Opera Scotland

Francesca da Rimini (2)

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Riccardo Zandonai (born Sacco di Robereto, Trentino, 28 May 1883; died Pesaro, 5 June 1944)


Tito Ricordi


Tragedy (1901) by Gabriele d'Annunzio (1863-1938), derived from an episode in The Inferno by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).



First Performance: Turin (Teatro Regio), 19 February 1914.

First performance in UK: London (Covent Garden), 16 July 1914.

First Performance in Scotland: N/A.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Zandonai is one of the small band of Italian opera composers who vied for success with Puccini and others generally described as the 'verismo' school. Zandonai's preference was for highly romanticized drama, and Francesca da Rimini was very successful in his lifetime. It contains a great deal of beautifully lyrical music, while the battle scenes are perhaps over-bombastic. The subject is derived from a brief episode in Dante - in 1289, Francesca is married to a much older man, but falls in love with his handsome younger brother. She and Paolo are at last found together by Gianciotto, who kills them both. While the work has maintained a level of popularity in Italy, it's most important recent revival was at the New York Met with Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo. In Britain its only recent staging has been by Holland Park Opera, in London. Zandonai's liking for a form of romantic medievalism also led to his next success, Giulietta e Romeo, which, as with Bellini's Capuleti e Montecchi, was not derived from Shakespeare, but used those early Italian sources which had also inspired the bard.

This note was prepared for the website to assist audience members when a differently cast revival of that New York production was relayed to cinemas in the UK.


Main Characters

Francesca (soprano)

Giovanni Malatesta, 'il gianciotto' (baritone)

Paolo Malatesta, 'Il bello' his younger brother (tenor)

Malatestino, a third brother (tenor)


Plot Summary

During the long struggle between the Guelphs and Ghibellines, a political treaty is arranged between the cities of Ravenna and Rimini. This is to be sealed by the marriage of beautiful, young, Francesca to the ugly, lame Giovanni Malatesta. Believing that she would reject such a marriage, a decision is taken to trick her by sending Giovanni's brother Paolo as ambassador in the negotiations, and to make her believe he is her intended. The plot works too well, and they fall in love. The original scheme goes ahead, and Francesca moves to Rimini as Giovanni's wife.

Rimini is under siege, Paolo is wounded, and Francesca very disturbed. Paolo now reveals that he loves her, and their love develops during his recovery as they read together. The third Malatesta brother, one-eyed and of a vicious nature, also loves Francesca. He discovers their relationship and informs Giovanni, who, finding them together, kills them both.

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