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Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti)


Lucrezia Borgia
An Opera by Gaetano Donizetti


This opera was written for Milan in 1834, but was not produced till 1840. It was long popular with audiences of all kinds; partly for its music, no doubt, but partly also because the cast, to be satisfactory, must always include four leading singers.

The libretto is based on one of Victor Hugo’s most dramatic plays, and the theme is, of course, the crimes of the notorious Italian poisoner. Lucrezia Borgia, the wife of the Duke of Ferrara, recognises Gennaro, a young Venetian, as an illegitimate child of her own, and watches over him with a maternal instinct which her husband, ignorant of the relationship, mistakes for illicit passion. Gennaro, taunted by his friends about Lucrezia’s attentions, publicly insults her, and being brought before the Duke for the offence, is condemned to death. Gennaro is poisoned in presence of his mother, who, however, promptly administers an effective antidote. In the last Act Lucrezia, seeking to be revenged on her sons’s friends for their gibes, poisons the wine at a supper party. Unluckily Gennaro is present and drinks the wine with the rest. This time he refuses an antidote, and dies in his mother’s arms. Lucrezia, conscience-stricken, dies also -- for the convenience of the librettist.

Of the music the usual thing has to be said, that it embraces a great number of tuneful melodies, often entirely inappropriate. There is a touch of pathos here and there, as in the last scene, and some fairly effective concerted writing. But, for the most part, the "charming tunes" are without any dramatic significance.






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