• Find us on Facebook
  • Follow us on Twitter
  • Follow us on Instagram
  • View Our YouTube Channel
  • Listen on Spotify
  • View our scores on nkoda

English Deutsch
Music Text

Libretto by Richard Bletschacher (G)



Abbreviations (PDF)




World Premiere
State Opera, Vienna State Opera
Cesare Lievi, director
Conductor: Mstislav Rostropovich
Company: Wiener Staatsoper


Don Carlo Gesualdo, prince of Venosa Baritone
Donna Maria Gesualdo, his wife Mezzo Soprano
Don Fabrizio Caraffa, Duke of Andria Tenor
Donna Maddalena Caraffa, his wife Soprano
Cardinal Alfonso Gesualdo Bass
Don Giulio Gesualdo Baritone
Donna Sveva D'Avalos, Maria's Mother Contralto
Donna Maria Caracciolo, Marquesa of Vico Soprano
Don Garzia de Toledo, Viceroy of Naples Tenor
Count of Ruo, Fabrizio's grandfather Baritone
Silvana Albano, Maria's maid Soprano
A gardener's wife from Chiaia Mezzo Soprano
Pietro Bardotti, Carlo's servant Tenor
Ascanio and Francesco, hunters 2 Basses
Don Raffaello, a priest and lutenist silent role
Madrigal singers, musicians, guests, dancers, hunters, monks and servants
Time and Place

The city and kingdom of Naples, between 1586 and 1590


Carlo Gesualdo is Prince of Venosa and a lutenist and composer. His only passions apart from music are hunting and castle-building. At the request of his family, he marries his young cousin, Maria d’Avalos who has been married twice before. Gesualdo shows his beloved castle to his fearful bride. Gesualdo’s family already senses a threat. At a spring celebration given by the Viceroy of Naples, Maria falls passionately in love with Fabrizio Caraffa, the married brother of her first husband. Their doubly adulterous love is discovered by Gesualdo’s uncle and soon noised abroad. Gesualdo hopes to solve the situation, which is personally and politically dangerous, by provoking a hunting accident. The plan fails, as Maria and Fabrizio have been warned of the danger.

Gesualdo composes a madrigal expressive of his grief. At the same time, the lovers write to one another. Fabrizio urges Maria to give him up to save her life, but she replies by recklessly inviting him to meet with her. After pretending to leave on a hunting expedition, Gesualdo hides and waits for Maria to meet her lover. When the pair are trapped, hired murderers appear and Maria and Fabrizio are brutally killed. Maria’s maid, Silvana, manages to save Maria’s baby child.

The cardinal and viceroy interrogate innocent Neapolitan bystanders in order to learn the truth about the murder. The families of Maria and Fabrizio are overcome with grief. Gesualdo, meanwhile, has taken refuge in his beloved castle where he does penance in the castle chapel. His hunting companions, who helped him in the murder, are now required to flog him, while a chorus of monks sings the ‘De profundis’. But Gesualdo is haunted by the sound of the baby’s cries. He begins to imagine that the child resembles Fabrizio and must be the offspring of Maria’s adulterous liaison. In a frenzy, he seizes the baby and swings it to death.



Stay updated on the latest composer news and publications