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date: 12 November 2019

Griselda(i)locked

  • Malcolm Boyd
  •  and Lowell Lindgren

Extract

Drama in three acts by Antonio Maria Bononcini to a libretto by Apostolo Zeno ; Milan, Regio Ducal Teatro, 26 December 1718.

The plot is based on an old story familiar from the versions in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and in Boccaccio’s Il decamerone (on which Zeno drew for his libretto). It was one of the most popular of all 18th-century librettos, being set by some 15 composers in the first two decades of the century and used frequently thereafter. The action unfolds near Palermo in Sicily. King Gualtiero (alto castrato), in order to convince his rebellious nobles that his peasant wife Griselda (soprano) is worthy to be their queen and the mother of their future king, tests her virtue and steadfastness with a series of cruel ordeals. He tells her that their long-lost daughter was killed on his orders, banishes her from the court and announces that he intends to take another wife. This will be Costanza (contralto), who is in fact the missing daughter and in love with Roberto (soprano castrato), younger brother of Corrado, Prince of Puglia (tenor). In the humble cottage to which she has returned Griselda is pursued by Ottone, a Sicilian nobleman (alto castrato), who threatens to kill her infant son Everardo unless she agrees to marry him. Griselda refuses, and after being allowed to return to the palace as a servant to Gualtiero’s ‘fiancée’, she also refuses Gualtiero’s order to marry Ottone. This is her last ordeal. Gualtiero reveals his true motive for tormenting her and accepts her again as his queen; Costanza and Roberto are reunited; and Ottone, who confesses to have stirred up the nobles in the hope of winning Griselda, is forgiven....

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