Written in 1833 over six weeks for La Scala who needed a last minute back up, Lucrezia Borgia hails from Donizetti’s prime, following on the heels of hits like Anna Bolena and L’Elisir d’Amore, and soon to be followed by Lucia . The audience were more enthusiastic than the critics it would seem, the latter taking against the Victor Hugo play that underpins Felice Romani’s libretto. While the music has its moments, the bare bones of the story and the tendency to pander to the grizzlier elements in the plot saps the drama of some of its potential for psychological subtlety, aspects that a good director can bring out. As such, Andrea Bernard only partially succeeds in this Donizetti Festival staging from 2019.

Donizetti

Where Bernard scores is in the gloomy melancholy of it all, aided and abetted by the gothic sets of Alberto Beltrame and the chiaroscuro lighting of Marco Alba. She also explores the homoerotic side of the relationship between Gennaro and his best friend Orsini to intriguing effect, linking it, one suspects, to the former’s apparent mother fixation....