and all who follow him are cursed. Adriano urges Irene to run away with him, but she remains with Rienzi; Adriano flees quickly. Rienzi, however, remains engrossed in his plans to lead Rome to grandeur.

Act V:

Scene 1:

In a hall of the Capitol, Rienzi prays to God to grant him the strength to unite Rome and finish his grandiose plan.

Scene 2:

Irene enters, embraces Rienzi, who tells of his dreams for Rome, his bride. Though she loves Adriano, whom Rienzi demands she renounce, Irene vows to stand by her brother. Rienzi departs.

Scene 3:

Adriano sneaks in, disguised. Adriano reminds her of his love, and tells of his intent to betray Rienzi. He warns her that Rienzi is mad, and if she follows him, then she is, too.

Scene 4:

A square before the Capitol. Crowds storm in violently bearing torches and screaming,to honor the dictum of the Church. The populace is revolting against Rienzi, who appears on the balcony in full armor and orders peace. The people cry out that he should be stoned. They refuse to recognize his former glory, even though he appeals to his past leadership of Rome to freedom and grandeur. Baroncelli cautions the crowd not to be mesmerized by Rienzi any longer. The crowd sets the Capitol on fire. As Rienzi exclaims that the Romans are disgraceful and unworthy of their heritage, the flames engulf the Capitol. Embracing each other, Rienzi and Irene perish in the conflagration. The Capitol collapses, also burying Adriano in the rubble.