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Brian W. Pritchard

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Caldara to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio ( see Adriano in Siria above), with ballet music by Nicola Matteis; Vienna, Hoftheater (Teatro Grande), 9 November 1732.

Caldara’s 13th opera for the name-day celebrations of the Habsburg emperor Charles VI has the Roman emperor Adriano [Hadrian] (tenor) as its nominal hero. The plot deals with his amorous dalliance with Emirena (soprano), a captive Parthian princess, his arrogant dismissal of Farnaspe [Pharnaspes] (alto), Emirena’s lover, and his deception of his wife Sabina (soprano). In the ...


Bertil H. van Boer

Lyric tragedy in a prologue and five acts by Joseph Martin Kraus to a libretto by Johan Henrik Kellgren after an outline by Gustavus based on Jean-Jacques Le Franc de Pompignan’s play Didon; Stockholm, Royal Opera, 18 November 1799.

The opera begins with a prologue depicting winds chained to a rock in the sea. Eol [Aeolus] (bass) refuses to release them until asked by Juno (soprano) to allow them to sink the escaping Trojan fleet. After a storm, Neptun [Neptune] (bass) calms the waves and Aeneas (tenor) is cast ashore on the coast of Carthage. His mother Venus (soprano) directs him to seek aid from Queen Dido (soprano). In Act 1, she welcomes the strangers and asks that they help dedicate a new temple in homage to Juno, who refuses to accept it. In Act 2 a hunt is interrupted by a storm that drives Dido and Aeneas to a cave for shelter; they pledge their love, only to be interrupted by the ghost of Dido’s first husband, Siché [Sychaeus] (bass), who warns of their impending doom. In Act 3, the Numidian King Jarbas (tenor or baritone) arrives disguised as his own ambassador to ask for Dido’s hand; he is rejected and vows revenge. Aeneas and Dido then appear before the temple of Juno to be married, but an earthquake occurs, followed by the appearance of Ära (soprano), who orders Aeneas to leave Carthage. As the Trojans prepare to set sail, Dido unsuccessfully asks Aeneas to stay. Her servant Clelié [Cloelia] (soprano) then arrives with news of the approaching Numidian army. In Act 5 a battle takes place in which Aeneas slays Jarbas and defeats the Numidians before leaving Carthage. Dido, at first encouraged by his victory, sees his ships departing and immolates herself. The goddess Iris (soprano) arrives and tells the Carthaginians that Dido has been apotheosized. Finally Jupiter (baritone) receives Dido in Olympus....


Dale E. Monson

Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its principal source is Virgil’s Aeneid. Operas on the subject appear under various titles including Enea nel Lazio, Enea in Italia and Enea e Lavinia, and in French as Enée et Lavinie.

In opera Aeneas is most widely known for his desertion of Dido (particularly in Nahum Tate’s poetry for Purcell in ...


Thérèse Radic

Opera in one act, op.99, by Felix Werder to a libretto by Leonard Radic; Sydney, Opera House, 14 March 1974.

Lady Celia (soprano) sets a trap for her apparently unfaithful husband, Sir Reginald (tenor), the Australian High Commissioner, who spends too much time with Olivia Tomas (mezzo-soprano), the wife of the South American Ambassador. Lady Celia plans an opera performance to celebrate the Queen’s birthday and offers Sir Reginald and Olivia roles. When the opera begins, it becomes clear that the plot is a slice of Sir Reginald’s own life. He tries to break out of the scene but cannot. When Olivia shoots him as rehearsed, the ‘dummy’ gun turns out to be real and Sir Reginald collapses. Neither woman is responsible: Gregory Jones (baritone), the Second Secretary, loaded the gun knowing that it would be fired at his superior, a man who had long denied him promotion and had incessantly ridiculed him....


Thérèse Radic

Opera in one act by Felix Werder to his own libretto after Aeschylus’ play, translated by Gilbert Murray; Melbourne, Grant Street Theatre, 1 June 1977 (broadcast of earlier version, The Agamemnon of Aeschylus, ABC, 1967).

The plot follows precisely the words of Gilbert Murray’s translation of Aeschylus’ ...


Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Gaetano Andreozzi to a libretto by Francesco Ballani; Venice, Teatro S Benedetto, Carnival 1788.

Leucade [Leotychidas] (soprano castrato) is taken prisoner in an uprising against Agesilaus (soprano castrato), initiated by the Congiutati under the leadership of Leotychidas’ father, Lisandro [Lysander] (tenor), a military hero and supposed friend of the king. Outraged by his perfidy, Erissa (soprano), Queen of Paphlagonia and Leotychidas’ betrothed, condemns him to death and offers her hand to the king, much to the dismay of Lysander’s daughter, Aglatide (soprano), who loves the king. When Lysander attempts to take power Leotychidas interposes himself between his father’s sword and the king, thereby earning clemency for both of them. Based on a new libretto by the young Roman author Ballani, the opera enjoyed half a dozen revivals in the years before the Republic. Though still an ‘aria’ opera, with ensembles to end Acts 1 and 2 and a chorus in each act, it contains a few novelties: an aria interrupted by a second character, and a short quartet (‘cavatina a quattro’) when the captured Leotychidas is brought in. When it was revised for Florence in the autumn of ...


Anselm Gerhard

Grosse historisch-romantische Oper in three acts by Gaspare Spontini to a libretto by Ernst Raupach; Berlin, Königliches Opernhaus, 12 June 1829.

Although banished by Emperor Henry VI (baritone), Heinrich (tenor), son of the Emperor’s Guelph opponent Henry the Lion, is in Mainz incognito in the year ...



Scott L. Balthazar

Dramma semiserio per musica in two acts by Ferdinando Paer to a libretto by Luigi Buonavoglia after Filippo Casari’s play Agnese di Fizendry; Parma, Villa Scotti, Teatro Ponte d’Attaro, October 1809.

Seven years before the opera takes place, Agnese (soprano) has driven her father Uberto (bass) to madness by marrying Ernesto (tenor), whom Uberto despises. Confined to an asylum and believing Agnese to be dead, Uberto has been ignored by his daughter until Ernesto’s infidelity causes her to seek him out again. With the help of Don Pasquale (bass), superintendent of the asylum, and Don Girolamo (tenor), her father’s caretaker, she gradually convinces him that she is still alive. Uberto finally recognizes her, and he recovers his sanity completely when she performs a song that she often sang to him before their estrangement; Agnese forgives Ernesto after he repents of his indiscretions. The kindly Don Pasquale, himself a contented father, and his loyal daughter Carlotta (soprano) serve as dramatic foils to Uberto and Agnese and provide comic relief....


Robert Hoskins

Comic afterpiece, op.16, in two acts by Samuel Arnold to a libretto by John O’Keeffe; London, Little Theatre in the Haymarket, 4 September 1781.

This opera, which played for 200 performances over the rest of the century, chiefly owed its popularity to the novelty of the acting, especially that of John Edwin as Lingo (baritone), the schoolmaster-turned-butler who is continually misquoting Latin tags. The plot is a parable of rustic virtue and innocence set against the deceptions of the town; tuneful strophic airs are appropriate in the representation of comic country characters and Arnold’s score has some good examples. Lingo’s ‘Amo, amas, I love a lass’ became famous as a student song....


Anthony Hicks

Drama per musica in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto by Vincenzo Grimani ; Venice, Teatro S Giovanni Gristostomo, 26 December 1709.

Handel’s second and last opera written in Italy, Agrippina effectively established his international reputation. According to Mainwaring’s Memoirs of the Life of … Handel...


David Murray

Oper in two acts by Richard Strauss to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal; Dresden, Staatsoper, 6 June 1928 (revised version, Salzburg, Festspielhaus, 14 August 1933).

After Strauss completed Die Frau ohne Schatten in 1917 there was a long hiatus in his operatic partnership with Hofmannsthal. In the early 1920s Hofmannsthal made abortive sketches for a Semiramis libretto (which Strauss had yearned for since ...


(b New York, NY, Oct 1, 1948). American lyricist. She has collaborated frequently with Stephen Flaherty.


Richard Langham Smith

(‘The Young Eagle’). Drame musical in five acts by Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert to a libretto by Henri Cain after Edmond Rostand’s play; Monte Carlo, Opéra, 10 March 1937.

It was the first of two stage works by Honegger and Ibert (the other being an operetta, ...


William Ashbrook

Melodramma giocoso in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Jacopo Ferretti after Giovanni Giraud’s L’ajo nell’imbarazzo (1807, Rome); Rome, Teatro Valle, 4 February 1824 (revised as Don Gregorio, Naples, Teatro Nuovo, 11 June 1826).

This was the first sustained success of Donizetti’s career. A father, Marchese Giulio (baritone), having been maltreated by a woman, insists that his two sons grow up without knowing any females. Their tutor, Don Gregorio (...


Tim Page

Opera in three acts by Philip Glass to a libretto by the composer, Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel and Richard Riddell; Stuttgart, Staatsoper, 24 March 1984.

Glass has called Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha and Akhnaten a trilogy of ‘portrait’ operas. From a purely dramatic standpoint such a grouping makes sense, although all of the composer’s later operas bear closer musical resemblance to ...


Curtis Price

Opera in three acts by Luis Grabu to a libretto by John Dryden ; London, Dorset Garden Theatre, early June 1685.

In 1680–81 the reign of Charles II was gravely threatened by the Exclusion Crisis, an attempt by certain members of Parliament to block the succession of his brother, James, Duke of York, a Roman Catholic. With the defeat of the Exclusionists and the foiling of plots to assassinate him, Charles II requested ‘something at least like an Opera’ to celebrate his deliverance and the continuation of the Stuart line. The actor-manager Thomas Betterton was despatched to Paris in ...


Lois Rosow

Tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully (see Lully family (opera) §(1)) to a libretto by Quinault, Philippe after Euripides’ Alcestis; Paris, Opéra, 19 January 1674.

This was Lully’s second tragedy. The king and courtiers saw a rehearsal at Versailles in ...


Kathleen Kuzmick Hansell

Opera seria in three acts by Pietro Alessandro Guglielmi ( see Guglielmi family, §1 ) to a libretto by ranieri de’ Calzabigi [Calsabigi], Ranieri (Simone Francesco Maria) de’ revised by Giuseppe Parini; Milan, Regio Ducal Teatro, 26 December 1768.

Shortly after the Viennese première of Gluck’s ...


John A. Rice

Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th and 18th centuries, based on Euripides′ Alcestis. When Admetus, King of Pherae in Thessaly, is ill and about to die an oracle announces that he will be saved if someone else is willing to die in his stead. His wife Alcestis displays her conjugal devotion by offering herself; she dies and Admetus recovers. According to some versions, Hercules then brings Alcestis back from the Underworld and reunites her with Admetus....


Thomas Bauman

Comische Oper in one act by Joseph Schuster to a libretto by August Gottlieb Meissner after Marc Antoine Le Grand’s comedy L’Amour diable; Dresden, Kleines Kurfürstliches Theater, March 1778.

The old alchemist Tarnow (baritone) refuses to let his daughter Louise (soprano) wed until he has discovered the philosopher’s stone. Her lover Bellnitz (tenor) has contrived a trap-door into her chamber in order to effect their escape. Bellnitz’s servant Heinrich (bass) impersonates a devil that Tarnow believes he has conjured up in one of his experiments and demands either Tarnow or a young female in his place. Tarnow agrees to give him Louise. He tries to renege when the deception is revealed, but threats from Frau Tarnow (soprano) and the charge of having given his daughter to a devil convince him that he should give up alchemy, and allow his daughter to marry Bellnitz....