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I due Foscari (The Two Foscari) is an opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on a historical play, The Two Foscari by Lord Byron.


As a subject, Verdi had been considering the Byron play as early as 1843, but, when it was offered to La Fenicemarker in Venicemarker, it was deemed to be unsuitable because parts of it criticized the actions of the Venetian Republicmarker, which included surviving members of the Foscari family.. At the same time, a new opera on the subject of Lorenzino de' Medici, which Verdi proposed for the Teatro Argentinamarker in Rome, was rejected by that house. I due Foscari was substituted and it was given its premiere performance there on 3 November 1844.

Performance history

The first performances in the UKmarker were given in Londonmarker at Her Majesty's Theatremarker on 10 April 1847. In the US, the opera was first presented in Bostonmarker on 10 May 1847. Parismarker saw a production in December 1846 at the Théatre des Italiens and it was taken up by several major Italian opera houses.

In modern times Foscari has received occasional productions. La Scalamarker presented it in 1988, also with Renato Bruson, a version which is available on DVD. Performances were given by the Teatro San Carlomarker in Naplesmarker in 2000 and recoprded on DVD. The Royal Opera House presented the opera in June 1995 with Vladimir Chernov and June Anderson in the major roles while Florida's Sarasota Opera included it in March 2008 as part of its "Verdi Cycle". It appears in the programs of the 2008/09 seasons of La Scalamarker and the Bilbao Association of Lovers of Opera (ABAO) in Bilbaomarker, Spainmarker.

Also, concert opera performances have been common. The Opera Orchestra of New York has presented concert versions three times: the first in October 1981 with Renato Bruson in the title role; the second in April 1992 with Vladimir Chernov as the Doge; and the third in December 2007, with Paolo Gavanelli as the Doge.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 3 November 1844
(Conductor: - )
Francesco Foscari, Doge of Venice baritone Achille De Bassini
Jacopo Foscari, his son tenor Giacomo Roppa
Lucrezia Contarini, Jacopo Foscari's wife soprano Marianna Barbieri-Nini
Jacopo Loredano, Member of the Council of Ten bass Baldassare Miri
Barbarigo, a Senator tenor Atanasio Pozzolini
Pisana, Friend and confidant of Lucrezia mezzo-soprano Giulia Ricci
Attendant on the Council of Ten tenor
Servant of the Doge bass
Members of the Council of Ten and the Junta, Maidservants of Lucrezia, Venetian Ladies, crowd and masked men and women; Jailors, Gondoliers, Pages, and the two sons of Jacopo Foscari


Synopsis

Place: Venice
Time: 1457


Act 1

Scene 1: Outside the Council Chamber of the Doge's Palace

Members of the Council of Ten are waiting to enter the Council Chamber to try an important case involving Jacopo Foscari, the son of the Doge, who has been accused of murder. Upon the arrival of Loredano (Jacopo's sworn enemy) and his friend Barbarigo, they announce that the Doge has already entered the Chamber. They all enter the Chamber.

Having recently returned from exile, Jacopo is brought from the prison and expresses his love at seeing Venice again: Dal più remoto esilio / "From the most distant place of exile". When summoned to enter the Chamber and told that he can expect the Council to be merciful, Jacopo explodes in rage: Odio solo ed odio atroce / "Only hatred, cruel hatred, is locked within their breasts". He enters the Chamber.

Scene 2: A hall in the palace

Lucrezia Contarini, Jacopo's wife, learns from her ladies in waiting that the trial is proceeding in the Council Chamber. She quickly demands to see the Doge, Jacopo's father, but is told that she should pray for Jacopo's freedom. Angrily, she implores heaven to be merciful: Tu al cui sguardi onni possente / "Thou beneath whose almighty glance all men rejoice or weep". Her friend Pisana enters in tears; she relays the news that Jacopo has been sentenced to further exile and this provokes another furious outburst from Lucrezia: La clemenza! s'aggiunge lo scherno / "Their mercy? Now they add insult!". Pisana and the ladies beg her to trust in the mercy of God.

Scene 3: Outside the Council Chamber

The Council of Ten leaves the Chamber proclaiming that the evidence was clearly sufficient to convict Jacopo and that their actions will be seen as just and fair.

Scene 4: The Doge's private room

The Doge, Francesco Foscari, enters and wearily sits down. He expresses anguish at what has happened to his son but, as his father, feels there is nothing he can do to save him: O vecchio cor che batte / "Oh ancient heart that beats in my breast...". In tears, Lucreza comes in and, when she tries to decry the actions of the Council, Francesco reminds her of his position as upholder of the law of Venice. Angrily, she denounces the law as being filled only with hatred and vengeance and demands that he return her husband to her: Tu pur lo sai che giudice / "You know it all too well". The scene ends with the Doge lamenting the limits of his power and the conflicts between being both ruler and father, while Lucrezia continues to demand his help. The sight of his tears gives her some hope.

Act 2

Scene 1: The state prison

Jacopo is alone in prison and laments his fate. Thinking that he is being attacked by a famous condottiere, Carmagnola, a soldier executed in Venice, he faints: Non maledirmi o prode / "Mighty warrior, do not curse me". Still delirious, he finds Lucrezia is with him; she tells him of the Council's decision and the punishment of further exile. However, she tries to keep some hope alive and promises to join him in exile if need be.

The Doge arrives and declares that in spite of the fact that he was forced to act severely, he loves his son. Jacopo is comforted - Nel tuo paterno amplesso / "In a father's embrace my sorrow is stilled" - but is further disturbed by the Doge's claim that his duty must win over his love of his son.

Loredano arrives to announce the official verdict and to prepare Jacopo for his departure. He is contemptuous of their pleas and orders his men to remove Jacopo from his cell. In a final trio, Jacopo, the Doge and Lucrezia express their conflicting emotions and, as Jacopo is taken away, father and daughter-in-law leave together.

Scene 2: The Council Chamber

Lorenzano is adamant: there shall be no mercy and Lucrezia and her children will not be allowed to accompany Jacopo on his banishment. The Doge laments his inability to help, acting, as he must, in the role of Doge before that of father. Lucrezia enters with her two children. Jacopo embraces them while Lucrezia pleads with the councilors to no avail. Jacopo is taken away.

Act 3

Scene 1: The Piazetta of San Marco

While the people who have gathered express their joy at being together, Loredano and Barbarigo wait for the galley that will take Jacopo away to exile. He is led out, followed by his wife and Pisana, and expresses his feelings for Lucrezia: All'infelice veglio / "Unhappy woman, unhappy through me alone". Together, in a huge choral number, Jacopo, Lucrezia, Pisano, Barbarigo, Loredano and the people of Venice each expresses his/her feelings. Jacopo begins: O padre, figli, sposa / "Father, children, wife, I bid you a last farewell", and the scene ends with Jacopo escorted onto the galley while Lucrezia faints in Pisana's arms.

Scene 2: The Doge's Palace

The grief stricken Doge expresses his feelings - Egli ore parte! / "Now he is going"- and pictures himself alone in his old age. Barbarigo brings him proof that his son was in fact innocent, while Lucrezia comes in to announce Jacopo's death: Più non vive..l'innocente / "He is no more... Innocent". As she leaves, a servant announces that the Council of Ten wish to meet with the Doge.

The Council, through its spokesman Loredano, announces that it has decided that Francisco, due to age, should give up his position as Doge. Angrily, he denounces their decision: Questa dunque è l'iniqua mercede / "This then is the unjust reward...". Asking for his daughter-in-law to be brought in, he gradually lays down the trappings of his office and, when she enters and addresses him with the familiar title “Prince”, he declares "Prince! That I was; now I am no longer". Just then, the bell of San Marco is heard announcing that a successor has been chosen. As it tolls a second time, Francisco recognizes that the end has come: Quel bronzo feral / "What fatal knell". As the bell tolls again, he dies; Loredano notes that "I am paid".

Recordings

Year Cast
(Francesco Foscari,
Jacobo Foscari,
Lucrezia, Loredano)


Conductor,
Opera House and Orchestra
Label
1951 Giangiacomo Guelfi,
Carlo Bergonzi,
Maria Vitale,
Pasquale Lombardo


Carlo Maria Giulini,
RAImarker Orchestra and chorus
Audio CD :Warner Fonit
Cat: 8573-83515-2
1977 Piero Cappuccilli,
Jose Carreras,
Katia Ricciarelli,
Samuel Ramey


Lamberto Gardelli,
ORF Symphony Orchestra and Chorus
Audio CD: Philips
Cat: 475-8697
1988 Renato Bruson,
Alberto Cupido,
Linda Roark-Strummer,
Luigi Roni




Gianandrea Gavazzeni,
Teatro alla Scalamarker Orchestra and Chorus
DVD (live performance): Opus Arte
Cat: OA LS30007 D
2000 Leo Nucci,
Vincenzo La Scola,
Alexandrina Pendatchanska,
Danilo Rigosa




Nello Santi,
Teatro San Carlomarker Orchestra and Chorus
DVD (live performance): TDK
Cat:


Notes



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