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Lucrezia Borgia

Spring 2023


Spring 2023

Lucrezia Borgia is a tragedy of great pathos, presented in a new production directed by Eloise Lally in her first staging for ETO.

Donizetti created in Lucrezia one of his greatest roles - unfairly maligned as one of history’s most famous poisoners, she is a brilliant strategist and a loving mother at the same time, a complex woman in a dangerous situation.

Music comes from the period instrument specialists of the Old Street Band, conducted by ETO Music Director Gerry Cornelius.


Click here for more information about our pre-show talks, where you can join members of our creative team as they share their insights into bringing Lucrezia Borgia to life.


We regret to announce that Paula Sides has had to withdraw from our remaining performances of Lucrezia Borgia. From May 5th, we are delighted that Katherine McIndoe, who stepped in to perform the role of Lucrezia Borgia earlier on tour, will return to the role for the remainder of the run.


Act I

Venice Carnival. 1510.

Gennaro, Orsini and their friends, are celebrating the carnival by the Giudecca canal. The group are to travel to Ferrara the following day, and their conversation turns to the city’s ruler, Duke Alfonso, 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, and that the two of them would die together. Bored of Orsini's tale, Gennaro falls asleep nearby. Meanwhile, his friends are invited to rejoin the festivities, and he is left alone.

A masked woman appears. Hurrying over to the sleeping Gennaro, she quietly observes him with affection. Gennaro wakes and is instantly struck by her beauty, expressing his love for her. He sings of his childhood as an orphan brought up by fishermen and of his love for the mother he has never met. At that point, his friends return and instantly recognise the masked woman as Lucrezia Borgia, and to Gennaro’s horror they list the members of their families she has killed.

Act II


Duke Alfonso believes Gennaro to be his wife’s lover, and plots his murder with his servant Rustighello. 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. Gennaro’s companions taunt him, saying he is in love with Lucrezia, and so keen to show his contempt for the Borgia family, Gennaro removes the initial "B", leaving only "Orgia" (orgy). They move on, but are observed. Meanwhile, Astolfo, the Borgia major-domo, attempts to invite Gennaro to visit Lucrezia, but is waylaid by a group of brigands who abduct Gennaro on Duke Alfonso’s orders.

In the palace, Lucrezia enters the Duke's chamber in a rage. She demands death for the vandal, not knowing that it is Gennaro. The Duke orders Gennaro to be brought before her and accuses him of smearing the Borgia name, to which he readily confesses. 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. Lucrezia 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, the Duke offers Gennaro a glass of wine and he swallows it. The Duke leaves and Lucrezia hurries to Gennaro, giving him an antidote to the poison the Duke has mixed with the wine. He drinks, and in a last duet, she implores him to flee the city and her husband.


The palace of the Princess Negroni

Ignoring Lucrezia's advice, Gennaro attends a party at the palace, swearing never to be parted from his friend Orsini. Orsini leads the party in a brindisi or drinking song and they drink, but then Lucrezia enters and announces that in revenge for their insults in Venice she has poisoned their wine and arranged five coffins for their bodies. She believed that Gennaro fled Ferrara on her advice, and is horrified when he steps forward and announces that she has poisoned a sixth. As Orsini, Liverotto, Vitellozzo, Petrucci and Gazella leave to their deaths, Gennaro lunges at 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. Lucrezia mourns her son and expires.