The Sunday Opera: Amilcare Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" from La Scala
Many more people know the ballet from this week’s Sunday Opera (9/18 3:00 p.m.) than they do the opera itself. “The Dance of the Hours” from Amilcare Ponchielli’s “La Gioconda” is a favorite of many because of Disney’s “Fantasia” and an extremely popular song of the 1960s by Allan Sherman.
The opera tells a less happy story that centers on the singer of the title (Saioa Hernandez) who is in love with a banished nobleman named Enzo (Stefano La Colla) in 18th century Venice. Enzo, however, is in love with Laura (Daniela Barcellona), the wife of Alvise (Erwin Schrott), one of the leaders of the Inquisition. They plan to flee Venice, but they are exposed by a spy of the Inquisition named Barnaba (Roberto Frontali), who is lusting after Gioconda.
Gioconda decides to kill her rival, but when she confronts Laura, Giaconda sees that Laura is carrying the rosary that Gioconda’s mother, La Cieca (Anna Maria Chiuri), gave Laura for saving her from a mob at the beginning of the opera.
So that Laura and Enzo can escape, Gioconda tells Barnaba that she will give herself to him but stabs herself before Barnaba can have her.
This performance from Milan’s La Scala Opera House is conducted by Frederic Chaslin and features the La Scala Orchestra and Chorus.
The afternoon will be filled with more music of Ponchielli that doesn’t come from one of his ten operas. The pieces include his Capriccio for Oboe and Piano, the charming Scena campestre, the enigmatic Quartet for Flute, Oboe, and 2 Clarinets which usually includes a piano (making it a quintet actually but is performed here with orchestra), and his rousing Concerto for Cornetto.