In his preface to Angelo, Tyrant of Padua, one of his rare prose plays, Victor Hugo says that drama has to be both noble and real. In transposing the play to operatic form, Amilcare Ponchielli and Arrigo Boito remained faithful to Hugo. Their Gioconda, first performed at La Scala Milan in 1876, is one of the most flamboyant of classic operas. At that time, it was difficult for a composer to live in the shadow of Verdi, but Ponchielli was one of the rare artists to carve out a place and an identity for himself, not too far removed from the Master but different nonetheless. At his side, Boito, who had already demonstrated his talent as a composer with Mefistofele, proved to be even more skilled as a librettist, and he soon went on to work with Verdi. Lying somewhere between great French opera and Verdi-style drama, La Gioconda portrayed broken hearts and shattered destinies in 17th century Venice. Power and love, sacrifice and betrayal, poison and revenge: the opera brings together all the elements of melodrama and infuses them with a new lease of life, grandiose and operatic. Violeta Urmana, Luciana D’Intino, Marcelo Alvarez and Sergey Murzaev appear together under the baton of Daniel Oren and Pier Luigi Pizzi’s direction in this rare and spectacular masterpiece.