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The bel canto style of opera popularized in the 1800s by Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti is marked by vocal acrobatics and showy flourishes that only serve to obfuscate already convoluted story lines. This is too bad, because Lucrezia Borgia is one of the best true Hollywood stories ever to come out of the Vatican. The opera’s namesake, daughter of Pope Alexander VI, was married off to a succession of politically connected husbands, while having an incestuous relationship with her syphilitic brother, who arranged to have her second husband killed in a fit of jealousy. By the time Donizetti’s opera opens, Lucrezia is on to husband No. 3. A case of mistaken identity, more incest, and lots of poison lead unsurprisingly to a less than happy ending. Plácido Domingo conducts, with sopranos Renée Fleming and Sondra Radvanovsky sharing the title role.

THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL OPERA PERFORMS LUCREZIA BORGIA AT 7 P.M. SATURDAY, NOV. 15, AND MONDAY, NOV. 17, AT THE KENNEDY CENTER OPERA HOUSE, 2700 F ST. NW. $68-$250. (202) 295-2400.