Ernani, Verdi's fifth opera (1844) is melodic from beginning to end. Based on Victor Hugo's play, whose tumultuous reception in 1830 marked a decisive turning point in the development of romantic drama, this violent and sombre story of frustrated passion, honour fatally impugned, and ambition thwarted and rewarded, is set by the young composer to a succession of irresistible tunes, unsurpassed even in his mature works. The opera's dramatic impetus is unstoppable. For Luca Ronconi's production, which opened the 1982/3 season at La Scala, Milan, four of the world's leading Verdi singers were engaged: Placido Domingo as the bandit, Ernani; Renato Bruson as the scheming, dangerously suave King Charles of Spain; Nicholai Ghiaurov as the proud Spanish Grandee whose implacable sense of honour propels the action to its tragic conclusion; and Mirella Freni as the gentle heroine desired by these three rivals. Opera in four acts, conducted by Riccardo Muti.