Are you my mother?

Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia is based on one short episode in the storied life of the famous female pharmacist.  In it she twice poisons her son; once at the insistence of her husband, the second time by accident.  The second time her son refuses the antidote preferring to die with his equally poisoned buddies but learns in his dying breath that Lucrezia is indeed his mother.  It’s pretty unusual for a bel canto opera in that the leading female role (a) has agency, (b) doesn’t go mad and (c) doesn’t die.

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