The True Story by Luciano Berio

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The True Story by Luciano Berio

The True Story is a relatively unknown opera to those who only know the major works, such as Carmen, Madama Butterfly, the Magic Flute etc. It was composed by Luciano Berio and composed during the last couple of decades.

In Act I, Berio retells the pragmatic situations that Verdi presented in Il trovatore, specifically how he was able to embody fundamental feelings and struggles.  In Act II, the same feelings and conflicts are seemingly repeated, but whilst the texts are similar, the music and the settings are quite different.

This is done for a reason. The composer wanted the audience to ask, “Where is the real story – in the first or second part?” to which he would reply, “I don’t know. Perhaps in an imaginary, even truer part?”Needless to say, this could be seen as rather confusing to some people, as this notion of truth was not easily determinable. What seems unmistakable becomes open to discussion later on. The Japanese film director Akira Kurosawa took up this ‘idea of truth’ for his cult film Rashomon.  

One reason for the great success of The True Story was due to the great Italian Milva taking up her role. 

An ‘opera’ in two acts, the libretto was composed by Italo Calvino. The True Story first premiered on the 9th March 1982 in Milan at the Teatro alla Scala.


Ada (Mezzo-Soprano)

Leonora (Soprano)

Ugo (Tenor)

Ivo (Baritone)

The Condemned Man (Bass)

The Commandant (Baritone)

Priest (Tenor)

Two Street-Singers (Mezzo-Soprano, Contralto)

Four Passers By (actors)

Vocal ensemble and chorus, mimes, dancers and acrobats.


Act I

During a festival, a tyrant has a man captured and executed. The murdered man’s sister decides to take revenge. She kidnaps the son of the commandant but finds herself unable to kill him. Instead, she brings him up as her own son.

When the tyrant dies, his second son takes over his rule. Neither brother knows anything about the other but they both fall in love with the same woman. Together, they fight one on one, resulting in death and ruin.

Act II

During a festival – or is it a rebellion – a man is captured and executed at the whims of a tyrant. A child is kidnapped, but is it out of love or hate? Two men fight but why do they fight? Is it over a woman, love, or is the reason nothing but an excuse?


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