Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > La Gioconda (Ponchielli)
An Opera by Amilcare Ponchielli
Amilcare Ponchielli is celebrated in Dr. Riemanns "Dictionary of Music" as "next to Verdi, the most famous of modern Italian opera composers." Yet, of the considerable number of operas which he wrote, only "La Gioconda," produced at Milan in 1876, has "found its way into foreign lands." Verdi, especially in his "Aida," certainly had an influence on Ponchielli, but much has happened, even in Italian opera, since "Gioconda" was written, though that work still figures in the repertory.
The story, a melodrama of the most pronounced type, is founded on Victor Hugos "Angelo." It deals with the fortunes of a Venetian street-singer, especially with her love for the fickle Enzo. Enzo intrigues with another woman, but La Gioconda is generous enough to save both him and his mistress from the vengeance of the latters husband. In the end she kills herself in order to escape falling into the hands of Barnaba, the spy.
Ponchielli had a strong individual musical and dramatic temperament. "Gioconda" is, on the whole, his best opera. It is remarkable for fine, broad melodies, gay and rhythmic measures, and picturesque orchestration; while as a spectacle the scenes, as mounted at Covent Garden, surpass in brilliancy those of "Aida." Ponchielli was born near Cremona in 1834, and died in 1886.