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Eric D. Weimer

Festa teatrale in one act by Johann Adolf Hasse to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio Vienna, Grosse Redoutensaal, 8 October 1760.

Written to celebrate the wedding of Archduke Joseph to Princess Isabella of Parma, this festa teatrale antedates Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice by only two years and may in fact have served as a model for some aspects of Gluck’s ‘reform’. The work is also the first in a series of three ...

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in two acts by Gian Francesco de Majo to a libretto by Marco Coltellini ; Vienna, Laxenburg, Privilegiato, 9 June 1764.

Alcides (alto castrato; the same mythological figure as Hercules) has fallen deeply in love with Elettra [Electra] (soprano), who is promised to Dardano [Dardanus] (soprano castrato). Taigete [Taygete] (soprano), Electra’s sister, reports to King Atlante [Atlas] (tenor), their father, that pirates have taken Electra and Dardanus captive. Desperate for the safety of his daughter, Atlas promises her to his friend Alcides, if he will save her. Alcides returns victorious, and Atlas tells the rescued couple that Electra has been promised to him. Electra denounces Alcides for his unreasonable demands, and all leave in distress. Taygete explains the situation to the bewildered Alcides, who then kills the monster guarding the golden apple tree, which disappears. He releases the old king from his promise, thus reuniting Electra and Dardanus. Alcides is hailed as Atlas’s successor. Esperide [Hesperis], Atlas’s immortal wife, then emerges from the sea to join the company in a celebratory ballet....

Article

Alcina  

Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to an anonymous libretto after Cantos vi and vii of Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando furioso, adapted from the libretto for Riccardo Broschi’s L’isola di Alcina (1728, Rome); London, Covent Garden Theatre, 16 April 1735.

Handel composed Alcina in the early months of ...

Article

Alcyone  

Jérôme de La Gorce

Tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Marin Marais to a libretto by Antoine Houdar de Lamotte after Ovid ; Paris, Opéra, 18 February 1706.

On the evidence of box-office takings and contemporary descriptions, this opera was ‘much applauded’ at the time of its first performance; it was revived on several occasions to ...

Article

Aleko  

Richard Taruskin

Opera in one act by Sergey Vasil’yevich Rakhmaninov to a libretto by Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovich-Danchenko -danchenko after Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin ’s dramatic narrative poem Tsïganï (‘The Gypsies’, 1824); Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 27 April/9 May 1893.

Aleko was an official graduation piece, assigned not only to the 19-year-old Rakhmaninov but to all three members of Arensky’s class in free composition at the Moscow Conservatory in ...

Article

Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli based on Ortensio Mauro ’s La superbia d’Alessandro (1690, Hanover); London, King’s Theatre, 5 May 1726.

Alessandro was Handel’s ninth full-length opera for the Royal Academy of Music and the first of the group of five in which the leading female roles were designed for the rival sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni; they sang Lisaura and Roxana. The other singers included the castratos Senesino (Alexander) and Antonio Baldi (Taxiles), the tenor Luigi Antinori (Leonnatus), the contralto Anna Vincenza Dotti (Cleon) and the bass Giuseppe Boschi (Clitus). The opera was completed on ...

Article

Opera seria in two acts by Giovanni Pacini to a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after Pietro Metastasio ( see Alessandro nell’Indie below); Naples, Teatro S Carlo, 29 September 1824.

Pacini’s Alessandro resembles other 19th-century adaptations of 18th-century librettos in a number of respects. It centres on a love triangle involving the invading Greek general Alexander (tenor), Cleofide [Cleophis] (soprano), queen of one part of India, and her lover Poro [Porus] (soprano), king of another part of India, who suspects unjustly that Cleophis has betrayed him. It also presents a horrifying climax in which the heroine threatens to immolate herself rather than marry Alexander, and it gives a primary role to ensembles of conflict. Yet it retains elements of Metastasian intrigue in the use of assumed identities by Porus and his general Gandarte [Gandartes] and in Alexander’s twofold attempt to coerce Cleophis’s affection. Moreover, it ends happily, when Alexander relents and reunites the couple....

Article

Harris S. Saunders

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Lotti to a libretto by Apostolo Zeno ; Venice, Teatro S Giovanni Grisostomo, Carnival 1717.

The plot is based loosely on Roman history. Giulia Mammea [Julia Mamaea] (soprano), mother of the emperor Alexander Severus (soprano castrato), desires to retain power as she did throughout her son’s reign (222–35). According to historical record, she succeeded in banishing her son’s wife Sallustia (soprano) and father-in-law after the latter’s foiled conspiracy against the emperor. But in the opera Sallustia selflessly offers her own life in order to save Julia Mamaea from the conspirators; overcome by the magnanimity of her gesture, Julia Mamaea is reconciled to Sallustia. A completely ahistorical subplot involves Albina (contralto), dressed as a man, testing the fidelity of her lover Claudio [Claudius] (soprano castrato)....

Article

Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto anonymously adapted from Apostolo Zeno as revised for Milan, 1723; London, King’s Theatre, 25 February 1738.

Like Oreste (1734), Alessandro Severo is a pasticcio opera created by Handel from his own works: the arias duets, entr’actes and final ...

Article

Peter Cohen

Romantic opera in three acts by Friedrich Freiherr von Flotow to a libretto by W. Friedrich ; Hamburg, Stadttheater, 30 December 1844.

The plot is a mild and comic extract from the turbulent life of the 17th-century Italian composer. In Act 1, set in and around St Mark’s Square, Venice, Stradella (tenor) is discovered in a gondola with some of his music students as they sing first a hymn to Venice and then a serenade to his beloved Leonore (soprano). She appears on the balcony and warns him against her guardian, Bassi (bass), a rich Venetian who has incarcerated her and plans to marry her the next day against her will. Stradella arranges to flee with Leonore, and the pair take advantage of a conniving, tumultuous carnival procession to elope. While Bassi gets caught up among the masked revellers, Stradella and Leonore slip away in the gondola....

Article

Elizabeth Norman McKay

Oper in three acts by Franz Schubert to a libretto by Franz van Schober; Weimar., Hoftheater, 24 June 1854.

In September 1821, enjoying the recent minor successes of three of his compositions in Vienna theatres, Schubert left Vienna with his friend Schober to spend several weeks in the country working on their new opera. Schober, a year older than Schubert and a dilettante of letters, music and the theatre, was full of enthusiasm for this collaboration. Both authors were influenced by the theories on opera of Ignaz von Mosel, a highly respected government official and man of the theatre and one of Schubert’s patrons, who supported Gluck’s operatic ideals. The young men may have followed his advice in omitting all spoken dialogue, thus breaking away from the German Singspiel tradition. The story, in which the son of a usurped monarch falls in love with the daughter of the usurper, and brings about a conciliation, might owe something to Shakespeare’s ...

Article

Alfred  

Jan Smaczny

Heroic opera in three acts by Antonín Dvořák to a German libretto by Theodor Körner ; Olomouc, Czech Theatre, 10 December 1938 (in Czech).

The plot concerns the English King Alfred (bass), and his bride Alwina (soprano), who is a prisoner of the Danes. In the first act, the general of the triumphant Danes, Harald (tenor), attempts to persuade Alwina to marry him. Another Danish leader, Gothron (baritone), has premonitions of an English victory. Act 2 introduces Alfred and his companion, Sieward (baritone), and concludes with Alfred’s freeing of Alwina. In Act 3 Alfred, with the assistance of the noble Dorset (tenor), wins a victory, and Harald commits suicide....

Article

William Ashbrook

Melodramma in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Felice Romani after Michel-Jean Sedaine ’s text for Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny’s Aline, reine de Golconde (1766, Paris), itself based on Stanislas-Jean de Boufflers’ novel of the same title; Genoa, Teatro Carlo Felice, 12 May 1828...

Article

Michel Noiray

Ballet-héroïque in three acts by Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny to a libretto by Michel-Jean Sedaine after Stanislas-Jean de Boufflers’ story La reine de Golconde; Paris, Opéra, 15 April 1766.

The opera opens with a ceremony during which Saint Phar (baritone), ambassador to the Indies (where France had trading stations at the time), comes to pay his respects to Aline, Queen of Golconda (soprano). Aline, who is of French origin herself, recognizes Saint Phar as the man she once loved when she was a simple peasant girl and hides her true identity behind a veil. In Act 2 she dresses as a shepherdess and is recognized by Saint Phar in a valley resembling the one where they first loved one another. She then leaves him, in order to test his love. In the final act Saint Phar refuses the hand of the Queen of Golconda out of faithfulness to the shepherdess he has found again, but Aline reveals that shepherdess and queen are the same woman and the lovers are reunited....

Article

Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

Pasticcio opera in three acts arranged by John Jacob Heidegger , including music by Giovanni Bononcini and Attilio Ariosti ; London, Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket, 10 January 1710.

Almahide (soprano) has been brought up as a man in order to kill her father’s enemy, Almiro (alto castrato), but has fallen in love with him. He loves Celinda (soprano), who is loved by the king, Almanzor (alto castrato). Celinda loves the disguised Almahide. After much jealousy and several threats of death, all ends happily in two marriages....

Article

Almast  

Stephen Johnson

Opera in two acts by Alexander Spendiaryan to a libretto by the composer and S. Parnok after Hovhannes Tumanyan’s poem Tmkabert aṙumē; (‘The Capture of Tmkabert’); Moscow, Bol’shoy Theatre, 1930.

The opera is set in the Crimea in the 18th century. Almast (soprano), a frail and beautiful girl of noble descent, is betrothed to Tatul, the ruler of the Armenian fortress of Tmkabert, which is under threat from the armies of Nadir, Shah of Persia. At first Almast is faithful to Tatul and to his people, but a Persian musician (tenor), sent as a spy by Nadir, persuades her by the power of his art that marriage to the Shah would mean greatness for herself and her country. Almast betrays Tatul to Nadir, but the Armenian people rise up, liberate the fortress and collectively sentence Almast to exile. Her fate in the opera is therefore very different from that related by Tumanyan, where she is killed by the bored Nadir....

Article

Almena  

John A. Parkinson

Opera in three acts by Michael Arne and Jonathan Battishill to a libretto by Richard Rolt; London, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 2 November 1764.

The sultan of Persia has been desposed and killed by the villain Mohammed (bass) who then makes advances to the sultan’s widow Aspatia (soprano), who is also loved by the sultan’s Vizier (bass). Aspana’s daughter Almena (soprano) is wooed by the hero Mirza (soprano castrato), the late sultan’s nephew. He has also aroused the affection of Zara (soprano), Mohammed’s sister. When Mirza is thrown into prison, Zara assumes a disguise and rescues him, without overturning his love for Almena. Eventually all ends happily with the lovers reunited. Michael Arne provided the arias for the hero and heroine, whereas Battishill was responsible for Mohammed and Zara’s arias and the choruses. Strangely, their contributions were published separately. Arne’s florid music include Almena’s aria ‘No fears alarm’ which features a remarkable mandolin obbligato....

Article

Almira  

Anthony Hicks

Singspiel in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto by Friedrich Christian Feustking after Giulio Pancieri’s L’Almira (1691, Venice); Hamburg, Theater am Gänsemarkt, 8 January 1705 (according to Mattheson, relevant wordbooks are dated 1704).

Handel’s first opera, produced when he was 19, is strongly influenced by the example of the leading Hamburg composer Reinhard Keiser in its brilliant fusion of French, Gemman and Italian styles. The libretto was in fact intended for Keiser, and was set by him for production in Hamburg in ...

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Francesco Bianchi to a libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa , after Ferdinando Moretti ’s libretto Idalide; Venice, Teatro S Benedetto, 7 February 1786.

The plot, a romance between the conquistador Alonso (soprano castrato) and the Inca sun-maiden Cora (soprano), closely follows Moretti’s libretto as set by Giuseppe Sarti (...

Article

Romantischkomisches Zauberspiel by Wenzel Müller to a libretto by Ferdinand Raimund ; Vienna, Theater in der Leopoldstadt, 17 October 1828.

Probably the masterpiece of both dramatist and composer, Der Alpenkönig und der Menschenfeind can stand comparison with Molière in its depiction of the two sides of the character of a misanthrope. Herr von Rappelkopf (tenor) is cured of his misanthropy through the intervention of Astragalus (spoken), the King of the Alps, with whom under duress he exchanges appearances. Rappelkopf’s eviction of the charcoal burner’s family, a scene considered by some to be chillingly proto-naturalistic, is accompanied by the ensemble ‘So leb denn wohl, du stilles Haus’. The scenes of domestic life, with well-drawn comic servants, are more effective than those depicting young love; best of all is the role of Rappelkopf (which Raimund wrote for himself), with its lively and attractive songs. If the five choruses lack any great individuality the ensembles, and especially the solo numbers for Rappelkopf (for example the explosive entry song ‘Ha! Ja, das kann nicht mehr so bleiben’), are simple but highly effective. Raimund played the part to great acclaim both in Vienna and during his guest seasons in Germany. The play was successfully performed in London (Adelphi Theatre) in ...