Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia is based on one short episode in the storied life of the famous female pharmacist. In it she twice poisons her son; once at the insistence of her husband, the second time by accident. The second time her son refuses the antidote preferring to die with his equally poisoned buddies but learns in his dying breath that Lucrezia is indeed his mother. It’s pretty unusual for a bel canto opera in that the leading female role (a) has agency, (b) doesn’t go mad and (c) doesn’t die.
Musically, the 2007 Spoleto Festival recording of Handel’s Ariodate is very good indeed. Unfortunately the production, at least as rendered on DVD, is a bit of a snooze. Director John Pascoe has chosen to set the piece in 1957 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival. The court of the king of Scotland is supposed to evoke the “glamour” of the court of the young Elizabeth II. There is also a partially twisted mirror that is supposed to remind us of the deception and self-deception intrinsic to the plot. I only know this because of the bonus interview with Pascoe as video director Matteo Ricchetti completely ignores it. There’s also a recurrent appearance of an image of Ginevra (Handel having fortuitously stumbled upon le nom juste for a character supposed to remind us of Margaret Windsor) framed by the garter ribbon and motto. Subtle. Continue reading