Cena delle beffe, La (‘The Supper of Jests’)
- Julian Budden
(‘The Supper of Jests’)
Poema drammatico in four acts by Umberto Giordano to a libretto by Sem Benelli after his play of the same title; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 20 December 1924.
The action takes place in Florence at the time of Lorenzo il Magnifico. Act 1 opens in the palace of Tornaquinci (bass), who is giving a supper that is intended to reconcile Giannetto Malaspini (tenor) with Neri Chiaramantesi (baritone) and Neri’s brother Gabriello (tenor), who, Giannetto recounts, have beaten him up, ducked him in the Arno and then stabbed him (‘Calato in Arno e pugnalato poi’). Also present is Ginevra (soprano), Neri’s mistress and the object of their feud. Giannetto’s hints that Gabriello is likewise in love with Ginevra cause the young man to leave, embarrassed. Having made Neri drunk, Giannetto dares him to go to a dangerous quarter of the city clad in a suit of white armour and equipped with a bill-hook. Neri accepts the challenge. When he has left Giannetto spreads word that he has lost his wits. Act 2 begins in Ginevra’s house next morning, when the news is brought to her of Neri’s supposed madness. This she emphatically denies; for has not Neri spent the night with her? But it is Giannetto, not Neri, who appears from her bedroom, where he has lain at her side disguised in Neri’s scarlet cloak. They are interrupted by the arrival of Neri himself, who threatens vengeance before being overpowered by Lorenzo’s men and taken into custody. In Act 3, set in the Medici palace, Neri is subjected at a doctor’s orders to mockery by his previous victims as a means of restoring his sanity. One of them, Lisabetta (soprano), who genuinely loves him, persuades him to feign total idiocy, so that he may be released as mad but harmless. Giannetto then proposes a test; he will return that night to Ginevra’s arms. If Neri is really mad he will not attempt to follow him. In Act 4 Neri, duly released, arrives at Ginevra’s house intending to catch the lovers ...