Opera in three acts by Francesco Cilea
libretto by Arturo Colautti
Premiere 15 April 1907, Teatro alla Scala di Milano


The story takes place in 15th-century Siena. The first act opens on the inauguration of a monumental fountain in the main square of the city. For the occasion, party hatreds have been set aside and the exiles, who have been besieging the city, are allowed to enter--unarmed--until sunset. Among these is Lionetto De' Ricci, whose attention is captivated by Gloria, the daughter of Aquilante De' Bardi, one of the chief notables. She offers him a drink, and her brother Bardo, seeing her chatting with a stranger, steps in and demands to know who he is. Lionetto relates the sad story of his family, and Aquilante recognizes in him the son of the former leader who had surrendered Montalcino. The nobles insult him, but Lionetto swears that his father was merely a victim of hatred between factions. Aquilante restores order, but when it comes time for the exiles to depart again, Lionetto refuses to leave unless he can have Gloria in marriage, as a token of peace. Aquilante, Bardo, and the noblemen protest indignantly, while the commoners support Lionetto. At the height of the tension, Lionetto drops his cloak, revealing that he is armed and bearing the imperial insignia: he is the famous Ghibelline captain Fortebrando. With the help of his companions, who draw their concealed swords, he succeeds in abducting Gloria and escaping. Bardo is wounded in the skirmish.


Act II takes place in the chambers where Gloria is being held hostage while Lionetto lays siege to Siena. Gloria is awakened by the din of battle and fears for her family and her city. The woman charged with keeping watch over her (``la Senese'') reminds Gloria that it lies within her power to put an end to the conflict by accepting the love of Lionetto. Gloria is attracted to Lionetto, but her feelings are restrained by loyalty to her people.

Gloria's brother Bardo, disguised as a merchant, manages to infiltrate her chambers in the enemy abode and accuses her of betrayal and of being responsible for the death of their father, who has fallen in battle. Gloria proclaims her innocence and her intention of sacrificing herself to save Siena. Bardo offers her a dagger and urges her to avenge their father by killing Fortebrando. Gloria refuses because she is horrified at the idea of blood, but she agrees to make Lionetto drink poison that she pours into a cup of wine.

Bardo exits and Lionetto arrives respectfully on the scene, kneeling before Gloria and breaking his sword: out of love for her, he has ordered that the siege be lifted. Gloria responds to the love expressed by Lionetto, but mindful of the promise to her brother, moves to drink herself of the poisoned cup. Lionetto forestalls her, throws away the cup, and gets her to admit that she loves him.


Act III begins with the wedding of Gloria and Lionetto in the Bardi family chapel. Bardo lingers in the background near his father's tomb, where he is joined by other nobles during the Magnificat. After the ceremony, Lionetto approaches to embrace his brother-in-law. The latter suddenly draws a dagger from under his cloak and fatally stabs Lionetto, then tries to drag Gloria away with him. Gloria is beside herself, desperate to remain near her dying husband. Only the sound of rekindled battle from outside tears Bardo away, leaving Gloria alone with Lionetto, who, after a prolonged farewell to his bride, expires. Gloria picks up the dagger and stabs herself, falling lifeless over the body of her husband.

synopsis © Bonnie Bonis, 1998

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Monday, 08-Dec-2003 21:45:09 PST