The original text
Based on the various stories about of Spanish-Italian noblewoman Lucrezia Borgia (1480–1519), Hugo's play consists of 15 scenes in 3 acts. It was initially called Le Festin à Ferrare ("the feast at Ferrara") and was written in July of 1832, possibly being altered slightly before the production. The play was first performed at the Théâtre de la Porte-Saint-Martin on 2 February, 1833, with the mise en scène by Hugo himself with the leading actor, Frédérick Lemaitre, and music by Alexandre Piccinni. The text was published in Paris by Eugène Renduel, 1833.
Translations and adaptations
Felice Romani based his Italian libretto for Gaetano Donizetti's (1797-1848) melodramatic opera Lucrezia Borgia (in a prologue and two acts) on Hugo's play. The opera was first performed on 26 December 1833 at La Scala, Milan.
The French text was adapted as a three act English drama called Lucretia Borgia by J.M. Weston (). First performed in the St Charles Theatre, New Orleans in 1844, the Fedral Street Theatre, Boston in 1847. The text first published in New York by Samuel French (circa 1865?).
Performance history in South Africa
Performances of the play
1866: Performed as Lucretia Borgia by the Le Roy-Duret Company in the Harrington Street Theatre, Cape Town, on 29 January, with A Duel in the Dark (Coyne) as afterpiece. Bosman (1980) suggests this was probably the Weston version, though the next performance (on the 15th of March) bills it as a "laughable Ethiopian farce", thus possibly a burlesque version of the Donizetti opera. Given the company's normal fare, the latter sounds highly likely.
Performances of the opera
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