Sciarrino started composing the opera in 1996. He based the libretto on the 1590 murder by the composer Carlo Gesualdo of his wife and her lover, but while working on it he discovered that Alfred Schnittke was also composing an opera (Gesualdo) on the same story. Deleting the references to Gesualdo, Sciarrino turned to a play, Il tradimento per l'onore, by Giacinto Andrea Cicognini, and also used an elegy of Claude Le Jeune, based on a text by Pierre de Ronsard.
Conductor: Pascal Rophé)
In the Prologue, a backstage voice sings Le Jeune's chanson. It is morning, and the Count and Countess declare their eternal love. The Servant announces the arrival of the Guest. After a short intermezzo, it is now mid-day. The Countess and the Guest make love. As darkness descends, the Guest leaves and the Countess is alone with the Servant.
In the evening, the Count forgives the Countess. Later that night, the Countess opens the curtains of her bed, discovering the dead body of the Guest. The Count stabs the Countess and she collapses on the body of the Guest.
Following the Schwetzingen premiere, the opera has been performed at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels and in New York with choreography by Trisha Brown (2001), as well as by the Ensemble Risognanze (2003) and at the Salzburg Festival (2008), the Berlin Festival of Contemporary Music (2010), a co-production between the Festival of Contemporary Art in Montepulciano (2010) and Oper Frankfurt (2011) as well as at the Staatsoper Berlin (2016).