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The Sunday Opera: Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" with Tebaldi, Bergonzi, and Merrill


It’ll be a 1960’s dream cast for Amilcare Ponchielli’s 1876 success, “La Gioconda,” on this week’s Sunday Opera (2/14 3:00 p.m.).  Gioconda is a Venetian street singer who runs afoul of the Inquisition in the form of one of its spies, Barnaba, who lusts for her.  However, Gioconda loves Enzo Grimaldo, a Genoese prince who has come to Venice in disguise in order to collect his love, Laura, the wife of Alvise, one of the leaders of the Inquisition.  Thinking that he can get rid of Enzo so that he might have more of a chance with Gioconda, Barnaba leaves a message for Alvise in the mouth of one of the lions guarding the Basilica of St. Marks to inform Alvise of his wife’s treachery.  His plot is foiled by Gioconda who saves Laura and Enzo because Laura saved Gioconda’s mother, La Cieca, from an angry mob in Piazza San Marco, but in doing so, Gioconda sacrifices herself.  In this recording from 1967, our Gioconda is Renata Tebaldi, Enzo is Carlo Bergonzi, Laura is Marilyn Horne, Barnaba is Robert Merrill, Alvise is Nicolai Ghiuselev, and Oralia Dominquez is La Cieca.  Lamberto Gardelli conducts.  

Following the opera, we’ll have more music of Ponchielli including his Elegia, Quatuor for flute, oboe, piccolo, and clarinet with piano accompaniment, a divertimento for two clarinets entitled Il Covegno (The Conference), and a piano piece entitled Gavotte Poudree.  We end the day with Quam Dilecta Tabernacula, a piece by Jean-Philippe Rameau as a precursor of next week’s opera by Rameau, “Zoroastre.”

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.