Set against the context of the English Civil War, Bellini’s I puritani is a story of romance and heartache between two members of opposing factions. As the daughter of Lord Valton, Elvira is a puritan. She has fallen in love with Sir Arturo Talbo, a Royalist and supporter of the Stuarts, and will not be happy unless she can marry him. Her father has tried to arrange a marriage between her and Sir Riccardo Forth, a loyal puritan colonel, but Elvira would rather die than give herself to him. Eventually, with some persuasion from his brother, Sir Giorgio, Lord Valton relents; he only wants his daughter to be happy. Elvira and Arturo immediately make preparations for their wedding.
Meanwhile, an important prisoner at the castle has been requested to stand before parliament. Arturo recognises the prisoner as Enrichetta di Franca, the widow of King Charles I, and he wants to help her escape. He uses Elvira’s wedding veil to disguise Enrichetta and the two of them flee the castle. Devastated that Arturo has left her, Elvira is inconsolable, and begins to drift away from reality.
Three months without her beloved Arturo take their toll on Elvira’s sanity. She sees him so often in her dreams, both night and day, that she struggles to trust her eyes when he finally returns. Her delay proves treacherous to Arturo, and he is found by the guards. They are about to take him away to be executed when a message arrives: the war is over, and a blanket pardon has been given to all Royalists. Everyone rejoices as Elvira and Arturo can finally be together.
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