Venere prigioniera (‘Venus the Prisoner’)
- John C.G. Waterhouse
(‘Venus the Prisoner’)
Commedia musicale in two acts and an intermezzo by Gian Francesco Malipiero to his own libretto after Emmanuel Gonzales’s novella Giangurgolo; Florence, Teatro della Pergola, 14 May 1957.
Gonzales’s 19th-century French novella is a tortuous tale about a disgraced 18th-century count who commits murder, then wins the secret love of the Queen of Spain by twice saving her life, before vengeance resulting from his previous crime catches up with him. Malipiero’s adaptation of this melodramatic story is characteristically capricious: whereas the first and last scenes have readily intelligible story lines – even quoting much of Gonzales’s dialogue word for word – the intervening portions of the opera have only intermittent points of contact with the original, using fragments of the tale as a loose framework into which settings of old Italian texts are arbitrarily slotted. The resultant sequence of events is often incomprehensible if one has not read the novella, the identity of which the composer never revealed in public; and the opera’s three middle scenes thus acquire something of the enigmatic, dream-like fascination of his extraordinary ‘symbolic’ operas of the later 1920s, notably ...