Let’s learn Italian with Lucrezia Borgia
In this post, we’ll learn Italian with Lucrezia Borgia. Who?
While there are many women named Lucrezia in the history of Italy and Italian culture, this historical figure fascinated people for centuries and is still being studied by historians, often with surprising findings.
I added select Youtube videos in Italian from a history documentary, a movie, and an opera for those who want to practice listening with material made for native speakers.
The topic is not an easy one, so if you can’t catch every word, that’s totally normal!
Who was Lucrezia Borgia?
Lucrezia Borgia, (born April 18, 1480, Rome—died June 24, 1519, Ferrara, Papal States), was an Italian noblewoman and a central figure of the infamous Borgia family of the Italian Renaissance.
She was the illegitimate daughter of Vannozza dei Cattanei and Rodrigo Borgia—who later became Pope Alexander VI—and sister of Cesare Borgia. Politically ambitious, corrupt, and licentious, Alexander and Cesare ruthlessly advanced themselves through bribery, nepotism, murder, and the strategic marriage alliances of Cesare and Lucrezia.
Lucrezia Borgia was a famous beauty, notorious for the suspicious deaths and political intrigue that swirled around her and her family. She’s the main character of many novels.
Her first marriage, to Giovanni Sforza, ended in annulment when the Borgia family no longer needed the Sforzas, while her second marriage, to Alfonso of Aragon, ended with his death, probably at the hands of Cesare.
When she married Duke of Ferrara, Lucrezia proved herself a capable and popular duchess, acting as a patron to a flourishing arts community, skillfully administering affairs of state, and devoting herself to acts of piety and charity in her later years. She was also a patron of the arts.
Lucrezia Borgia has been characterized in art, literature, and film as depraved, extravagant, guilty of incest and murder; however, scholars assert that there is, in fact, insufficient proof of Lucrezia’s alleged bad acts or her active involvement in the crimes of her notorious family.
Practice your Italian listening skills with this documentary film on Youtube about Lucrezia’s life.
Learn Italian with Lucrezia Borgia (1940 movie)
A number of movies and even a TV series were produced after Lucrezia’s story.
The 1940 Italian history movie directed by Hans Hinrich and starring Isa Pola, Friedrich Benfer, and Carlo Ninchi, portrays the life of Lucrezia Borgia in the last part of her life when she was Duchess of Ferrara.
Watching a hidden gem of Italian cinema about Lucrezia on Youtube is a nice way to learn Italian.
Learn Italian with Lucrezia Borgia (opera by Donizetti)
Lucrezia Borgia is a melodramatic opera in a prologue and two acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Felice Romani wrote the Italian libretto after the play Lucrezia Borgia by Victor Hugo. Lucrezia Borgia was first performed on 26 December 1833 at La Scala, Milan.
Here’s the most famous aria from this opera with Italian lyrics and English translation.
This is not the kind of Italian language that you’d hear from Lucrezia if she lived in our times: it’s the old-style language that you only hear in opera. However, there are some words that are still used today and are worth learning.
Thanks to Youtube, you can learn Italian with Lucrezia at the opera!
|Italian lyrics||English translation|
|Era desso il figlio mio,||He was my son,|
|la mia speme,||my hope, my comfort;|
|il mio conforto;||he could have stemmed|
|ei potea placarmi Iddio,||God’s wrath, he seemed to|
|me parea far pura ancor.||make me pure again.|
|Ogni luce in lui m’ è||Now he’s dead all light has|
|spenta, il mio cuore con||gone. my heart has died|
|esso e morto. Sui mio||with him. On my head now|
|capo il cielo avventa il||falls the bolt of heaven’s|
|suo strale punitor.||punishment.|
Italian history, cinema, opera: a lot to learn with Lucrezia
The famous elements of Italian culture include its art and music. Italy was the birthplace of opera. The early film industry became internationally known for its historical spectacles.
You can find Lucrezia in all these forms of art and learn Italian through her story.