Metropolitan Opera Broadcast: Francesca da Rimini 

Radio Broadcast and Live in HD Transmission of Saturday, March 16, 12:00 P.M.

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Francesca da Rimini's Act II battle between the Guelphs and the Ghibellines, with Paolo, Gianciotto and Malatestino on the ramparts and Francesca below (Plácido Domingo as Paolo, Cornell MacNeil as Gianciotto, William Lewis as Malatestino and Renata Scotto as Francesca)
© Johan Elbers 2013
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Francesca da Rimini

Music by Riccardo Zandonai
Libretto by Tito Ricordi, after the play by Gabriele D'Annunzio, based on Dante's Inferno  
THE CAST (in order of vocal appearance)
Garsenda     sop., DÍSELLA LÀRUSDÓTTIR
Biancofiore     soprano, CAITLIN LYNCH
Altichiara     mezzo, PATRICIA RISLEY
Simonetto     baritone, JOHN MOORE
Adonella     mezzo, RENÉE TATUM
Ostasio     baritone, PHILIP HORST
Ser Toldo     tenor, KEITH JAMESON
Francesca     sop., EVA-MARIA WESTBROEK
Samaritana     soprano, DINA KUZNETSOVA
Berlingerio     bar., STEPHEN GAERTNER
Archer     tenor, HUGO VERA
Paolo     tenor, MARCELLO GIORDANI
Gianciotto     baritone, MARK DELAVAN
Malatestino     tenor, ROBERT BRUBAKER
Smaragdi     mezzo, GINGER COSTA-JACKSON
Prisoner     tenor, DUSTIN LUCAS


The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus

Production: Piero Faggioni
Set designer: Ezio Frigerio
Costume designer: Franca Squarciapino
Lighting designer: Gil Wechsler
Choreographer: Donald Mahler
Chorus master: Donald Palumbo
Musical preparation: Dennis Giauque,
    Donna Racik, John Beeson,
    J. David Jackson, Carol Isaac
Assistant stage directors: Gregory Keller,
Peter McClintock
Prompter: John Beeson
Stage band conductor: Jeffrey Goldberg
Italian coach: Loretta Di Franco
Production a gift of
    Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

THE SCENES  Timings (ET)
 Italy, May ca. 1289 
ACT ICourtyard of Polenta
    family palace, Ravenna
ACT IITower of Malatesta
    castle, Rimini
ACT IIIFrancesca's room2:07–2:44
ACT IV 3:14–4:03
    Sc. 1Hallway of the castle 
    Sc. 2Francesca's room 

Host: Margaret Juntwait
Commentator: Ira Siff
Music producer: Jay David Saks
Producers: Mary Jo Heath, Ellen Keel,
    William Berger
Executive producers: Mia Bongiovanni,
    Elena Park

Directed for Live Cinema by:
    Gary Halvorson
HD host: Sondra Radvanovsky

Send quiz questions to:
    Metropolitan Opera Quiz
    Metropolitan Opera
    30 Lincoln Center
    New York, NY 10023
    or e-mail

This performance is also being broadcast
    live on Metropolitan Opera Radio on
    SiriusXM channel 74.

This performance will be transmitted live, in high definition and surround sound, 
into selected movie theaters, and will be shared with students in more than 100 U.S. schools
as part of The Met HD Live in Schools program.
For information on tickets, visit

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Renata Scotto as Francesca in Piero
Faggioni's 1984 production of
Francesca da Rimini at the
Metropolitan Opera
© Johan Elbers 2013


ACT I. In a courtyard of the Polenta family palace in Ravenna, some girls are seen bantering with a Jester, who begs to have his torn jacket mended; in return, he offers to tell stories of King Arthur's knights, and of Tristram's love for Iseult. He has barely begun when Ostasio da Polenta bursts in and disperses the gathering, complaining to his lawyer, Ser Toldo, that jesters are merely gossips. He does not want their latest plan known — that of tricking his sister Francesca into a marriage of convenience with Gianciotto ("The Lame") of the Malatesta family. This he means to do by introducing a proxy suitor, Gianciotto's brother Paolo ("The Handsome"). Ser Toldo agrees that this is the only way to get around Francesca and urges haste. As they leave, Francesca descends the stairway. Her sister Samaritana, knowing Francesca's suitor is about to arrive, laments their impending separation, but Francesca comforts her, saying Samaritana will marry too. There is a flurry of excitement as Francesca's entourage catches a glimpse of the arriving Paolo; Francesca is smitten on sight, as her brother planned, and asks to be taken to her room to try to calm the tumult in her heart. As she turns away, she and Paolo exchange a long, wordless glance, and she hands him a rose. The other women surround her, offering a madrigal.

ACT II. In a tower of the Malatesta castle in Rimini, soldiers loyal to the Guelph Malatesta are engaged in a battle against the Ghibellines. Francesca, now married to Gianciotto, nervously greets Paolo, whom she accuses of having wooed her fraudulently. He realizes he deceived her, though he denies having known it at the time, and he adds that peace has fled his soul. A call to arms brings them back to reality. Removing his helmet, Paolo recklessly exposes his head to enemy fire, then tells Francesca to raise the portcullis. Grazed by an arrow, he falls back, saying he is not wounded by anything but his guilty love. Because he has survived this risk of death, Francesca considers him absolved of the fraud perpetrated on her. Gianciotto arrives, and Francesca offers wine to the two brothers. The third brother, Malatestino, is brought in, having been struck by a stone in one eye. Despite his injury, he returns to the fray. Archers are heard crying confidently that the Guelph side is winning.

ACT III. In a room decorated with frescoes depicting the story of Tristram, Francesca sits reading, then turns to her maid, Smaragdi, to complain of the wine she poured the day of the battle: was it bewitched? Women and musicians enter, singing of the arrival of spring. At the approach of Paolo, Francesca dismisses them. He has been away since the battle and reminds Francesca of the wine she offered him that day. She begs for no more recollections, longing for peace. He picks up the story she has been reading, as told by Galeoto, a go-between for Lancelot and Guinevere, and Francesca reads Guinevere's lines. When she comes to the point where the queen kisses her suitor, Paolo embraces Francesca passionately as the women are heard in the distance singing their welcome to spring.

ACT IV. In a hallway of the castle, Malatestino, now blind in one eye, makes advances toward Francesca. When she threatens to call his brother, he tauntingly asks, "Which one?" Hearing screams from the dungeon below, he takes an ax from the wall and departs to silence the prisoner. When Gianciotto finds Francesca upset, she attributes it to Malatestino's cruelty. As she questions her husband about his impending trip to Pesaro, Malatestino knocks at the door, and Francesca leaves, to avoid him. Gianciotto admits his brother, who carries the prisoner's head in a sack. Gianciotto demands to know what Malatestino has done to offend Francesca. Malatestino replies that he is loyal but that Paolo is not. The furious Gianciotto vows to kill Malatestino if he is lying. Malatestino tells him to postpone his departure, wait until nightfall and see for himself.

In Francesca's room at night, she dismisses all her women except Biancofiore, who reminds her of the little sister she left behind. After Biancofiore too has said goodnight, Francesca hears knocking and calls for Smaragdi, but it is Paolo who enters. As they embrace and declare their love, another knock is heard, along with Gianciotto's voice. Paolo starts to escape through a trapdoor, but his cloak catches on the bolt, and Gianciotto catches him still struggling to free it. Francesca throws herself between them, catching the full force of her husband's sword. As Paolo takes her in his arms, Gianciotto watches their last embrace, then kills Paolo and breaks his sword over his knee in horror.

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In Act III, Paolo and Francesca fall in love while reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere (Domingo, Scotto)
© Beth Bergman 2013


The story of Francesca da Rimini (1255–85), the adulterous daughter of Guido da Polenta, the lord of Ravenna, figures in the Inferno section of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy and in a number of operas, plays and poems. Gabriele d'Annunzio's 1901 tragedy Francesa da Rimini, a vehicle created for the great Italian actress Eleonora Duse, the poet's lover, was the inspiration for the opera of the same name by composer Riccardo Zandonai (1883–1944) and librettist Tito Ricordi (1865–1933). The Zandonai Francesca had its world premiere at Turin's Teatro Regio on February 19, 1914. Veronese soprano Linda Cannetti and tenor Giulio Crimi were Zandonai's first Francesca and Paolo. When the Metropolitan Opera presented the U.S. premiere of Francesca on December 22, 1916, conducted by Giorgio Polacco, the cast was headed by Frances Alda, Giovanni Martinelli and Pasquale Amato. The Met's present production, by Piero Faggioni, was unveiled on March 9, 1984, with James Levine pacing Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo and Cornell MacNeil.


An English-language translation of D'Annunzio's tragedy Francesca da Rimini, the source for the libretto of Zandonia's opera, is available in paperback (Nabu). Dante's Inferno, in which Paolo and Francesca appear as characters, is readily available in English translation from a number of publishers. Konrad Claude Dryden's biography of the composer is difficult to find. Amazon offers a Kindle edition of a "mini Guide" to Francesca from Opera Journeys.

The DVD of choce is the 1984 broadcast of the Met's current production, with Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo and Cornell MacNeil paced by James Levine (DG). On CD, Raina Kabaivanska offers an authoritative performance under the direction of Maurizio Arena (RCA).  Magda Olivero and Mario Del Monaco give ferocious accounts of Paolo and Francesca in a 1959 La Scala performance (Myto), conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni; the two stars are in slightly less fierce form in a Decca studio recording paced by Lamberto Gardelli. spacer

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