The performance history of Stiffelio
as Verdi envisioned it began only in 1993. Composed with Rigoletto,
and sharing many of its characteristics, Stiffelio
suffered from the censors' strictures. From its premiere in 1850, its text was diluted to appease the authorities, making a mockery of the action and Verdi's carefully calibrated music. The story of Stiffelio, a protestant minister who eventually divorces his adulterous wife but forgives her from the pulpit in the final scene, shocked conservative Italian religious and political powers. The libretto was rewritten for subsequent revivals, and even some music was dropped. In 1856 the composer angrily withdrew Stiffelio
from circulation, reusing parts of the score for his Aroldo.
The rest was later presumed lost.
Not until 1992 was it revealed that Verdi's heirs possessed not only most of the canceled score, but also sixty pages of sketches for Stiffelio.
These were used for the preliminary score of the critical edition, premiered in 1993 at New York's Metropolitan Opera. It was the first time Stiffelio
was performed as Verdi wrote it. It has been enthusiastically received around the world.
With the publication of the critical edition, the first in full orchestral score, Stiffelio
should take its rightful place in the Verdi canon.