Dramma per musica in two acts by T.S.B, was first performed at the Teatro San Benedetto, Venice, on 24th April 1819.
The singers in the first performance were Eliodoro Bianchi (Carlo), Rosa Morandi (Cristina), Carolina Cortesi (Eduardo), Luciano Bianchi (Giacomo), Vincenzo Fracalini (Atlei).
The libretto was originally written for the opera of Stefano Pavesi, Odoardo e Cristina (1810).
Stockholm, atrium of the Royal Palace opening onto a square. The Court and the people are in festive mood, awaiting the return of the general Eduardo who, at the head of the Swedish army, has conquered the Russian army in battle. The universal joy is shared by King Carlo and Giacomo, a Prince of the royal family of Scotland, who believe that the enemy has been definitively vanquished; only Cristina, the King’s daughter, is seen to be worried. She fears that when Eduardo returns her father might discover her secret marriage to the hero Eduardo and that she has had a child by him, Gustavo; in order to avert suspicion, the Princess attributes her obvious sadness to her grief over the recent death of her mother. Eduardo leads in his troops; amid the general rejoicing he notices Cristina’s uneasiness and quietly offers her some words of encouragement. While Eduardo is wondering whether he may go so far as to ask the King for his daughter’s hand as a reward for his victory in war, Carlo publicly announces that he wishes her to marry Giacomo. Cristina, terrified, asks and obtains from her father a short postponement of the marriage service; Eduardo, in despair, trusts in his faithful friend Atlei, Captain of the Royal Guard.
Cristina’s rooms. Overcome by despair, the Princess is comforted by her handmaidens. When they leave, she receives a visit from Eduardo, who is led secretly into her chamber by the faithful Atlei. The hero asks to be able to see his son Gustavo and, at a sign from Cristina, the little boy is brought onstage through a secret door by his nurse: for a short while Eduardo, Cristina and their son are able to enjoy a peaceful episode together. While the pair are discussing the advisability of running away together, Carlo, Giacomo and a group of Knights burst into the Princess’s room to order her to proceed to the altar. Gustavo and the nurse succeed in hiding in the concealed rooms, while Eduardo and Atlei sidle out furtively. Cristina once again refuses to follow Giacomo to the altar, infuriating her father the King. A cry of Cristina’s causes Gustavo to run in terror out of his hiding place and into his mother’s arms. The King, amazed and angered, causes the child to be threatened by a sword and asks his daughter to explain herself. Cristina, protecting Gustavo with her own body, confesses that she is his mother, but refuses to reveal his father’s name. In his extreme anger Carlo threatens his daughter with death and has her arrested by the Guards.
A large hall in the palace. Carlo summons the Court to judge his daughter and make her confess the name of Gustavo’s father. Cristina’s firm reticence is interrupted by the unexpected entrance of Eduardo, who publicly reveals that he is the father. The hero reacts to the general amazement by offering his own life in exchange for that of the Princess and their son, but Carlo, ever more furious, orders that the whole family be put to death. Cristina, Eduardo and Gustavo are therefore separated and taken away by the Guards.
A large room in the palace. The courtiers are lamenting the excessive severity of the law imposed by Carlo, while Atlei is in despair about the idea that both the hero who has saved his country and the royal Princess should have been condemned to death. Meanwhile Giacomo tells Carlo that he is still disposed to be married to Cristina and to adopt her son, but on condition that Eduardo should be executed. Carlo, moved by Giacomo’s words, summons Cristina and refers Giacomo’s offer to her, but the Princess refuses in horror, deaf to the entreaties of her father and the courtiers. The furious King orders his daughter back to her prison, while Giacomo, although disappointed, still hopes to be able to save Cristina. Unexpected news now arrives that some of the Russian prisoners, to whom the King, in an act of clemency, had allowed a certain freedom to move within the city limits, have taken possession of the walls, hoping that the enemy fleet, not entirely vanquished, might attack Stockholm again. Carlo therefore entrusts the command of the Swedish forces to Giacomo and everyone prepares for the decisive battle.
An atrium beside the prison cells. While his companions are bemoaning their fate, Eduardo declares that he is ready to face death. Atlei and some soldiers come in, and informing Eduardo of the threatened Russian attack, they free Eduardo who immediately takes charge of his troops with renewed vigour.
A room in a tower. Cristina dreams that Eduardo is being executed; waking up suddenly, she fears that her constancy might be costing her husband and son too dear. However, her thoughts are interrupted by cannon fire that breaks down part of the tower walls. At the same time Eduardo, Atlei and some soldiers burst into the Princess’s prison to set her free, having told her that little Gustavo has also been carried into safety.
A square. Night, in a city overwhelmed by battle. Carlo and Giacomo come on from opposite sides; the latter informs the King that Eduardo, freed by his followers, has once more defeated the enemy. They are now joined by Eduardo, who kneels before Carlo, offering his own life in exchange for that of Cristina and their son. Overcome by the hero’s nobility and by paternal affection, Carlo pardons Eduardo and blesses his union with Cristina, who meanwhile has entered accompanied by Gustavo. All suffering has therefore come to an end and all souls may rejoice.