The audience at Covent Garden, which saw Jose Carreras in the title role as a clergyman who forgives his wife's adultery before his congregation, were overwhelmed by the intensity and drama of the music.
To stage the piece, Edward Downes, the Royal Opera's principal conductor, drew upon parts of Verdi's original score released by trustees of the Verdi estate only last year.
Speaking to the Independent backstage afterwards, Carreras said: 'It has been a real privilege for all of us. The reaction of the audience was unbelievable. Verdi is always Verdi and opera lovers will have seen in this piece his intensity and truth.'
Jeremy Isaacs, general director of the Royal Opera House, added: 'The subject-matter was so controversial in its day, and that is why it was neglected for so long. It's a thrill for us to present an opera of which people don't know the story.'
The opera was so little-known that, despite Carreras and its being a British Verdi premiere after 143 years, no sponsor could be found. The Friends of Covent Garden finally financed it.