Major Operas | La gioconda by Amilcare Ponchielli | High Romantic

The Joyful Girl

Composed: 1876
Premiered: 1876, Milan
Libretto by Tobia Gorrio, after Victor Hugo

Act I

Gioconda leaves her blind mother, La Cieca, surrounded by revellers outside the Doge’s Palace while she looks for her betrothed, Enzo Grimaldi. When Gioconda refuses Barnaba’s advances, he has La Cieca accused of witchcraft. Laura, the wife of Alvise, a Venetian state official, intercedes and is given a rosary in thanks. She also recognizes Enzo as a former love. Barnaba tells Enzo that he could have him arrested as a Genoese prince, but instead he will arrange an assignation with Laura. Gioconda overhears Barnaba dictating a letter of denunciation, with details of the meeting.

Act II

Enzo is waiting on his brigantine. Barnaba escorts Laura on board. Enzo goes below. Laura’s prayers are interrupted by Gioconda, who is about to stab her when she sees the rosary. She pushes Laura into a boat and tells her to escape. When told of Barnaba’s treachery Enzo sets fire to the brigantine and dives into the sea.


Alvise orders Laura to take poison, which Gioconda exchanges for a powerful sleeping draught. When Alvise returns he thinks Laura is dead. At a ball Barnaba accuses La Cieca of witchcraft and then tells Enzo that Laura is dead. Enzo denounces Alvise and is arrested. Gioconda tries to save him by submitting to Barnaba.

Act IV

The sleeping Laura is carried into Gioconda’s home. At first Gioconda wants to kill her rival, but then she considers suicide. Enzo, who has been freed, is about to murder Gioconda when she tells him that Laura’s tomb is empty, but Laura wakes and describes how Gioconda saved her. Laura and Enzo escape by boat. Barnaba confronts Gioconda. She pretends to keep their bargain, but instead stabs herself and dies as Barnaba claims to have drowned La Cieca.

Personalities | Amilcare Ponchielli | High Romantic | Opera


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