OP3106. LA CENA DELLA BEFFE (Giordano), Live Performance, 14 Dec., 1988, w.Gian Paolo Sanzogno Cond. Fabio Armiliato, Rita Lantieri, Marco Chingari, etc. (Italy) 2-Bongiovanni 2068/69. - 8007068206926
“LA CENA DELLE BEFFE (The Jesters' Supper) is an opera in four acts composed by Umberto Giordano to an Italian libretto by Sem Benelli adapted from his play of the same name. The story, set in Florence at the time of Lorenzo de' Medici, recounts the rivalry between Giannetto Malespini and Neri Chiaramantesi for the affections of the beautiful Ginevra and Giannetto's thirst for revenge over a cruel joke played on him by Neri and his brother Gabriello. Giannetto's revenge ‘joke’ ultimately leads Neri to murder both Ginevra and (by mistake) his own brother. The opera ends with Neri's descent into madness.
The libretto for Giordano's opera was adapted by the Italian playwright and poet, Sem Benelli, from his verse play, LA CENA DELLE BEFFE. Described as a poema drammatico (dramatic poem), it premiered in 1909 at the Teatro Argentina in Rome with original music composed by 14 year-old Manoah Leide-Tedesco. Like several other works by Benelli it is written in neo-romantic florid verse, with an historical setting and a melodramatic, violent plot. Benelli's play was an immediate and extraordinary success in Italy. At one time it was being performed simultaneously by four different Italian touring companies, and continues to remain in the repertoire today. A version of the play adapted by Jean Richepin and titled 'La beffa' (THE JOKE), was performed in Paris in 1910 with Sarah Bernhardt playing the role of Giannetto. It ran for 21 performances, but her plan to present the play in New York later that year had to be abandoned when the wrong sets were shipped from Paris. Considerably more successful was the 1919 English adaptation by Edward Sheldon, THE JEST, starring John Barrymore as Giannetto Malespini and Lionel Barrymore as Neri Chiaramantesi, which ran for 256 performances at the Plymouth Theatre in New York City.
Giordano approached Benelli in 1917 to propose setting the play as an opera. Benelli initially refused as the composer Tommaso Montefiore had obtained the right to compose a work based on the play in 1910, although by 1917, he had still not begun work on it. After lengthy negotiatons via Giordano's publisher, Casa Sonzogno, Giordano finally obtained the rights to compose the opera on 15 September 1923. Benelli himself adapted his play for the libretto.
LA CENA DELLE BEFFE premiered in Milan on 20 December 1924 at La Scala in a performance directed by Giovacchino Forzano and conducted by Arturo Toscanini, with Carmen Melis as Ginevra and Hipólito Lázaro as Giannetto. The sets and costumes were designed by Galileo Chini, who had also designed the premiere production of Benelli's original play in 1909.”
- Hans Lick