Alison Jones's Opera Plot Summaries.

Claude Debussy:
Pelléas et Mélisande

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Oct 98

ACT I

Scene 1. A forest

Golaud, lost in the forest while hunting, finds a young girl weeping by the side of a pool. There is a golden crown in the water but she vehemently refuses his offer to get it out because it had been given to her by someone who had frightened her and from whom she had run away. All she can tell him is that her name is Mélisande and that she comes from far away. With some difficulty he persuades her to go with him, as long as he doesn't touch her.

Scene 2. A room in the castle of King Arkel

Geneviève reads to the half-blind Arkel a letter written to Pelléas by his half-brother Golaud, in which he relates the circumstances of his meeting with Mélisande six months ago. He has now married her but knows no more of her story than he did then. He fears that Arkel will not accept this marriage but Arkel, though he had hoped to mend old feuds by marrying Golaud, a widower, to another princess, resigns himself to the inevitable.

Pelléas appears, in tears at a letter from his friend Marcellus begging him to attend his deathbed, but Arkel reminds him that his father, gravely ill upstairs, has a greater claim on him. Geneviève reminds him to light the lamp which will signal to Golaud that he may return in peace.

Scene 3. In front of the castle

Mélisande comments on the darkness caused by the thick forests around the castle and Geneviève tells her that she was similarly struck when she first arrived there. Pelléas joins them and they watch a ship sailing past. Pelléas tells Mélisande that he is leaving.

ACT II

Scene 1. A fountain in the park

Pelléas takes Mélisande to an old fountain where she plays near the deep water, causing him to fear for her safety. She plays with her wedding ring and it falls in the water as the clock strikes mid-day. Pelléas advises her to tell Golaud the truth.

Scene 2. A room in the castle

Golaud is in bed, having been thrown from his horse on the stroke of mid-day, and Mélisande tends him. She tells him she is not happy in the castle but is unable to explain why. She says she believes that Pelléas does not like her, but this is not the reason; but she does admit to being oppressed by the gloom of the forest-surrounded castle.

Golaud takes her hand and discovers the loss of the ring. She tells him it must have fallen from her finger when she was gathering shells in a cave near the sea. He commands her to go and look for it at once, even though it is night, for fear it might get washed away by the tide. She is to take Pelléas with her.

Scene 3. Outside a cave

Pelléas and Mélisande have gone to the cave, as he tells her she must be able to describe the place where she says she has lost the ring. Mélisande is frightened at the sight of three old paupers sleeping in the cave.

ACT III

Scene 1. One of the castle towers

Pelléas appears below Mélisande's tower room to tell her that he is leaving. At his request she stretches out her hand for him to kiss. He cannot reach it but Mélisande's long hair cascades over him and he embraces it and pretends that he will hold her there by it. Golaud comes upon them and upbraids them for childishness.

Scene 2. The castle vaults

Golaud takes Pelléas to a stagnant pool in the underground chambers of the castle. Pelléas feels as if he is suffocating and they leave.

Scene 3. A terrace outside the vaults

Pelléas rejoices in the fresh air and Golaud warns him to keep away from Mélisande. She is not to be upset because she is about to have a child.

Scene 4. In front of the castle

Outside Mélisande's window Golaud tries to get his son Yniold to tell him what happens between Pelléas and Mélisande when he is not there. Yniold can only tell him that though they are always together he has only seen them kiss once. Golaud lifts the child to look into the room. He sees Pelléas enter but he and Mélisande only look at the light and say nothing. Yniold is frightened by his father's ill-suppressed violent jealousy and asks to be put down.

ACT IV

Scene 1. A room in the castle

Pelléas tells Mélisande his father has recovered and advises him to travel. He intends to leave at once but arranges to meet her by the fountain to bid her farewell. Arkel tells Mélisande he has felt sorry for her as the castle has been so gloomy. He hopes that her youth and beauty will open the way to a new era.

Golaud bursts in with blood on his head which he says comes from walking through a thorny hedge. He refuses to let Mélisande touch him and orders her to bring his sword. She is trembling and he assures her he has no intention of killing her, but bursts into a mad rage and drags her round the room by her hair.

Scene 2. The fountain in the park

Yniold tries in vain to extract his golden ball from beneath a stone. A shepherd passes with his sheep.

Pelléas waits for Mélisande. He tells her that he must leave because he loves her and she confesses that she has loved him since first seeing him. They embrace passionately, half fearfully, half defiantly, realising that the gates have been shut behind them and that Golaud is waiting in the shadows. Golaud kills Pelléas and Mélisande runs away.

ACT V

A room in the castle

Although only slightly wounded by Golaud, Mélisande, who has given birth to a daughter, is dying. Golaud, feeling the essential innocence of the lovers, is filled with remorse, but this does not stop him from trying to find out whether their love was guilty. Mélisande denies it but he is unable to believe her and realises there will be no resolution to his torment. Mélisande's child is brought to her. She is too weak to hold her and feels pity for her. She dies quietly and Arkel says that it is now the child's turn.

Gaetano Donizetti:
Don Pasquale

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

May 97

ACT I

Scene 1. Don Pasquale's house

Elderly bachelor Don Pasquale is planning to marry, to spite his nephew Ernesto who is refusing to marry the girl of his uncle's choice. Dr Malatesta, who has been commissoned to find the bride, tells him that his sister Sofronia, fresh from the convent, innocent, shy and modest, will suit his friend exactly, provoking a frenzy of anticipation in Don Pasquale.

He asks Ernesto for the last time if he will agree to the chosen bride; and when he refuses - being in love with the young and attractive, but not rich, widow Norina - his uncle orders him to leave the house, as he is about to get married himself.

Ernesto advises caution and suggests consulting Dr Malatesta, whose good sense and friendship he trusts, only to learn that the doctor has actually offered his own sister as the bride. Ernesto feels betrayed.

Scene 2. Norina's house

Norina, reading about the power of a lady's glance to bring her chosen knight to her feet, prides herself on having the same ability - only she has a good heart and does not abuse her power. She is waiting for Dr Malatesta, who has indicated that he has a plan to help her and Ernesto, but not revealed the details. She receives a note from Ernesto which she hands to the doctor when he arrives - Ernesto, accusing his friend of treachery and of having duped Don Pasquale into marrying his sister, announces that, disinherited by his uncle, he is leaving both home and country.

Dr Malatesta reassures Norina and explains his plan. She is to go through a mock marriage ceremony with Don Pasquale (he has a cousin who will pretend to be the notary), pretending to be a shy convent-bred girl; and then to change into a virago after the ceremony. Satisfied that this plan will help Ernesto, she is ready to throw herself into the play-acting.

ACT II

Don Pasquale's house

Ernesto sadly prepares to leave for foreign parts. Dr Malatesta brings the heavily veiled Norina, who pretends to be frightened of Don Pasquale and alarmed at the idea of taking off her veil in front of a man. Questioning her about her interests, Don Pasquale is charmed when she answers that she does not care for the theatre or going out, but prefers to sit at home and sew. His delight increases when she finally takes off the veil.

The marriage contract is signed. Ernesto's voice is heard outside, arguing with the servants who refuse to let him in, but he is allowed in when the "notary" explains the need for another witness. He is thunderstuck at the sight of Norina, but the doctor manages to draw him aside and persuade him to do nothing rash, assuring him that everything is under control.

When Don Pasquale wants to kiss his bride she refuses. What's more, she says, he is too old for her to be seen out with. She needs a young escort -Ernesto, for instance - and threatens to hit Don Pasquale if he crosses her. Summoning the servants, she declares that there are not enough of them, and instructs the major-domo to engage more and to order her a coach and horses and to send for hairdressers, dressmakers and jewellers. She also plans to refurnish the old-fashioned house.

She takes advantage of the ensuing confusion, while Don Pasquale expostulates and Dr Malatesta pretends to be shocked, to reassure Ernesto, who by now has a fair idea what is going on and rejoices in his uncle's discomfiture.

ACT III

Scene 1. Don Pasquale's house

Servants rush around, carrying out Norina's commands, while Don Pasquale tears his hair at the mounting pile of bills. When Norina appears, all dressed up and ready to go to the theatre, he tries to stop her, accusing her of being a flirt, and she slaps his face. Although she regrets having had to take such a step, she believes it is necessary to drive the point home; and in fact it produces immediate results, as Don Pasquale starts demanding a divorce. Norina flounces out, deliberately dropping a paper. Picking it up, expecting yet another bill, Don Pasquale finds it is an unsigned assignation for that evening in the garden.

He sends for Malatesta, who first arranges further details of the plot with Ernesto, who is to meet Norina in the garden, but slip away before he can be discovered. Then he attends to Don Pasquale's complaints about the treatment he has received and about the letter. He and Malatesta plan to catch Norina and her mysterious lover in the garden.

Scene 2. Don Pasquale's garden

Ernesto serenades Norina, who then joins him in a love duet. Ernesto then slips away before Don Pasquale and Dr Malatesta can catch him. Don Pasquale again announces his intention of divorcing his wife and the doctor suggests that she will be more likely to agree and leave the house if another bride comes into it - Ernesto's Norina. Norina pretends to object, thus spurring Don Pasquale to approve of Ernesto's marriage. At Malatesta's urging, he also promises to give Ernesto a handsome allowance. Ernesto then appears and Norina's true identity is revealed. Don Pasquale's anger at the deception gives way to his relief that he is not, after all, really married to a spendthrift, unfaithful shrew, and he readily gives his blessing to the young couple.

Gaetano Donizetti:
L'Elisir d'Amore

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Aug 95

ACT I

Scene 1. Adina's farm

The peasants are resting after work on Adina's farm. She is reading, watched by Nemorino, who loves her but is too shy to approach her. Adina tells everyone that she has been reading how Tristan, pining with love for Isolde, drank a love potion which caused her to fall in love with him.

Arriving to a drum roll at the head of his soldiers, Belcore gives Adina a bouquet and proposes marriage, confident that no girl can resist a soldier. She declines the offer, and the jealous Nemorino wishes he could approach her as confidently as Belcore. Adina offers wine to Belcore and his men.

Nemorino plucks up the courage to speak to Adina of his love, but she answers that she is capricious and wishes to remain free, advising him to go to the city and live with his rich, ailing uncle. He is unable to accept her advice to love lightly as she does.

Scene 2. The village square

Heralded by a trumpet, the quack Dr Dulcamara arrives, promising potions to cure all ills. Nemorino asks if he has Queen Isolde's elixir and Dulcamara, at first puzzled, recovers and pretends to have just the thing. He sells Nemorino a bottle of the elixir - actually wine - with instructions to drink it slowly. By the time Adina arrives, Nemorino is sufficiently drunk and elated with the prospect of her imminent surrender to love to be able to ignore her. She is piqued, but decides that the harder he tries to break the chain, the stronger it will be. She flirts with Belcore and agrees to marry him in a week's time, hoping to provoke Nemorino, who, however, is confident in the power of his elixir.

When Belcore receives orders that he and his men must move on, he persuades Adina to marry him that night. Nemorino begs in vain for postponement of the wedding till the next day, by which time he expects the elixir to have taken effect, but Adina is determined to torment him and Belcore brushes him aside. Everyone except Nemorino accepts an invitation to the supposed wedding.

ACT II

Scene 1. Inside Adina's farmhouse

Everyone except Nemorino is celebrating. Dulcamara produces a new duet which he sings with Adina. It tells of a girl who refuses a rich suitor because she loves a poor man. When the time comes for the signing of the contract, Adina is annoyed that Nemorino is not present. When the others have danced out, Nemorino approaches Dulcamara, explaining that he cannot wait till the next day for the elixir to take effect. Dulcamara advises another bottle, but Nemorino has no more money. When Belcore learns of his problem, he explains that he will receive cash immediately if he enlists. He does so, to the amusement of Belcore at having enlisted his rival.

Scene 2. A courtyard

Adina's friend Giannetta tells the village girls that Nemorino's uncle has died and left him a large fortune and they all flock around him. Not yet aware of the news, he attributes his sudden popularity to the elixir. Adina is angry at his apparent desertion of her and Dulcamara wonders if he has accidentally hit on the real elixir of love. When he explains to her that Nemorino had bought the elixir from him to win the heart of some unfeeling beauty, Adina realises that Nemorino really loves her and is remorseful at her treatment of him. Perceiving that she loves Nemorino, Dulcamara decides that she needs a dose of the potion to bring him back to her, but she assures him that she needs no elixir other than her own beauty, which Nemorino is powerless to resist.

Nemorino has seen tears in Adina's eyes and believes she will soon be his, but pretends to be indifferent, telling her he is unable to choose between the village girls clamoring for his attention. She tells him that she has bought back his freedom from the army because he is needed in the village, but is reluctant to admit to her love until he announces that he will still become a soldier if she does not.

Belcore soon recovers from his rejection, declaring that there are lots more fish in the sea. Dulcamara points to the success of his elixir and is besieged by eager customers.

Gaetano Donizetti:
La Fille du Régiment

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Feb 97

ACT I

Outside a Tyrolean village

A group of villagers, expecting to be overrun by the victorious Napoleonic army, is joined by the Marchioness of Berkenfield, whose journey has been interrupted by the fighting. There is relief when they learn that the French have withdrawn, but alarm when Sergeant Sulpice appears, much to his amusement, as his intentions are peaceful. He is joined by Marie, the orphan girl who had been brought up by the regiment since she was a baby and who has just been made the regiment's vivandiere.

As Sulpice is interrogating her about a strange young man she has been seen with, the soldiers drag him in; he is Tonio, a Tyrolean peasant, who has been found hanging round the camp. Marie saves him from instant execution as a spy by telling the soldiers how he had saved her from falling over a precipice. They immediately hail him as a brother, but as they are summoned by rollcall, Sulpice makes sure Tonio is not left alone with Marie, although she claims him as her prisoner and promises to keep an eye on him.

Tonio manages to give the Sulpice the slip and rejoins Marie, who explains that the regiment are her collective fathers. They confess their love and wander off.

The nervous marchioness explains to Suplice that she wishes to resume her interrupted journey to her castle of Berkenfield. The name reminds him of a former officer, Captain Robert, a name which, in turn, has strong associations for her. She explains that her sister had been married to the captain and their daughter lost. Suplice tells her that the child had been found on the battlefield and is alive and well and her upbringing has fitted her for her role as an heiress - a claim shattered by Marie's rough-and-ready military vocabulary when she learns that the lady is her aunt. The marchioness wishes to take Marie away with her.

Tonio has decided to join the regiment to be near his beloved. The soldiers, although ready to accept him as a recruit, are dubious about his wish to marry Marie, until he assures them that she loves him. They give their consent, only to learn that Marie must leave them. All express their sorrow.

ACT II

A salon in the castle of Berkenfield

The marchioness has arranged a marriage for Marie with the Duke of Krakentorp and has summoned Sulpice to help her secure Marie's consent. The marchioness, who believes that Marie has lost her unladylike ways, gives her a singing lesson, but the presence of Sulpice causes her to abandon the sentimental ditty in favour of a rousing regimental song, which he joins in.

The marchioness takes Sulpice aside, and Marie is suddenly surrounded by the regiment, including Tonio, who has been promoted to officer for his courage. Marie sends the soldiers off with the steward to try the cellars, while she and Tonio try to persuade Sulpice to plead their cause with the marchioness. She, however, is unmoved, sending the lovers off in different directions. She admits to Sulpice that Marie is not her niece, but her illegitimate daughter. She has set up the grand marriage to provide Marie with the position and security she cannot legally give her. Sulpice is convinced that the marriage would be in Marie's best interest. When the dowager Duchess of Krakentrop, mother of the bridegroom, arrives with other guests, she is affronted to find the bride absent. Marie, who now knows the secret of her birth, embraces her mother and prepares to sign the contract, but the soldiers, anxious for their daughter's happiness, tell the guests that she has been their vivandiere. They are at first scandalised, then charmed by Marie's sincerity. The marchioness, touched by Marie's readiness to sacrifice herself, agrees to let her marry Tonio.

Gaetano Donizetti:
Maria Stuarda

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jul 92

ACT I

The Palace of Westminster

A tourney has been given in honor of the French ambassador, who is negotiating with Elisabetta concerning a marriage proposal from the King of France, which she is contemplating through a sense of duty to her subjects, while secretly pining for Leicester, whose absence from court she notices. Talbot, who is in charge of the royal prisoner, tries to intercede with Elisabetta on behalf of Maria, imprisoned in Fotheringay Castle since fleeing from Scotland. But the Queen is torn between sympathy for Maria and fear that she is plotting against her; Cecil warns against the perils of pity.

Leicester arrives and she gives him a ring to take to the French Ambassador as a token of her acceptance of the offer of marriage, but is incensed when Leicester seems unmoved by the commission. Privately Talbot gives Leicester a portrait of Maria and a letter from her and Leicester resolves to free the woman he loves by any means. He gives Elisabetta the letter, which is a plea for a meeting with her, and he urges her to consent, pointing out that she can use a hunting party in the vicinity of Fotheringay as a pretext. His enthusiasm for her rival's cause reminds Elisabetta of Maria's attempts on the English throne and when Leicester waxes unwisely lyrical about Maria's charms, the Queen exults that she has been brought low.

ACT II

The grounds of Fotheringay Castle

Accompanied by Anna, Maria walks in the park, rejoicing in her limited freedom, but remembering sadly the happy days of her youth in France. The sound of the approaching royal hunt terrifies her, and she regrets having asked Elisabetta for a meeting, but, supported by Leicester and his assurances that Elisabetta had been moved by the letter, she agrees to stay and face her.

Elisabetta also views the occasion with mixed feelings, on the one hand rejecting Cecil's urgings that she execute Maria and on the other enraged by the fervor with which Leicester argues her rival's case. As the queens confront one another, each is already convinced that the other is haughty, but Maria makes an effort and humbles herself to ask for clemency. Elisabetta is obdurate, and her references to Maria's murdered husband and aspersions on her honor provoke Maria, despite Leicester's attempts to calm her, into taunting Elisabetta with being a bastard and a "vile, lascivious harlot." Furious, Elisabetta advises her to expect her death sentence, but Maria exults in her temporary triumph.

ACT III

Scene 1. The Palace of Westminster

Although mortally affronted, Elisabetta hesitates to sign the death warrant, despite the urgings of Cecil that her safety and that of the realm depend on Maria's death. Only the arrival of Leicester provokes her into signing. His prayers for mercy only provoke her into ordering him to witness the execution.

Scene 2. Maria's apartment in Fotheringay

Maria is still exultant over her humiliation of Elisabetta, though fearing that Leicester may be in danger from her wrath. Cecil brings the death warrant. She refuses his offer of a priest, but admits to Talbot that she is oppressed by the recollection of her sins. He reveals that he has taken holy orders so as to hear her confession.

She confesses to guilt over the murder of her husband, Darnley, and also seems to admit complicity in the Babington plot (not only to free her but elevate her to the English throne by murdering the Queen). Talbot gives her absolution.

Scene 3. A room next to the execution chamber

Maria's friends lament her fate, and she, facing death calmly, tries to comfort them and give them strength. As the cannon sounds the signal for her execution, Cecil asks for her last requests. She forgives Elisabetta and prays for a blessing on her and the kingdom. She tries to calm the grief-stricken Leicester and hopes that her innocent blood will placate the wrath of Heaven. She goes resolutely to her death as her friends grieve over her fate.

Gaetano Donizetti:
Lucia di Lammermoor

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Apr 98

ACT I

Scene 1. The entrance hall of Ravenswood Castle

Normanno urges the servants to scour the grounds for an intruder. Enrico is worried because his sister Lucia refuses to marry Arturo, an alliance which would save Enrico from the consequences of having been on the losing side in a recent uprising.

Raimondo reminds him that Lucia has not recovered from the grief of her mother's death and is not yet ready for love, but Normanno claims that Lucia is in love - with a man who had saved her from a wild bull, none other than Enrico's mortal enemy, Edgardo. Enrico's rage is exacerbated by the failure of the retainers to capture the intruder, Edgardo.

Scene 2. The castle grounds

As Lucia and Alisa wait for Edgardo by a ruined fountain, Lucia says that she has seen the ghost of the fountain, a lady killed by her jealous lover, an earlier Ravenswood.

Edgardo announces that he is leaving at once for France on State business. Lucia refuses his request to tell Enrico of their love, rightly fearing his bitter hatred of Edgardo; and Edgardo reminds her that although he has neglected for her sake his oath to avenge his father's death on her brother, the oath still stands. She calms him and they swear eternal fidelity and exchange rings.

ACT II

Scene 1. A room in the castle

Normanno tells Enrico of the success of his scheme to intercept all letters between Lucia and Edgardo, now some months absent in France. Even though the wedding guests are already assembling, Enrico has yet to obtain Lucia's consent to the marriage, but he has a forged letter which he hopes will convince her that Edgardo plans to marry another. When she tells him that her faith is pledged to Edgardo, he overwhelms her with the letter and reminds her that only Arturo can save him from ruin. Raimondo, who has sent letters to Edgardo on Lucia's behalf, tells her that there has been no answer and advises her to sacrifice herself for her brother.

Scene 2. The great hall of the castle

The wedding is about to be solemnised. Enrico explains Lucia's pallor and listlessness to Arturo as symptoms of her mourning for her mother. No sooner has Lucia signed the contract than Edgardo bursts in. He claims Lucia, but Raimondo shows him the contract. He throws the ring she has given him at her and demands his in return and leaves, cursing her faithlessness.

ACT III

Scene 1. The tower of Wolf's Crag

In a raging storm Enrico comes to Edgardo's home to challenge him to a duel, taunting him with the reminder that Lucia now belongs to another. They agree to fight at dawn near the tombs of the Ravenswoods.

Scene 2. The great hall of Ravenswood Castle

The rejoicing of the wedding guests is interrupted by Raimondo, bearing the news that Lucia has gone mad and killed Arturo. Covered in blood, she enters, imagining that she is about to be married to Edgardo. Enrico's reproaches turn to remorse when he realises her state. Her wandering mind becomes more disturbed as she remembers Edgardo's anger, and she collapses.

Scene 3. By the tombs of the Ravenswoods

Waiting for dawn by the tombs of his ancestors, Edgardo thinks bitterly of Lucia's apparent faithlessness. Tidings of her imminent death are followed by the death knell. He realises that he has misjudged her and stabs himself, hoping to join her in death.

Gaetano Donizetti:
Lucrezia Borgia

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jun 90

ACT I

A terrace of the Grimani Palace in Venice

Gennaro and his friends are celebrating the carnival, preparatory to leaving for Ferrara with an embassy from Venice. When Lucrezia Borgia is mentioned, Orsini tells why he has great cause to fear the name, while Gennaro, to whom the tale is all too familiar, goes to sleep on a bench - once, after Gennaro saved his life in battle and they swore to live and die together, an uncanny black-clad old man suddenly appeared, declaring that they would die together and warning them against the Borgias, particularly Lucrezia.

All go inside except Gennaro, who is still asleep, and Gubetta, the confidential servant of Lucrezia Borgia, who has infiltrated the group and who remains to greet his mistress, who arrives alone and masked in a gondola.

She goes over to the sleeping Gennaro, dismissing Gubetta, who fears that she will be recognised and insulted, and who is intrigued by her interest in Gennaro. Duke Alfonso and his henchman Rustighello watch as she pours out her pent-up maternal affection. As they leave, she removes her mask to kiss Gennaro's hand and he wakes up.

Gennaro at once declares that he loves her, though he warns her that his unknown mother is dearer to him than all other women. He explains that he was brought up by a Neapolitan fisherman and that the only news he ever had of his mother was from a messsenger who brought him armor and a horse and a letter from her explaining that she was the victim of powerful enemies and bidding him never to ask her name or try to find her.

Lucrezia encourages him to continue loving his mother. She prepares to leave him as his friends return, but he tries to restrain her, eager to learn who she is. His friends, however, have recognised her and are ready, despite her efforts to prevent them, to divulge her identity. They surround her and reproach her with the deaths of their friends and kinsmen and finally unmask her, revealing to the horrified Gennaro that she is Lucrezia Borgia.

ACT II

Scene 1. A square in Ferrara, with a palace on one side and a small house on the other

Alfonso learns from Rustighello that Gennaro lodges in the house near the palace, and prepares to take revenge on one he suspects is his wife's lover. Gennaro has been entertaining his friends and as they take their leave, they taunt him with his melancholy, suggesting that he has fallen under the Borgia's spell. To prove his detestation he defaces the Borgia coat of arms on the palace wall - removing the B, to produce ORGIA (orgy).

Rustighello, about to seize Gennaro and take him to Alfonso, encounters Astolfo, Lucrezia's henchman, who is intent on taking him to her. Rustighello wins the confrontation by force of numbers and his men break down Gennaro's door.

Scene 2. A hall in the duke's palace

Rustighello reports the success of his mission - Gennaro is a prisoner. Alfonso orders him to get a certain flagon of wine (being careful not to drink any as it is Borgia wine) and a sword, and to wait in the next room for a signal which will tell him which to bring.

Lucrezia storms in demanding justice for the defacing of her name and is aghast when Alfonso, having agreed, produces the culprit and Gennaro, rejecting her attempts to blame his friends, proudly admits to the deed. Having Gennaro sent out of the room, she pleads with Alfonso to spare him, but he is adamant, refusing to believe her when she denies the accusation that Gennaro is her lover, and when she resorts to threats, reminds her that she is in his power, as is Gennaro. The only concession he makes is to allow her to choose the means of Gennaro's death - poison or the sword. She rejects the sword and Gennaro is brought back, followed by Rustighello with the poisoned wine.

Alfonso tells Gennaro that Lucrezia has forgiven the insult and offers to take him into his service, but Gennaro is pledged to the service of Venice. He now tells the duke what he was too proud to claim before - that he had saved the life of Alfonso's father. Lucrezia's hopes that Alfonso will be swayed by this are quickly dashed as he offers Gennaro a parting drink and orders her to pour the poisoned wine.

He then leaves the room and Lucrezia tells Gennaro that he has been poisoned and presses him to take an antidote. Although doubly suspicious of her now, he consents and she lets him out by a secret door as Alfonso and Rustighello reappear.

ACT III

Scene 1. A courtyard outside Gennaro's house

Gennaro's feelings for Lucrezia have veered round again to love and he is about to obey her instructions and leave Ferrara. About to recapture him, Rustighello and his men listen as Orsini tries to persuade Gennaro to attend a banquet at the house of Princess Negroni. Despite his lack of enthusiasm and Lucrezia's warnings that he is in danger in Ferrara, Gennaro is unwilling to part with Orsini, so he consents to attend the banquet and Orsini agrees to leave with him the next morning.

Rustighello tells his men that there is no need to pursue Gennaro, as he is running into a trap.

Scene 2. A room in the Negroni palace

Orsini, Gennaro's other friends and Gubetta all make merry, but Gennaro is gloomy. To ensure that the friends are isolated, Gubetta picks a quarrel with Orsini and the ladies leave the room in alarm. The quarrel is patched up and new wine is brought. Laughing off Gennaro's suspicions because Gubetta does not drink his wine, Orsini sings a drinking song, whose sentiments of enjoying the present are echoed by his companions; but their enjoyment is disturbed by a funereal chant from the next room.

The lights go out, the doors are found to be locked and Lucrezia Borgia appears, telling them that she has prepared a supper for them in Ferrara in return for their hospitality in Venice: they have been poisoned and five coffins await their bodies.

Gennaro steps forward and tells her that she will need six. She has the others taken out and tries to persuade him to use the antidote again, but when he learns there is not enough for his friends, he refuses and draws his knife on Lucrezia. To restrain him from such a sin, she tells him that he is not only a Borgia, but her son, and he dies in her arms. As Alfonso appears, she explains that Gennaro was her son and falls lifeless.

Antonin Dvorak:
Rusalka

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 94

ACT I

A glade at the edge of a lake

Three wood-sprites tease the Water Gnome. He pretends to try to catch them, but is philosophical when they run off laughing. His daughter, the water nymph Rusalka, confesses that she wants to become human, because mortals have souls which are denied to the fairy world, and because she has fallen in love with a mortal who often swims in the lake. Grieving, but realising that there is no turning back for her, he advises her to consult the witch Jezibaba. Rusalka calls on the moon to tell her love she is waiting for him, then calls Jezibaba, whose cottage is beside the lake. First giving her the ability to walk on land, the witch asks what she will give to become human. She is unimpressed by Rusalka's offer of all that she has, telling her that she will have to be mute when among humans. She also warns that if her love is not returned, her lover will share eternal damnation with her. Rusalka is confident that her human soul and her love will be strong enough to prevail. They go into the cottage, where Jezibaba brews the potion.

Morning approaches and the Prince's hunting party draws near the lake, in pursuit of an elusive white doe. The Prince, commenting that the woods are full of magic, sends his followers home and sits by the lake. Rusalka appears before him, dressed like a waif. The Prince wonders if she is woman or fairy tale and asks if she is kin to the white doe. She is unable to reply and he declares that her lips will at least respond to his kiss. When he asks if she loves him she flings herself into his arms, as her sisters and father lament. The Prince takes her with him.

ACT II

A week later, a park surrounding the Prince's castle. In the background a gallery and banquet hall. In the foreground a pond. The kitchen boy explains to the gamekeeper that the Prince has found a strange creature in the woods and is likely to marry her. The gamekeeper confirms that the woods are full of sinister magic. The kitchen boy worries that the Prince has changed, walks round in a daze, and has resisted the parson's attempts to warn him of danger. The only hope is that he is supposed to be fickle and is apparently turning his attentions to a visiting foreign princess.

They run off as Rusalka, beautifully dressed but sad and pale, approaches with the Prince, who complains that he has yet to fathom her mystery and reproaches her for not responding to the warmth of his passion. The Foreign Princess is jealous of the Prince's love for Rusalka, and detaches him from her by reminding him of his duties as her host. They leave to prepare for a ball and the Water Gnome emerges from the pond, lamenting that his daughter has left her home and fearing that she will be unhappy. At the ball the Prince courts the Foreign Princess and neglects Rusalka, who runs out to her father lamenting that the Prince has left her for another. Now neither a fairy nor a woman, she can neither live nor die. The Princess rejoices in the change that has come over the Prince now that he is courting her. He swears that he prefers her warmth to Rusalka's pallid coldness, but the Princess taunts him with not knowing which he prefers. When he declares that he loves only her, Rusalka flings herself desperately into his arms, but he pushes her away, terrified by her icy coldness. The Water Gnome pulls Rusalka into the pond and the confused Prince begs the Princess for help against the powers of magic, but she derisively tells him to join his beloved in hell, and leaves.

ACT III

The glade by the lake

Rusalka laments her fate, cut off from her sisters and rejected by the Prince. Jezibaba tells her that only the blood of her betrayer can save her, but Rusalka, horrified, throws the knife into the lake and Jezibaba taunts her for her weakness.

As Rusalka dives into the lake, her sisters reject her, since she has been corrupted by the embrace of a mortal.

The kitchen boy and the gamekeeper come to consult Jezibaba, as the Prince has been bewitched by an evil creature who has left him under a spell. Angrily the Water Gnome emerges from the lake, defending his daughter and blaming the Prince for betraying her. The boy and the gamekeeper run off in terror.

The wood-sprites try to resume their sport with the Water Gnome, but he is too sad to respond to their game. The Prince runs madly out of the wood, crying out for Rusalka as his white doe. Now changed into a will-o'-the-wisp, she appears in the moonlight above the lake and he begs her if dead, to kill him; if alive, to save him. She answers that she is neither living nor dead and now her embrace can only bring him death. She kisses him and he dies as she begs for divine mercy for him.


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