- Julian Budden
Melodramma in four acts by Amilcare Ponchielli to a libretto by Enrico Golisciani after Victor Hugo ’s play; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 17 March 1885.
The action takes place in France in 1638. Marion Delorme (soprano), former actress and demi-mondaine, lives with Didier (tenor), who knows nothing of her past. He rescues the Marquis de Severny (baritone) from a band of cut-throats, but suspects him of designs on Marion and challenges him publicly to a duel, for which Cardinal Richelieu has ordained the death penalty. Severny escapes arrest by feigning death, while Didier is imprisoned as his murderer. Marion procures Didier’s escape, and they join a company of strolling players headed by Lelio (mezzo-soprano). Laffemas (bass), spy of Richelieu, decides to entrap the lovers by ordering a performance at the cardinal’s palace. Severny, present in disguise, reveals Marion’s true identity and his own previous involvement with her. In disgust Didier gives himself up. His example is gallantly followed by Severny. Laffemas offers to save Didier’s life in return for Marion’s favours. Reluctantly she yields. For this she is savagely denounced by Didier; but they are finally reconciled before he and Severny are taken away to be executed....