Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia

This year marks the fifth edition of Donizetti Opera (November 12 – December 1), the international music festival dedicated to the rediscovery of Gaetano Donizetti’s works, featuring performances and a series of related events daily. Donizetti Opera, under the artistic direction of Francesco Micheli, was recently named Best Festival at the Oper! Awards in Berlin, which cited the festival’s high quality and audience appreciation.   

This year’s program includes Donizetti’s masterpiece Lucrezia Borgia, with performances slated for November 22, 24 and 30 (plus a special preview performance on November 20 for festival-goers under 30) at Teatro Sociale in Bergamo. Presented will be the new critical edition by Roger Parker and Rosie Ward. Performances feature the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra and the Teatro Municipale Choir of Piacenza, conducted by Riccardo Frizza (November 22 and 24) and Carla Delfrate (November 30). The production is directed by Andrea Bernard; scenes by Alberto Beltrame.

Donizetti Lucrezia Borgia banner
Originally premiering at La Scala on December 26, 1833, Lucrezia Borgia is considered one of Donizetti’s most innovative operas. While censorship problems, namely in southern Italy, led to the work’s slow diffusion, by the late 1830s it had become one of Donizetti’s most popular operas in Italy and abroad. Indeed, it was a hit throughout the duration of the 19th century. The choice of the subject, based on a play by Victor Hugo, was surely a courageous one, considering the standards of the Italian scene at that time. Lucrezia Borgia spotlights an unconventional heroine, who’s bold and strong-willed; an unusual multitude of characters caught up in their own moral turmoil; and hard-fought musical dramaturgy that succeeds in blending comic and tragic. All factors that contribute incisively to making this an experimental work in comparison to the mainstream musical language of its times.

The new critical edition of Lucrezia Borgia takes the 1998 critical edition a step further. The earlier version was based solely on the original manuscript of the score, and limited itself to a reconstruction of the 1833 premiere. But now, for the first time, Parker and Ward’s critical edition brings back all the changes made by Donizetti over the course of at least ten years. His revisions were done partly to adapt the opera to the demands of new singers and new venues in cities like Florence, London, Milano, Paris, Rome, Metz, to name just a few; and partly as a way to experiment with new dramaturgical solutions, especially in the finale.

Donizetti Lucrezia Borgia
Alongside the most notable integrations, such as the famed cabaletta for Lucrezia, “Si voli il primo a cogliere”, the latest critical edition presents the two arias added for Gennaro, “T’amo qual s’ama un angelo” and “Anch’io provai le tenere smanie” (the latter published for the first time, featuring the composer’s original orchestration), as well as the opera’s three alternative finales: one from the virtually unknown Dalinda, a revisitation of Lucrezia Borgia prepared by Donizetti for Naples in late 1838, which was never staged; and the ones for London, which he wrote in 1839, and Milano the following year. 
These versions appear in the appendix, and, when taken together, reveal the extraordinary range of possibilities, in terms of execution, now available to today’s musicians. 

Images: sketches of Prologo (scene 3), Atto III (last scene) Lucrezia Borgia by G.Donizetti and banner, credits by Festival Donizetti Opera 2019