Yesterday evening I attended the last opera I'll be seeing at the Met this season - I Puritani, the final work composed by Vincenzo Bellini before his death at only age 33.
The libretto by the political exile Count Carlo Pepoli set the plot in England at the time of Cromwell's Puritan revolution. The story's source was a popular 1833 French play entitled Têtes Rondes et Cavaliers, itself based on a novel, Old Mortality, by Sir Walter Scott whose tales, often filled with political intrigue, were a popular source for opera plots in the nineteenth century. Scott's use of historical settings probably appealed so much to composers and librettists because they took place far enough in the past that they were not objectionable to nineteenth century Italian censors.
An interesting footnote is that Bellini also composed an alternate version of the opera specifically for Maria Malibran, the famous mezzo-soprano who herself died tragically young and who was the older sister of Pauline Viardot. Due to the death of both the composer and the singer, this second version was not performed until 1986.
Bellini's operas are among the most challenging in the repertoire. I felt that the cast at this performance did a strong workmanlike job even though it was never able to fully reach the heights called for by the music. In particular, Olga Peretyatko, who played Elvira, at times seemed to struggle with the part and had trouble reaching the highest notes. The conducting by Michele Mariotti was adequate but not distinguished. The lavish production by the late Sandro Sequi, on the other hand, was one of the Met's older stagings and complemented the music very well.