- Richard Taruskin
Opera in four acts by César Antonovich Cui to a libretto by Viktor Burenin after Victor Hugo ’s Angelo, tyran de Padoue; St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre, 1/13 February 1876.
Despite its subtext of political liberation, Hugo’s play was pre-eminently an erotic one: a love rectangle, one has to call it, among Angelo Malipieri (bass in the opera), the ruler of Padua, his wife Caterina (soprano) and his mistress Thisbe (mezzo-soprano), both of whom love not him but Ezzelino da Romano, alias Rodolfo (tenor), scion of the former ruling clan of Padua. Caterina is saved from a life-threatening plot by the self-sacrificing Thisbe, who accidentally learns that Caterina had saved her mother’s life long ago in Venice. It is interesting to compare the libretto of Cui’s opera with the one ‘Tobia Gorrio’ (Arrigo Boito) fashioned from the same play for Ponchielli’s exactly contemporary ...