Giacomo Puccini: Le Villi

The Willis
Opera-ballet in two acts

Ferdinando Fontana
based on the story Les wilis by Alphonse Karr

31 May 1884, Milan (Teatro Dal Verme)

GUGLIELMO (Baritone)
ANNA, his daughter (Soprano)
NARRATOR (spoken part)

mountaineers, willis, spirits

Black Forest

19th century



A clearing in the Forest.
To the right is Guglielmo's modest house, to the left a path over rocky terrain that disappears in the thick of the woods.
A small bridge spans the hollow from one stretch of ground to the other. It is spring. The trees are in bloom and garlands of flowers hang down on all sides. The scene is set for a celebration. Near the house is a table with bottles, glasses and plates of food. Guglielmo, Anna and Roberto are seated at the head of the table.

Long live, long live,
Long live the newly betrothed!

Anna and Roberto come forward, arm in arm.

The old woman of Mainz
Made Roberto her heir!
The treasures she hoarded
Are many indeed!
So Roberto tonight
Will leave
A poor man, but will come back
Rich to marry his lover!
Long live, long live,
Long live the newly betrothed!
Turn, now turn, spin and turn!
Jump, now jump, leap and turn!
The music throbs in delirium,
The dance propels us on!
Oh, how fast the hours fly by
As we dance on nimble feet!
Dancing is the rival of love
And speeds the beating of the heart!
Turn, now turn, spin and turn!
Jump, now jump, leap and turn!
to Guglielmo
Hey there! Father Guglielmo!
Come and dance, you too!

Well, why not? By golly!
I may be old, but I can still shake a leg!

He gallantly invites one of the girls to dance.

Turn, now turn, spin and turn!
Jump, now jump, leap and turn!

As his friends applaud, Guglielmo dances out with his partner, followed by all the others. Shortly Anna returns with a bouquet.

If I were tiny like you,
Pretty flowers, then I could
Always stay close to my love.
Then I should say to him:
'I think ever of you!'
Then I could say to him:
'Forget me not'
Now you, luckier than I,
You will follow him, my flowers,
Over hill and dale
You will follow my love.
Ah, if only the name you bear
Be not false,
Then say to my love:
'Forget me not!'

She goes to put the bouquet in Roberto's case.

entering and seeing what Anna is doing
Ah, I've caught you!


taking the bouquet, kissing it and replacing it in the case
Thank you, dear Anna.
But I should likeAn even sweeter souvenir.


A smile.
Anna shakes her head sadly.
Dearest Anna, you must not be sad:
In a few days I shall be back.

I try so hard not to cry,
But I can't get over my sadness.
My mind is disturbed by foreboding.
I feel I shall never see you again.


Last night I dreamed I was dying
As I waited for you.

Come now! What frightful thoughts!
Think, rather, of the happy days
With which Fate
Will bless our love!

But do you really love me?

My angel,
How can you still doubt my love?
It was you who shared
The joys, the caresses of childhood;
From your sweetness and virtue
I learned the sweetness of life;
I was poor, yet you resolved
To prize my love above any rich man's.
Ah! Doubt your God,
But no, never doubt my love!
I love you!

Sweet, gentle words,
You impress yourselves upon my sad heart,
And in the darkest moments of waiting
May you comfort my grief!
Sweet, gentle words,
How many times shall my lips
Murmur them:
Ah! Doubt your God,
But no, never doubt my love!
I love you!

The mountaineers return with Guglielmo.

Quickly now! Quickly be on your way!
The time has come to leave!
Before the sun's merry ray
Has disappeared, you must be on your way!

Anna, be brave!

I feel that I shall die!

to Roberto
We shall go with you
As far as the forest's edge.

to Guglielmo
Dear father, give us your blessing!

All gather round me, then.
Anna and Roberto kneel at his feet: the others follow
O angel of God, who dost spread
Thy wings tonight unto Heaven,
Bear this prayer
Unto the throne of the Lord!

May the way be good
For every pilgrim!
Let every dream of love
Be free from disillusion!
Bear this prayer
Unto the throne of the Lord!

Guglielmo embraces Roberto, who embraces Anna, and then shakes hands with each of the mountaineers.

Father, Anna, goodbye!

Goodbye, Roberto, goodbye!

Roberto leaves, accompanied by several friends.


Part One: The Abandonment

In those days in the town of Mainz
A siren bewitched old and young alike.
She lured Roberto to the indecent orgy
And there he forgot his love for Anna.
Meanwhile, striken with ineffable anguish,
The betrayed maiden waited for him.
But she waited in vain: when winter fell
She closed her eyes in eternal sleep.

Through a scrim the funeral cortege for Anna is seen emerging from Guglielmo's house and crossing the clearing.

Like a lily cut down,
She lies in her coffin,
Her face as pale as the moonlight.
O purest maiden, rest now in peace!

Part Two: The Witches'Sabbath

In the Black Forest there is a legend
Which is called the Legend of the Wilis,
And it strikes terror in all faithless lovers.
If a maiden dies of love,
In the wood each night the witches
Come to dance, waiting for the betrayer;
Then, if they meet him, they laugh
And dance with him until, exhausted, he dies.
Now for Roberto there came a fatal day.
Abandoned by the siren, in his rags,
He decided to return to the wood,
And tonight he has indeed returned.
He comes through the wood:
The Wilis whirl about him in the frosty air.
Trembling with cold and terror
He is already in the midst of the dark wood.

During Part Two the forest landscape of Act One becomes visible, but it is winter. Night. The leafless trees are laden with snow. The sky is serene and starry: the moon illuminates the gaunt surroundings. The Wilis come to dance, preceded bv wills-o'-the-wisp, which emerge from all sides and float above the scene.


The grief‑stricken Guglielmo sits by the door of his house.

No, it is not possible
That his guilt should not be avenged.
My sweet daughter lived
Blessed and tranquil at my side,
Then he came,
And, with his words, awoke
The longing for love in her heart.
rising to his feet
Who then, rascal,
Ever asked for your love?
What horrible offences
Did we ever inflict on you
That you should kill that angel
And sadden my last days
With such great sorrow?
No, it is not possible
So great a guilt should go unavenged!
O blessed soul of my daughter,
If the legend of the Wilis be true,
Ah, be not merciful to him now, as you were,
But wait for him here when evening falls.
If I could but know you were avenged
I should gladly greet life's last day.
Ah, forgive, Lord, the pitiless thought
That has escaped from my bleeding heart.

He goes back into the house.

He is coming!
Anna! Anna! Anna!
To meet his ordained death
The traitor now comes!
Behold him! He approaches!
Come now, damned soul, make haste!

Roberto walks out on to the bridge.

to himself
Here is her house.
O God, what a horrible night!
Weird voices pursue me.
The Wilis: away with them!
They are imaginings!
No, the fatal vendetta of the Wilis
Does not pursue me!
Viper of Hell!
Thou alone, remorse, dost plague me!
Viper of the poison of Hell!
My anguished thought
Returns to those happy days
When May was gay with flowers
And love blossomed for me!
Then everything was blackened
By lugubrious mysteries,
And now in my heart there is
Naught but sadness and terror!
Perhaps she still lives!
he looks at Anna's house, hesitates, then walks towards it
I shall knock!
about to knock, he steps back as though restrained by some mysterious force
What a shudder ran through me!
I could not lift
My hand to her door!

Come, damned soul, make haste!

I seem to hear
A funeral dirge!
he kneels to pray, seemingly exhausted
O great God! This is the end
Of my journey, of my destiny.
Let forgiveness bring me
A single moment of happiness,
Then I shall die!
leaping to his feet
I cannot pray!
Ah, cursed be the day
When I left this village!
And cursed be your beauty,
O vile courtesan!
Be cursed forever! Forever cursed!

Make haste! Make haste!


O Heaven!
Her voice! She is not dead!

appearing on the bridge
I am no longer Love.
I am Revenge!

falling, as Anna comes towards him
Great God!

Do you remember what you said
In the month of flowers?
'It was you who shared
The joys, the caresses of childhood;
From your sweetness and virtue
I learned the sweetness of life;
Ah, doubt your God,
But no, never doubt my love!'
I loved you: you betrayed me.
I waited: you never came.
But what a frightful sorrow
It is to suffer in silence!
With all hope gone from my heart
You made me die!

I forgot her, I betrayed her,
And because of me she died.
But what a frightful sorrow
I shall have to suffer!
With remorse in my heart
I feel I am dying!

Roberto approaches Anna as though urged by an unknown force. He is about to conquer the fascination, but fails and runs towards her. Anna opens her arms and draws him to her. The Wilis gather around the couple, dance furiously, then disappear.

Here we await you, traitor!
From us, expect no mercy!

A man who in life was deaf to love
Shall find no forgiveness in death!
Traitor, we await you!
Turn! Jump! Turn! Jump!

Terrified, Roberto runs to knock at Guglielmo's door. He sees Wilis pursuing him and runs the other wav, only to find his path barred by Anna, who grasps him again and leads him into a wild dance among onrushing Wilis.

falling exhausted at Anna's feet
Anna, mercy!

as she disappears
You are mine!

Hosannah! Hosannah! Hosannah!