La Gioconda is an opera in four acts by Amilcare Ponchielli set to an Italian libretto by Arrigo Boito (as Tobia Gorrio), based on Angelo, Tyrant of Padua, a play in prose by Victor Hugo, dating from 1835.
First performed in 1876, La Gioconda was a major success for Ponchielli, as well as the most successful new Italian opera between Verdi's Aida (1871) and Otello (1887). It is also a famous example of the Italian genre of Grande opera, the equivalent of French Grand-Opéra.
Ponchielli revised the work several times; the version that is played today was first given in 1880. There are several complete recordings of the opera, and it is regularly performed, especially in Italy. It is one of only a few operas that features a principal role for each of the six major voice types.
The story revolves around a woman, Gioconda, who so loves her mother that when Laura, her rival in love for the heart of Enzo, saves her mother's life, Gioconda puts aside her own romantic love to repay her. The villain Barnaba tries to seduce Gioconda, but she prefers death.
This opera was the first opera host Sean Bianco every heard and has remained his favorite opera to this day.
Gioconda - Maria Callas
Laura - Fiorenza Cossotto
Enzo - Pier Miranda Ferraro
Barnaba - Piero Cappuccilli
La Scala Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Antonio Votto - conductor
EMI - 1960