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Teatro Regio, Thursday 3 April 2008 - Wednesday 16 April 2008
The action of the prologue takes place in Venice; that of the drama in Ferrara. The period is the beginning of the sixteenth century.
Gennaro, a condottiere, together with Maffio Orsini and other friends, participates at a masked ball in Venice, at the Grimani Palace. A few of them talk about Lucrezia Borgia and how evil she is. Left alone, Gennaro falls asleep. A masked woman, Lucrezia, enters. Gennaro awakes and tells her that he never knew his mother; he thought he was the son of a Neapolitan fisherman, but one day a man told him that that wasn’t his real father, and he brought him a letter in which his mother begged him never to look for her. Lucrezia is moved (it is she who is Gennaro’s real mother) and asks the young man to love his mother and hope to be able to meet her one day. Gennaro’s friends return; Maffio Orsini recognises Lucrezia; they all insult her by recounting her crimes, but Gennaro doesn’t understand their behaviour, and when they tear the mask from Lucrezia’s face, crying “It’s Lucrezia Borgia…look!”, she faints.
In Ferrara. Duke Alphonso, Lucrezia’s fourth husband, thinks that Gennaro is his wife’s lover. Gennaro and his friends are also in Ferrara, and passing in front of the palace that bears the Borgia coat of arms on the façade, Gennaro eliminates the letter “B” with his dagger, thus leaving the word “orgia”. Offended, Lucrezia asks her husband to have the person who carried out such a disgraceful act executed. Alfonso has just captured Gennaro, and Lucrezia is shocked to see that the condemned person is her son. She implores Alfonso to save him, but the duke refuses; she can only choose whether to bring about his death by dagger or poison. She chooses poison. Gennaro drinks the poisoned wine, but Lucrezia manages to give him the antidote and begs him to leave Ferrara.
Before leaving, Gennaro goes with Maffio Orsini to a party at the palace of the princess Negroni, but suddenly the lights go out and the doors close. Lucrezia appears, and reveals her vendetta: those who insulted her in Venice are about to die, poisoned. With horror she discovers that Gennaro is also there. In vain she asks him to drink the antidote: he refuses if his friends cannot drink it too. Lucrezia admits to being his mother. Gennaro dies, and Lucrezia collapses on the body of her son.