Lucrezia Borgia - Marseille, 1968 - Montserrat Caballé (Digital Audio)
That night Caballé's voice was gorgeous... rich and powerful yet flexible and capable of the most exquisite shadings and pianissimi... of all the unbelievable moments including the final adding of tears in her final aria ("M'odi ah m'odi" 1:36:18, "Era desso il figlio mio" 1:44:32) after having sung 1.30 hours, including the original finale of Lucrezia Borgia (Gennaro: "Madre, se ognor lontano" 1:40:57), my favorite lies within the unbelievable "Com'è bello! Quale incanto"... sung here 10:53.
Georges Liccioni is Gennaro, the son of Lucrezia (but he does not know that she is his mother). Most surprisingly effective, perhaps, is José van Dam as Lucrezia's husband Alfonso d'Este, who suspects his wife of having an affair with Gennaro, whose true identity he does not know either. Reynald Giovaninetti conducts the Orchestra de L'Opéra de Marseille, 18 October, 1968.
The Palazzo Grimani in Venice
Gennaro and his friends, including Orsini, celebrate on the brightly lit terrace. The friends' conversation turns to Don Alfonso, Duke of Ferrara, to whose house they will be travelling the next day, and to his wife, the infamous Lucrezia Borgia. On hearing Lucrezia's name, Orsini tells of how Gennaro and he, alone in a forest, were warned by a mysterious old man to beware her and the entire Borgia family ("Nella fatal di Rimini" 4:34). Professing his boredom with Orsini's tale Gennaro wanders off and falls asleep nearby. His friends are invited to rejoin the festivities, and he is left alone. A gondola appears and a masked woman steps onto the terrace (10:53). She hurries over to the sleeping Gennaro and observes him with affection ("Com'è bello! Quale incanto"). She kisses his hand, he wakes and is instantly struck by her beauty. He expresses his love for her and sings of his childhood as an orphan brought up by fishermen. He adds that he loves dearly the mother he has never met ("Di pescatore ignobile esser figliuol credei" 25:44). The others return and instantly recognise her as Lucrezia Borgia, listing in turn the members of their families she has killed to Gennaro's horror ("Maffio Orsini, signora, son'io" 35:39).
Ferrara (40:10) Gennaro and his companions leave the house for a party and pass the Duke's palace with its large gilded coat of arms reading Borgia. Keen to show his contempt for the Borgia family, Gennaro removes the initial "B", leaving the obscene "Orgia" (orgy).
(46:14) The Duke, believing Gennaro to be Lucrezia's lover, plots his murder... In the palace, Lucrezia is shown into the Duke's chamber. Having seen the defaced crest, she demands death for the perpetrator, not knowing that it is Gennaro. The Duke orders Gennaro to be brought before her and accuses him of staining the noble name of Borgia, a crime to which he readily confesses. (52:14) Lucrezia, horrified, attempts to excuse the insult as a youthful prank, but Don Alfonso accuses Lucrezia of infidelity, having observed her meeting with Gennaro in Venice. In a scene full of drama and tension, she denies any impropriety, but he demands the prisoner's death and forces her to choose the manner of Gennaro's execution. Pretending to pardon him ("Della duchessa prieghi" 1:00:50), the Duke offers Gennaro a glass of wine and he swallows it. After a stunning trio ("Guai se ti sfugge un moto" 1:03:53) the Duke leaves and Lucrezia hurries to Gennaro, giving him an antidote to the poison the Duke has mixed with the wine ("Infelice il veleno bevesti..." 1:07:24). He drinks, and she implores him to flee the city and her husband.
A small secret door opens in the palace wall, and Rustighello steps forward beckoning a band of sbirri... looking up to the window of Gennaro's house ("Rischiarata è la finestra" 1:09:24). Ignoring Lucrezia's advice, Gennaro attends a party, swearing never to be parted from his friend Orsini (1:11:42).
(1:19:14) The palace of the Princess Negroni. Orsini leads the party in a brindisi or drinking song ("Il segreto per esser felici" 1:26:18) and they drink. Lucrezia enters (1:28:48) and announces that in revenge for their insults in Venice she has poisoned their wine and arranged five coffins for their bodies. She has hitherto believed that Gennaro fled Ferrara on her advice, and is thus dismayed when he steps forward and announces that she has poisoned a sixth ("Tu pur qui?" 1:32:12). Gennaro seizes a dagger and attempts to kill Lucrezia, but she stops him by revealing that he is in fact her son. Once again she asks him to drink the antidote, but this time he refuses, choosing to die with his friends. In a final cabaletta ("Era desso il figlio mio" 1:44:32), Lucrezia mourns her son and expires.