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.
La Gioconda was first performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, on April 8, 1876. It was especially successful in its third and final version first seen at the same theatre on March 28, 1880. The opera had its American premiere at the Metropolitan Opera on December 20, 1883.
The opera's title translates as The Happy Woman, but is usually given in English as The Ballad Singer. However, as this fails to convey the irony inherent in the original, the Italian is usually used. Each act of La Gioconda has a title.
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.