A ruthless woman with a secret son. A jealous husband bent on vengeance.
A young orphan, whose loyalty will cost him his life.
It’s got poison and betrayals galore. But the best reason to see Lucrezia Borgia in concert is to bask in the skills of an extraordinary soprano. Impossible trills and stratospheric notes make this classic Donizetti an important conquest for the best coloratura sopranos.
Like Joan Sutherland before her, superstar Jessica Pratt has made this music her home. Her agile soprano rings out on stages all over the world, including the famed boards of La Scala.
This is your chance to hear Jessica Pratt perform the title role of Lucrezia Borgia (including the infamous final aria) in concert.
Carlo Montanaro conducts a wonderful cast, including Giuseppe Gipali as Gennaro, Michael Honeyman as Duke Alfonso and Varduhi Abrahamyan as Maffio Orsini. You can hear the splendour of the Opera Australia Orchestra in Hamer Hall.
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Running time: approximately 2 hours & 30 minutes, including one interval.
Sung in Italian with English surtitles.
Lucrezia Borgia is infamous for killing her enemies, and many suspect, her first two husbands.
But when the young Gennaro meets a masked woman, he has no idea it is the murderess Lucrezia. He tells her of his mother who was forced to give him up. She recognises him as her long-lost son, but says nothing.
When Gennaro’s friends arrive, they recognise the woman that has killed many of their friends and relatives, and tell Gennaro what she’s done. He turns from her in disgust.
Later, he and his friends destroy the Borgia family crest.
Lucrezia demands death for the culprit, not knowing she will send her son to die.
When she discovers Gennaro among the perpetrators, Lucrezia orders the friends to drink poisoned wine, believing she can save her son with an antidote.
But her son has his own ideas about honour, and Lucrezia might just stand to lose the only person she’s ever loved.
A terrace of the Grimani Palace in Venice
A feast is in progress. Gennaro, a young soldier, comes out of the party, accompanied by his friends Orsini, Gazella, Petrucci, Vitelozzo and Liverotto. Also with them is a mysterious figure whom they believe to be a Spanish nobleman, but who is really Gubetta, an agent of Lucrezia Borgia. They are all to join a delegation to Ferrara where Lucrezia and her husband, Alfonso d’Este, hold court. The mention of her name causes a shudder amongst them, for each has some reason to fear her. Orsini declares that he has most cause of all. When Gennaro once saved his life in battle they swore eternal friendship, but had no sooner done so than an old man appeared, prophesying that they would live and die together, and warning them to shun the Borgia. The friends dismiss the story and return to the party, leaving Gennaro, who has fallen asleep, alone.
A masked woman (Lucrezia Borgia) comes forward. Gubetta warns her that she is in foreign territory and will have no protection should her identity be discovered. She dismisses him and is soon so preoccupied with the sleeping Gennaro that she does not notice Alfonso and his henchman, Rustighello, in the background. Alfonso suspects that she is in love with Gennaro, and is pleased to learn that the young man is about to visit Ferrara. Gennaro awakens and is overwhelmed by his attraction to Lucrezia. He tells her that there is only one woman he loves more: his mother, whom he has never seen. He grew up believing himself the son of a Neapolitan fisherman, until one day a stranger gave him a horse, weapons and a letter from his mother, warning him that he must never seek to know her identity. Lucrezia is recognised by Orsini. He and his friends surround her, each declaring that she has been responsible for the death of a relative. To Gennaro’s enquiries as to her identity they reply: “It is the Borgia!”
Rustighello reports that Gennaro has taken lodgings in this very square, opposite the palace. Alfonso anticipates his revenge. Gennaro’s companions rally on his loss of spirits since his encounter with Lucrezia, but the reaction they provoke is more violent than they intended. Seeing the name ‘Borgia’ on the facade of the palace, he hacks away at the first letter, leaving the word ‘orgia’. Frightened by the possible consequences of such an action, the friends disperse. Astolfo and Rustighello appear, each in search of Gennaro, one sent by Lucrezia, the other by Alfonso. They comment wryly that their missions, although similar, are not identical. Rustighello, summoning his followers, through superiority of numbers forces Astolfo to leave.
When Alfonso learns that Gennaro has been apprehended, he orders Rustighello to fetch two decanters of wine, one silver and the other gold. He warns him not to drink from the gold decanter, as it contains the poisoned wine of the Borgias. Lucrezia enters in a fury, demanding that Alfonso put to death whoever has dared to insult her name. Alfonso replies that her wishes have already been anticipated, and the prisoner is led in. Lucrezia is aghast to recognise Gennaro who confesses his guilt. She pleads with Alfonso for mercy. When he accuses her of loving Gennaro, she protests her innocence, and switches from pleas to threats. Alfonso remains adamant, merely allowing her to choose whether Gennaro shall die by sword or poison. In desperation, she chooses poison. Gennaro is brought back in and Alfonso tells him that he has yielded to Lucrezia’s pleas to set him free. Surprised and encouraged by such clemency, Gennaro reveals that he had once saved the life of Alfonso’s father in battle. Alfonso feigns gratitude and offers him monetary reward and an appointment in the forces of Ferrara. Gennaro refuses both as he has given his allegiance to Venice. Alfonso suggests they share a parting glass of wine, and forces Lucrezia to pour - from the silver decanter for himself and the gold for Gennaro. Lucrezia, left alone with Gennaro, tells him he has been poisoned and produces an antidote. Although uncertain whether or not this is further treachery, Gennaro drinks the antidote and Lucrezia helps him escape.
Rustighello and his followers come to apprehend Gennaro again. They overhear Orsini dissuading Gennaro from leaving Ferrara immediately and promising to accompany him the following morning, after they have attended an evening banquet at the ‘Princess’ Negroni’s. The friends re-swear friendship until death. As they depart, Rustighello restrains his followers, telling them that they now have no need to detain Gennaro.
La Negroni’s banquet
The festivities are at their height when Gubetta creates a diversion. Daggers are drawn and the banquet breaks up in confusion. As soon as the ladies have left, Gubetta allows himself to be placated, and suggests they drink to renewed friendship. A cupbearer brings fresh glasses. Gennaro notices that Gubetta is not drinking. Orsini sings a drinking song which is interrupted by an offstage chorus, chanting from the service for the dead. The lights go out, and the doors are found to be locked. Panic turns to cold horror as Lucrezia Borgia appears — “You led me a dance, a sad dance, in Venice: I give you a banquet in Ferrara in return.” Five coffins await them, but Gennaro steps forward and declares that a sixth will be needed. Lucrezia has the other five victims led away, and tries to force the antidote upon Gennaro. When he learns that there is only enough for one, he insists that they all die together — and Lucrezia first of all. He takes a dagger and is about to stab her when she declares that she is his mother - and begs him to save himself. But he prefers to die with his friends. Alfonso comes to gloat over his revenge, but Lucrezia turns on him, declaring that Gennaro was her son.