Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Opera vs Reality: Lucrezia Borgia

I love the opera LUCREZIA BORGIA by Gaetano Donizetti.What a woman she is, Lucrezia Borgia. But in the opera she is murderess, who mostly use poison as her weapon. But the truth, she is not a villain nor is she just an ordinary woman liviing in Renaissance Italy. She is, however, sister of Cesare Borgia who was used to use murder to get his will, and daughter of the one of the most infamous and corrupt Popes of time, Pope Alexander VI.

Who was Lucrezia Borgia? Not a fool, neither a complete innocent woman nor a villainess. Living in the court of Pope Alexander VI even as she was a favourite child of a Pope who really loved his children, it was a hard life and nothing was too hidden. Not a place for innocence but neither a hotbed for incest. The charges of incest between Lucrezia and her father and brother propably came because the Borgia family was never popular and that the idea of the Pope as a father only could have fatherly feelings towards Lucrezia was hard to fanthom. And that Cesare Borgia, the most harden man of Italy, the man portrayed in Macchiavelli's IL PRINCIPE,  should have only brotherly feelings towards Lucrezia was also hard to fanthom, because Cesare really was a cruel man and had many lives on his conscience.

Renaissance, a time of beauty in culture but a hard time to live in. Cruel, corrupt. Money was their god in many ways.

What is true in the opera? Well, Lucrezia Borgia was certainly married to Alfono d'Este, Duke of Ferrara. But in the opera she sings "Don Alfonso, mio quarto marito" as a menace, meaning that she in the opera probably killed of the 3 other husbands by poison and that it could easily be Alfonso's destiny as well. But in reality was Don Alfonso her 3rd husband not 4th. In the opera it is often played like Alfonso is suspicious towards Lucrezia and does not really love her. And it was often told by those who was likely to backtalk any Borgia, that Alfonso never loved Lucrezia. But the opposite was true, he who was totally against a marriage to a Borgia came to love her very much. Every time that Lucrezia was ill, and it was often, did Alfonso come as fast as he could to stay with her. Did she love him? Not initially, but in the end a love came from the respect to a man who had much that she could admire him for. A man who hated Cesare Borgia and all that he stood for could for his wife's wish even try to get Cesare out of some trouble. Only love could make the proud Don Alfonso do something like that.

Lucrezia was smart, she had worked to get this 3rd marriage a place that she could be safe from all the meddling for her father the Pope and from her brother, a man who probably killed Lucrezia's second husband that she had loved. She managed to be loved by almost all of the d'Este family. Only Isabella d'Este never liked har, the proud and noble woman hated the upstart Borgia. And it did not help that Lucrezia became lover to Isabella's husband. So. Lucrezia was no Saint. But her Christian belief was true, and she was not too proud to help the people of Ferrara. She was a good, kind and strong administrator. In war time active in helping the people and so on. She was also an entrepreneur and a great negotiator of deals with ordinary people. Unlike many other noble people she would always work for a deal that was not only good for her but good for the others, too. And if there was problems, she would negotiate over and over again until reason won. She was fair to people. And the people of Ferrara loved her. They also loved Don Alfonso who also was a great administrator and had stopped many corrupt dealings that was after his father Duke Ercole I of Ferrara.

Front Cover
Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love and Death in Renaissance Italy
By Sarah Bradford
Edition: illustrated
Published by Penguin, 2005
ISBN 014101413X, 9780141014135
432 pages

For more reviews from my travels, see www.operaduetstravel.com

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