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Francesca da Rimini

Saverio Mercadante 1795–1870

Dramma per musica in two acts
Libretto by Felice Romani
First performed August 6 2016, Palazzo Ducale, Martina Franca

A coproduction with the Tirol Festival in Erl
First ever performances in Germany
Sung in Italian with German & English surtitles

There's a chamber music concert on February 26 to tie in with this new production.
Introductory talks (in German) in the Holzfoyer 30 mins before performances begin and available here on video shortly before opening night

Background Francesca da Rimini, née da Polenta, from Ravenna, was married off to Lanciotto Malatesta, son of Rimini’s ruler, for political reasons, but because Lanciotto was »deformed«, his brother Paolo posed as the bridegroom. Francesca and Paolo fall in love at first sight, but on their wedding night Francesca realises that Paolo’s brother Lanciotto is her legal husband. Act 1 Peace reigns again in Rimini after years of war. Lanciotto returns home victorious. He sees that Francesca is unhappy and becomes suspicious. Francesca and Paolo become closer while reading the legend of Lancelot and Guinevere. Lanciotto swears to avenge their infidelity when he finds them alone. Act 2 Lanciotto, who has arrested Francesca and Paolo, intends to punish the lovers with death. They can choose: weapon or poison ... Francesca‘s father Guido, who arrives with a squad of armed men, manages to prevent the catastrophe. Francesca retires to a convent, with the poison in her pocket. She secretly meets Paolo for a final farewell. He tries to persuade her to run away with him to live together happily, or he’ll kill himself. Lanciotto finds them together again and threatens Paolo with his sword. Now what Lanciotto so relentlessly strove for in his fury comes pass ... Guido finds the lifeless bodies of Francesca and Paolo.

They married to seal the dynastical union of two families, but the wife loves her husband’s brother – a breach of trust, that ends in catastrophe.

The inevitable tragedy in the passionate love story between Francesca da Polenta and Paolo Malatesta, immortalised in Dante‘s Divina Commedia, appealed to many artists, including the librettist Felice Romani, with whom Saverio Mercadante loved working.

It was written in 1830 while Mercadante was living in Madrid for a second time. The score, in which Rossini’s influence is evident, focusses on Francesca, Paolo und Lanciotto. The meeting between sister and brother-in-laws in her bedroom is the dramatic and emotional climax to the opera.

Various unfortunate circumstances and rivalry between singers twice prevented the world premiere of Francesca da Rimini taking place during Mercadante’s lifetime – in Madrid, then Milan. The opera had to wait nearly 200 years before it was seen and heard for the first time in 2016, at the Festival della Valle d’Itria. The composer and his 58 operas are almost completely forgotten today, despite the fact that his »canto drammatico«, written in the 1830s, which integrated vocal virtuosity and drama, completely reformed Italian opera after Rossini.