Francesca da Rimini (Zandonai)

Francesca da Rimini
Opera by Riccardo Zandonai
Disegno per copertina di libretto, disegno di Peter Hoffer per Francesca da Rimini (s.d.) - Archivio Storico Ricordi ICON012402.jpg
Sketch for a set design (undated)
Librettist Tito Ricordi
Language Italian
Based on Gabriele D'Annunzio's Francesca da Rimini
19 February 1914 (1914-02-19)
Teatro Regio, Turin

Francesca da Rimini, Op. 4, is an opera in four acts, composed by Riccardo Zandonai, with a libretto by Tito Ricordi [it], after the play Francesca da Rimini by Gabriele D'Annunzio. It was premiered at the Teatro Regio in Turin on 19 February 1914 and is still staged occasionally.

This opera is Zandonai's best-known work. In the New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Renato Chiesa calls it "one of the most original and polished Italian melodramas of the 20th century, [which] combines a powerful gift for Italian melody ... with an exceptional command of orchestration." Celebrated performers of the title role have included Gilda dalla Rizza, Magda Olivero (who recorded excerpts from the opera in 1969, for Decca Records), Raina Kabaivanska and Renata Scotto.


The Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta, Alexandre Cabanel, c. 1870
Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type[1] Premiere cast, 19 February 1914
Conductor: Ettore Panizza
Francesca da Rimini soprano Linda Cannetti
Paolo il Bello tenor Giulio Crimi
Giovanni lo Sciancato baritone Francesco Cigada
Malatestino dall'Occhio tenor Giordano Paltrinieri
Samaritana soprano Raquelita Merly
Donella mezzo-soprano Maria Vaccari
Garsenda soprano Maria Avezza
Biancofiore soprano Marina Polazzi
Altichiara mezzo-soprano Maria Marek
La Schiava (Smaragdi) contralto Gabriella Besanzoni
Il Balestriere tenor Giuseppe Nessi
Il Giullare bass Pompilio Malatesta
Ostasio bass Osvaldo Pellegrini
Ser Toldo Berardengo tenor Edmondo Orlandi
Il Torrigiano baritone Osvaldo Pellegrini
Voce del Prigioniero tenor


The story takes place in Ravenna and Rimini.

Francesca, daughter of Guido I da Polenta, for state reasons, is to be married to Giovanni, known as Gianciotto, the malformed son of Malatesta da Verucchio. But as Francesca would certainly refuse to marry the lame and deformed Gianciotto, she is introduced in the first act, by means of a well-laid plot, to his handsome younger brother, Paolo, known as Il bello. Under the impression that Paolo is her destined bridegroom, Francesca falls deeply in love with him at first sight; he also falls passionately in love with her, although they do not exchange a single word.

The next act takes place on the platform of a tower of the Malatesti, while a battle rages between the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Francesca, now married to Gianciotto, meets Paolo and reproaches him for the fraud practised on her. He begs forgiveness and reveals his intense passion for her. Gianciotto brings the news of Paolo's election as Captain of the People and Commune of Florence. Paolo departs for Florence.

In the third act Francesca, in her luxurious apartment, is reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere to her women. They then dance and sing in celebration of the advent of Spring, until, on a whispered word from her slave, Francesca dismisses them. Paolo, sick with longing for her, has returned from Florence. He enters; they continue reading the story of Guinevere together, until, no longer in control of their feelings, they let their lips meet in a long kiss.

In the fourth act, Malatestino, Gianciotto's youngest brother, who himself lusts for Francesca, has discovered her secret meetings with Paolo. After Francesca refuses to give in to his sexual advances, Malatestino betrays Francesca and Paolo to Gianciotto, who determines to find out the truth for himself. Accordingly, Gianciotto lies in wait outside Francesca's door, and surprising her and Paolo together at early dawn, he slays them both.

Selected recordings

Year Cast: Francesca,
opera house and orchestra
1950 Maria Caniglia,
Giacinto Prandelli,
Carlo Tagliabue,
Mario Carlin [it]
Antonio Guarnieri,
RAI Roma orchestra and chorus
CD: Urania Records
Cat: WS121192
1959 Magda Olivero,
Mario Del Monaco,
Giampiero Malaspina,
Gianandrea Gavazzeni,
La Scala, Milan
CD: Myto
Cat: 0801439902404
1984 Renata Scotto,
Plácido Domingo,
Cornell MacNeil,
William Lewis
James Levine,
Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 00440 073 4313


Further reading

External links