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Schedule - Deutsche Oper Berlin

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La Gioconda

Amilcare Ponchielli (1834 – 1886)

Information on the piece

Opera in 4 acts;
Libretto by Tobia Gorrio (Arrigo Boito), Tobia Gorrio [Arrigo Boito], loosely based on the play "Angelo, tyran de Padoue" by Victor Hugo;
First performance on 8th April, 1876 at Milan;
Premiered at the Deutsche Oper Berlin on 1st March, 1974

4 hrs 45 mins / 3 intervals

In Italian with German and English surtitles

Pre-performance lecture (in German): 45 minutes prior to each performance

recommended from 16 years
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About the performance

About the work
Uplifting solos, an opulent set design and epic crowd scenes are among the attractions of this gaudy show from the pen of Amilcare Ponchielli, a blend of French grand opéra and folk opera. With its themes of love, passion and hatred, the story revolving around Gioconda, a singer, is tailor-made for the genre. The musically multifarious work is a delight on all levels with its lovely melodies and the famous “Dance of the Hours”, a ballet interlude accompanied by orchestra that remains a catchy and popular number.

The setting is 17th-century Venice. Gioconda is in love with Enzo, a young nobleman, who in turn loves Laura, the wife of Alvise Badoero. Complicating this tangle is the intriguing of Barnaba, a government spy, who is infatuated with Gioconda and will stop at nothing to possess her. Gioconda for her part is torn between her feelings for Enzo and her need to care for her blind and elderly mother, who is never far from her side. Barnaba’s web of lust and loathing gradually ensnarls Gioconda and brings her down. Once Enzo has overcome dangers and fled with Laura, never to return, Gioconda sees only one way out of her woe. Barnaba, smugly believing Gioconda to be his, can only look on as she kills herself.

Born in 1834 in Paderno Fasolaro, near Cremona, and dying in 1886 in Milan, Amilcare Ponchielli is known primarily as the composer of LA GIOCONDA, although he wrote twelve operas in total. However, elements such as the specifically Venetian colour and his highlighting of the traits of individual characters serving almost as leitmotifs reveal that Ponchielli, as a mentor to Pietro Mascagni and Giacomo Puccini, contributed significantly to the rise of verismo in late-19th-century Italy.

About the production
In the early 1970s the Italian director and set designer Filippo Sanjust made a remarkable discovery. In a colleague’s props workshop in Rome he stumbled on the original dismantled set for Amilcare Ponchielli’s LA GIOCONDA, the decorations dating back to the opera’s composition in the late 19th century, 3-dimensional, meticulously painted scenery recalling Renaissance Venice. Some of the sections are even likely to have been used in the world premiere – all preserved, along with the original costume designs. Sanjust instantly set his sights on resurrecting this piece of theatre history. He approached the Deutsche Oper Berlin, where his projects had included the design of a TOSCA set, and convinced the opera house to buy up the decor and allow him to direct the production. Since then, every time Ponchielli’s opera featuring the self-sacrifice of Gioconda the street singer is staged at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, it features the original, lovingly maintained set.

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