DONIZETTI: Lucrezia Borgia

Music composed by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Felice Romani after
Victor Hugo’s play LucrËce Borgia.

First Performance: Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 26 December

Principal Roles:
Don Alfonso, Duca di Ferrara Bass
Donna Lucrezia Borgia Soprano
Gennaro Tenor
Maffio Orsini Contralto
Jeppo Liverotto Tenor
Don Apostolo Gazella Bass
Ascanio Petrucci Bass
Oloferno Vitellozzo Tenor
Gubetta Bass
Rustighello Tenor
Astolfo Bass
Una Voce Bass

Setting: Italy, early 16th Century.



A terrace of the Grimani palace in Venice. A festival by night.

Gennaro and his friends celebrate on the brightly lit terrace, in front of
which lies the Giudecca canal. The friends’ conversation turns to Don
Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, to whose house they will be travelling the next day,
and to his wife, the infamous Lucrezia Borgia. On hearing Lucrezia’s
name, Orsini tells of how Gennaro and he, alone in a forest, were warned by a
mysterious old man to beware her and the entire Borgia family. Professing his
boredom with Orsini’s tale Gennaro wanders off and falls asleep nearby.
His friends are invited to rejoin the festivities, and he is left alone. A
gondola appears and a masked woman steps onto the terrace. She hurries over to
the sleeping Gennaro and observes him with affection. (Com’Ë bello! Quale
incanto in quel volto onesto e altero!) She kisses his hand, he wakes and is
instantly struck by her beauty. He expresses his love for her and sings of his
childhood as an orphan brought up by fishermen. He adds that he loves dearly
the mother he has never met. (Di pescatore ignobile esser figliuol credei.) The
others return and instantly recognise her as Lucrezia Borgia, listing in turn
the members of their families she has killed to Gennaro’s horror.

Act I

A square at Ferrara.

The Duke, believing Gennaro to be Lucrezia’s lover, plots his murder
with his servant Rustighello (Vieni: la mia vendetta Ë mediatata e pronta.)
Gennaro and his companions leave the house for a party and pass the
Duke’s palace with its large gilded coat of arms reading
‘Borgia’. Keen to show his contempt for the Borgia family, Gennaro
removes the initial ‘B’, leaving the obscene ‘Orgia’

A hall in the ducal palace.

In the palace, Lucrezia is shown into the Duke’s chamber. Having seen
the defaced crest, she demands death for the perpetrator, not knowing that it
is Gennaro. The Duke orders Gennaro to be brought before her and accuses him of
staining the noble name of Borgia, a crime to which he readily confesses.
Lucrezia, horrified, attempts to excuse the insult as a youthful prank, but Don
Alfonso accuses Lucrezia of infidelity, having observed her meeting with
Gennaro in Venice. In a scene full of drama and tension, she denies any
impropriety, but he demands the prisoner’s death and forces her to choose
the manner of Gennaro’s execution. Pretending to pardon him, the Duke
offers Gennaro a glass of wine and he swallows it. After a stunning trio (Guai
se ti sfugge un moto, Se ti tradisce un detto!) the Duke leaves and Lucrezia
hurries to Gennaro, giving him an antidote to the poison the Duke has mixed
with the wine. He drinks, and in a last duet she implores him to flee the city
and her husband. (Bevi e fuggi … te’n prego, o Gennaro!)

Act II

A small courtyard leading into Gennaro’s house. A hall in the
Negroni palace brightly lit and decked out for a festive banquet

Ignoring Lucrezia’s advice, Gennaro attends a party at the palace,
swearing never to be parted from his friend Orsini. Orsini leads the party in a
brindisi or drinking song (Il segreto per esser felici) and they drink.
Lucrezia enters and announces that in revenge for their insults in Venice she
has poisoned their wine and arranged five coffins for their bodies. She has
hitherto believed that Gennaro fled Ferrara on her advice, and is thus dismayed
when he steps forward and announces that she has poisoned a sixth. Orsini,
Liverotto, Vitellozzo, Petrucci and Gazella fall dead. Gennaro seizes a dagger
and attempts to kill Lucrezia, but she stops him by revealing that he is in
fact her son. Once again she asks him to drink the antidote, but this time he
refuses, choosing to die with his friends. In a final cabaletta (Era desso il
figlio mio,) Lucrezia mourns her son and expires.

[Synopsis Source: Wikipedia]

here for a more detailed synopsis
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here for the complete libretto
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image_description=Lucrezia Borgia by Bartolomeo Veneto
first_audio_name=Gaetano Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia
product_title=Gaetano Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia
product_by=Alfonso, Duca di Ferrara: Michele Pertusi; Donna Lucrezia Borgia: Mariella Devia; Gennaro: Marcelo ¡lvarez; Maffio Orsini: Daniela Barcellona; Jeppo Liverotto: Carlo Bosi; Don Apostolo Gazella: Piero Terranova; Ascanio Petrucci: Fabio Capitanucci; Oloferno Vitellozzo: Antonio Feltracco; Gubetta: Alessandro Svab; Rustighello: Iorio Zennaro; Astolfo: Eldar Aliev; Una voce: Ernesto Panariello. Chorus of il Teatro alla Scala, Milano. Orchestra of il Teatro alla Scala, Milano. Conductor: Renato Palumbo. Teatro degli Arcimboldi, 28 September 2002, Milano.