Mona Lisa (opera)

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Work data
Title: Mona Lisa
Original title: Mona Lisa
Leonardo's painting, a source of inspiration for the opera

Leonardo's painting, a source of inspiration for the opera

Shape: Thoroughly composed
Original language: German
Music: Max von Schillings
Libretto : Beatrice Dovsky
Premiere: September 26, 1915
Place of premiere: Stuttgart
Playing time: approx. 2 ¼ hours
Place and time of the action: Around 1500 and around 1900

In the foreplay and after-play:

In the first and second act:

Mona Lisa is an opera in two acts with a prelude and epilogue by Max von Schillings . The libretto was written by Beatrice Dovsky ; it interweaves the genesis of the famous painting into a triangular story . The first performance took place on September 26, 1915 in the New Court Theater in Stuttgart . Mona Lisa became Schilling's greatest success.

In 1913, Schillings retired to what is now called the Mona Lisa Tower in Gürzenich am Weiherhof . At that time there was a grand piano on which he composed the opera within six weeks. Schillings said: "I have to admit that none of my compositions made me feel as excited and tense inside as when I was writing the Mona Lisa ." The score took shape in the following months and in July 1914, when the First World War broke out, the whole work was as good as finished.


13 woodwinds, 14 brass players, six percussionists, two harps, a celesta, a mandolin, strings, organ and bells


place and time

The framework story told in the prelude and epilogue takes place at the time of the opera's premiere, i.e. at the beginning of the 20th century, while the story told in the two acts takes place in Florence in 1492.


Image: cloister

A newlywed couple - he is much older than them - is on their honeymoon in Florence. The two visit the former palace of Francesco del Giocondo , which is now a monastery. A lay brother leads them. From him they learn that Lisa del Giocondo, who became world famous through Leonardo's painting Mona Lisa , used to live here. The woman asks the friar to tell their story.

first act

Image: Hall in a palace

The rich pearl merchant Francesco del Giacondo welcomes numerous guests to his palace. It is Carnival and this event should be celebrated happily today. Mona Lisa, the host's wife, who is 24 years his junior, comes back from confession with a bouquet of irises and, as always, makes a sad impression. This only changes when Giovanni is the last guest to enter the hall. Mona Lisa had a hot affair with him in her youth. At the sight of him the old fire flares up again, which her husband does not hide. When the latter surprises his wife and her lover with a familiar tête-à-tête , Giovanni flees into the open safe where Francesco keeps his pearls. Frantic with jealousy, Francesco slams the door of the safe, locks it and throws the key through a window into the river Arno. He then forces his wife to obey him.

Second act

Image: Hall in a palace

The next morning, Dianora, Francesco's daughter from his first marriage, brings her stepmother a key that she discovered in her boat a few minutes ago. Mona Lisa realizes right away that it is the key to the safe. After sending the girl to church, she tries to open the double-door closet; but at the second door they let their strength down. Suddenly she is surprised by her husband and hands him the key - this time with her famous mysterious smile. As soon as Francesco has opened the second door, Mona Lisa throws the first one behind him. Now he is doomed to suffer the same death as her lover the day before.

Mona Lisa collapses and dies.


Image: cloister

The couple followed the lay brother's story closely. The woman gratefully hands the man of God a richly filled purse and asks him to have a mass read for the salvation of the poor Mona Lisa. As she and her husband turn towards the exit, she drops a bouquet of irises. The brother picks up the flowers and kisses the blossoms. As he looks after the couple, he stutters the words: “Who are you? - Eva? - Magdalena? - Mona Lisa! - Mona Lisa! "

Web links

Individual evidence