Parisina (Donizetti)

Last updated

Parisina (also known as Parisina d'Este) is an opera (tragedia lirica), in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after Byron's 1816 poem Parisina .


The characters of Parisina and Duke Azzo in both Byron's poem and Donizetti's opera are very loosely based on the historical figures of Parisina Malatesta (the daughter of Andrea Malatesta) and Niccolò III d'Este.

Parisina premiered on 17 March 1833 at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence. A performance at the Teatro Argentina in Rome is the setting for a key scene in chapter 34 of the novel The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 17 March 1833
(Conductor: – )
Parisina, wife of Duke Azzo soprano Carolina Ungher
Ugo, Parisina's lover tenor Gilbert Duprez
Duke Azzo baritone Domenico Cosselli
Ernesto, Duke Azzo's minister bass Carlo Ottolini Porto
Imelda, Parisina's handmaid mezzo-soprano Teresa Zappucci
Knights, handmaids, gondoliers, squires, soldiers


Place: Ferrara
Time: the 15th century [1]

Act 1

Carolina Ungher, who created the role of Parisina Carolina Ungher.jpg
Carolina Ungher, who created the role of Parisina

In Duke Azzo's palace, Ernesto and other nobles await his arrival (È desto il duca?). Azzo appears and tells Ernesto about his fear that his wife, Parisina, has betrayed him for another man, as had his first wife, Matilde. When Azzo leaves, Ugo arrives. Ugo, who was raised by Ernesto, was once a favourite of Azzo but was later exiled. Ernesto is overcome by fear when he sees his foster son, knowing that his exile had not ended and Azzo was still angry at him. His fear worsens when Ugo reveals his love for Parisina to him.

Meanwhile, Parisina with her faithful Imelda and her other handmaids are resting in the garden. They hear knights arriving for the festivities, amongst whom is Ugo. When Parisina and Ugo are alone, she urges him to flee. They are interrupted by the arrival of the Duke. In a fury, he demands to know what Ugo is doing there. Parisina defends Ugo which only increases the Duke's anger (Il difende! E in sua difesa tanto adopra).

By the shores of the River Po. Azzo tells Ugo he may remain for the festivities, just as Ugo and his men are about to get on their boat. Parisina follows her husband and courtiers to the palace for the banquet (Vieni, vieni, e in sereno sembiante). Ernesto, Ugo, and Parisina are consumed by fear, while Azzo is consumed by his anger (Ma divoro nel cor tremante un timor/furor che non posso frenar).

Act 2

In Parisina's room, Imelda and the other handmaids are talking about the banquet (Lieta era dessa). They express their joy at Parisina's happiness and Azzo's apparent tranquillity. Imelda, however, is fearful of what may happen. Parisina enters. She is tired and falls asleep. Her maids leave her alone, but Azzo enters the room to spy on her. In a dream, Parisina, believing that Ugo is in the room calls out to him and tells him they must flee together. Azzo shouts in fury waking Parisina, and he accuses her of being unfaithful. Parisina, now desperate, admits her love for Ugo. Azzo is about to kill her, but then holds back (Non pentirti, mi ferisci).

In another room in the palace and waiting for the banquet to begin, Ugo is troubled that Parisina has not yet appeared. Soldiers enter and order Ugo to follow them to the Duke who asks him if Parisina's confession is true. Azzo is about to condemn Ugo to death when Ernesto intervenes. He reveals that Ugo is Duke Azzo's son by his first marriage. His mother had entrusted him to Ernesto after she had been banished from the court. Azzo recognizes Ugo as his son, and appears to rescind the order for his death.

Act 3

In the palace chapel a choir is heard (Muta, insensibile). Parisina prays that Ugo will be saved. Imelda arrives bringing a letter from Ugo, asking Parisina to escape with him. Parisina hesitates, but then decides to join him. Funeral music is heard. Azzo appears, blocks Parisina's way, and then shows her Ugo's corpse. Parisina is overcome by horror (Ugo è spento! A me si renda!) and falls dead.


Opera house and orchestra
Label [2]
1974 Montserrat Caballé,
Jerome Pruett,
Louis Quilico,
James Morris
Eve Queler,
Carnegie Hall, NY 1974
Myto MDCD 0002,2007
1997Ramon De Andrès,
Amedeo Moretti,
Alexandrina Pendachanska,
Daniela Barcellona
Emmanuel Plasson,
Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana and Coro della Radio Televisione Svizzera Italiana
CD: Dynamic
Cat: CDS 277/1-2
2008Nicola Alaimo,
José Bros,
Carmen Giannattasio,
Ann Taylor
David Parry,
London Philharmonic Orchestra and Geoffrey Mitchell Choir
CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORC 40

Related Research Articles

<i>Don Pasquale</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Don Pasquale is an opera buffa, or comic opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti with an Italian libretto completed largely by Giovanni Ruffini as well as the composer. It was based on a libretto by Angelo Anelli for Stefano Pavesi's opera Ser Marcantonio written in 1810 but, on the published libretto, the author appears as "M.A."

<i>Lucrezia Borgia</i> (opera) Opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Lucrezia Borgia is a melodramatic opera in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after the play Lucrezia Borgia by Victor Hugo, in its turn after the legend of Lucrezia Borgia. Lucrezia Borgia was first performed on 26 December 1833 at La Scala, Milan.

<i>Caterina Cornaro</i> (opera) opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Caterina Cornaro ossia La Regina di Cipro is a tragedia lirica, or opera, in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Giacomo Sacchèro wrote the Italian libretto after Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges' libretto for Halévy's La reine de Chypre (1841). It is based on the life of Caterina Cornaro, Queen of Cyprus from 1474 to 1489. It premiered at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples on 12 January 1844.

<i>Marino Faliero</i> (opera) opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Marino Faliero is a tragedia lirica, or tragic opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Giovanni Emanuele Bidera wrote the Italian libretto, with revisions by Agostino Ruffini, after Casimir Delavigne's play. It is inspired by Lord Byron's drama Marino Faliero (1820) and based on the life of Marino Faliero (c.1285-1355), the Venetian Doge.

<i>Maria Padilla</i> opera by Gaetano Donitetti

Maria Padilla is a melodramma, or opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Gaetano Rossi and the composer wrote the Italian libretto after François Ancelot's play. It premiered on 26 December 1841 at La Scala, Milan. The plot is loosely based on the historical figure María de Padilla, the mistress of Pedro the Cruel, King of Castile.

<i>Parisina</i> (Mascagni) opera by Pietro Mascagni

Parisina is a tragedia lirica, or opera, in four acts by Pietro Mascagni. Gabriele D'Annunzio wrote the Italian libretto after Byron's poem Parisina of 1816.

Il castello di Kenilworth is a melodramma serio or tragic opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Andrea Leone Tottola wrote the Italian libretto after Victor Hugo's play Amy Robsart (1828) and Eugene Scribe's play Leicester, both of which following from Scott's novel Kenilworth (1821). Daniel Auber composed another opera on the same subject, Leicester, ou Le chateau de Kenilworth in 1823.

Imelda de' Lambertazzi is a melodramma tragico or tragic opera in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti from a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, based on the tragedy Imelda by Gabriele Sperduti. It received its first performance on 5 September 1830 at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples.

Gianni di Parigi is an 1839 melodramma comico in two acts with music by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Felice Romani, which had previously been set by Francesco Morlacchi in 1818 and by Giovanni Antonio Speranza in 1836.

Antonio Tamburini Italian opera singer

Antonio Tamburini was an Italian operatic baritone.

Enrico di Borgogna is an opera eroica or "heroic" opera in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Bartolomeo Merelli, wrote the Italian libretto based on Der Graf von Burgund by August von Kotzebue.

Niccolò III dEste, Marquis of Ferrara Marquis of Ferrara

Niccolò III d'Este was Marquess of Ferrara from 1393 until his death. He was also a condottiero.

<i>Le duc dAlbe</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Le duc d'Albe or Il duca d'Alba is an opera in three acts originally composed by Gaetano Donizetti in 1839 to a French language libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier. Its title, which translates as The Duke of Alba, refers to its protagonist Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, 3rd Duke of Alba. The work was intended for performance at the Paris Opéra. However, William Ashbrook notes that "Rosine Stoltz, the director's mistress, disliked her intended role of Hélène and Donizetti put the work aside when it was half completed".

Dano Raffanti is an Italian tenor, particularly associated with the Italian baroque and bel canto repertory.

<i>Adelia</i> (opera) opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Adelia, o La figlia dell'arciere is an opera in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. The Italian libretto was written partly by Felice Romani and by Girolamo Maria Marini, a part-time poet who had achieved notability the previous year with Otto Nicolai's Il templario. The opera premiered at the Teatro Apollo, Rome on 11 February 1841.

<i>Il giovedì grasso</i> opera farsa in one act by Gaetano Donizetti

Il giovedì grasso is a farsa in one act by Gaetano Donizetti, from a libretto by Domenico Gilardoni. The literal translation of the title is "Fat Thursday", a reference to Carnival celebration. The libretto was adapted from the French comedies Monsieur de Pourceaugnac by Molière and Le nouveau Pourceaugnac by Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson and Eugène Scribe. The opera uses spoken dialogue rather than recitatives, and the buffo role is given in the Neapolitan language. The work premiered at the Teatro del Fondo in Naples on 26 February 1829.

<i>Una follia</i> opera

Una follia is a farsa in one act by composer Gaetano Donizetti. The work premiered on 15 December 1818 at the Teatro San Luca in Venice. The opera uses the same Italian-language libretto by Bartolomeo Merelli after August von Kotzebue's Der Graf von Burgund that Donizetti used for his Enrico di Borgogna a month earlier, but with different music. It was given one performance and "never performed again, and its score has never been found."

<i>Il furioso allisola di San Domingo</i> opera by Gaetano Donizetti

Il furioso all'isola di San Domingo(The Madman on the Island of San Domingo) is a "romantic melodramma" in two acts by the composer Gaetano Donizetti. Jacopo Ferretti, who since 1821 had written five libretti for Donizetti and two for Rossini, had proposed the unusual subject and he was contracted to write the Italian libretto based on a five-act play of the same title by an unknown author in 1820, which "had been given in the same theatre [...] and which Donizetti had immediately loved". However, as has been noted by Charles Osborne, the "ultimate derivation of both play and libretto is an episode in part 1 of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes's published in 1605" which is the story of Cardenio and Lucinda.

Parisina Malatesta Italian noble

Laura Malatesta, better known as Parisina Malatesta, was the daughter of Andrea Malatesta, lord of Cesena, and his second wife, Lucrezia Ordelaffi. She had an affair with her bastard stepson Ugo d'Este, and both were beheaded by her husband, Marquis Niccolò III d'Este of Ferrara.

Parisina Malatesta was the wife of Niccolò III d'Este, who beheaded her with her lover and stepson Ugo d'Este. Her tragic story has inspired writers and musicians:



  1. This synopsis is translated from Parisina d'Este (version of 30 December 2008), on the Italian Wikipedia
  2. Source for recording information: