Bianca e Falliero, a melodramma (an opera) in two acts to a libretto by Felice Romani, was first performed at La Scala, Milan, on 26th December 1819.
The singers in the first performances were Alessandro De Angeli (Priuli), Claudio Bonoldi (Contareno), Giuseppe Fioravanti (Capellio), N.N. (Loredano), Carolina Bassi (Falliero), Violante Camporesi (Bianca), Adelaide Ghinzani (Costanza) and Francesco Biscottini (cancelliere).
The manuscript autograph score is to be found in the Ricordi archives.
The story is taken from Blanche et Montcassin by A. v. Arnhault (1798).
Foreign powers have conspired against the government of Venice, but their plots have been foiled. Capellio, a rich senator who is in love with Bianca, daughter of Contareno, another senator, asks her father for her hand in marriage and wins the father’s consent. Upon Contareno’s suggestion the streets of Venice are plastered with copies of a decree that punishes with a death sentence anyone who communicates with foreign powers. Capellio is perplexed by this, but the Doge reminds him of the dangers threatening Venice and the rumours that general Falliero may have fallen in battle. However, Falliero himself enters St. Mark’s Square followed by his officers.
Bianca is overjoyed at the return of her beloved. Contareno tells his daughter that only she can restore their family to their former glory and for this reason he has chosen the worthiest husband for her. Bianca believes that he means Falliero and is thunderstruck when she hears the name of Capellio. Contareno calls her to remember her filial duty, threatening to repudiate her and to use his own power to ruin the young hero’s career.
Falliero believes that he may now introduce himself into the Contareno family as a worthy suitor for Bianca. Bianca, beside herself, tells him that her father is opposed to their marriage, but does not tell him of her father’s threats. The nuptial procession marches in: Contareno, Capellio and, finally, Bianca. The girl is resigned to do her duty, but at the moment of signing the marriage contract she tries to hold back. Falliero rushes in and accuses her of breaking her vows to him. Contareno orders him out of the house.
Bianca’s nurse, Costanza, persuades her to see Falliero one last time. During their talk Bianca repeats that she loves him but insists that she cannot disobey her father. Contareno comes on and Falliero has no alternative but to leap over the wall dividing the house from that of the Spanish embassy. Contareno is all for celebrating the nuptials at once, but Bianca again tries to get out of it. Seeing himself spurned yet again, Capellio goes away greatly offended by the insult. In his rage Contareno is about to repudiate his daughter, when at that very moment the chancellor Pisani comes in with surprising news: Falliero has been found in the Spanish ambassador’s house and the Council of Three will be convened immediately to judge him.
When he is summoned before the Council (which consists of Loredano, Capellio and Contareno) the young general does not try at all to defend himself. An unknown individual comes forward claiming to be the “gulty man’s accomplice”; this is none other than Bianca herself, who again declares her love for Falliero. Contareno tries to have him condemned but Capellio, who has already declared his disapproval of the severity of the law, is now convinced of the young lovers’ sincerity. Judgment is therefore referred to the whole Senate, who absolve Falliero. Contareno tries to oppose the marriage, but now it is too late: rather than lose his daughter’s love he resigns himself to permitting the young couple to marry.