Giuseppe Verdi I due Foscari
Tragedia lirica in three acts (1844)
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after Lord Byron’s tragedy The Two Foscari (1821)
Sung in Italian with German and English surtitels
Print programme (PDF)
Michele Mariotti, Conductor
‘Outside there is laughter, here there is death’
‘My face will be the Doge’s; my heart a father’s’: with a sigh, the octogenarian Francesco Foscari submits to the Council of Ten that again wants to banish his son from Venice. The charges against Jacopo are too grave for the Doge to risk opposing the Council’s ‘incorruptible justice’. But justice is compromised, overshadowed, as it is, by power struggles and by a feud between the Foscari and Loredano families. And so it is chiefly Jacopo Loredano who among the Ten insists on ruthlessly hounding the young Foscari and ultimately also the emotionally broken Doge.
Verdi’s opera I due Foscari dates from 1844. He described its subject matter as ‘delicate and full of pathos’ since the full extent of the political events that drive the action forward is made clear on both a personal and an emotional level. While Francesco and Jacopo Foscari fatalistically accept the authority of the Council of Ten and suffer passively in consequence, Jacopo’s wife Lucrezia rebels against the verdict – unusually, it is the soprano who is the most active and vocally powerful figure.
After the high-octane Ernani, which helped Verdi to consolidate his early reputation, his sixth opera – in many ways an experimental work – is notable for its more intimate character and more leisurely pulse and for a musical refinement apparent not least from its orchestration: time and again Verdi succeeds in conjuring up the lagoon and sea breeze and, with them, the atmosphere of a Byronic Venice filled with dark secrets and hidden cruelties, its sensual, carefree aspect appearing only briefly as a contrasting backdrop to the tragedy.
Translated by Stewart Spencer