The tragedy needs to be great; the tragedy needs to be true.
In his day, Amilcare Ponchielli was considered the most important Italian composer of the generation after Verdi, but today we know him primarily for La Gioconda, and in particular its famous ballet, ‘La danza delle ore’. The story, based on Angelo, tyrant of Padua by Victor Hugo, is set in 17th-century Venice, where conspiracies and regattas form the backdrop to the fortunes of the singer Gioconda. Harassed by the spy Barnaba, she sacrifices everything to save the man she loves and the woman he prefers over her. An expert on Hugo, the director Olivier Py offers us a dream-like version of this dark Romantic tragedy, presided over by sex and death. A flamboyant grande opera all’italiana conducted by Paolo Carignani and with an exceptional double cast for the six demanding main roles.
In 17th-century Venice, the singer La Gioconda rejects the advances of the spy Barnaba. She is in love with the exiled Enzo Grimaldi, but he, in turn, loves Laura, the wife of leading Venetian Alvise Badoero. Despite her feelings for Enzo, La Gioconda saves the lovers – denounced by Barnaba – a first time, when she recognises Laura as her mother’s protector. Nonetheless convinced that Laura is cheating on him, Alvise seeks revenge and decides to poison his wife. La Gioconda replaces the poison with a sleeping potion and has her rival taken to a safe place where she can be united with Enzo. Having persuaded Barnaba to help her in exchange for her love, she chooses to kill herself.