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Roger Parker

Tragedia lirica in a prologue and two acts by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Salvadore Cammarano after Voltaire ’s play Alzire, ou Les Américains; Naples, Teatro S Carlo, 12 August 1845.

There were two reasons why Alzira, Verdi’s eighth opera was something of a special event. It was the first he had written specially for the famous Teatro S Carlo of Naples, and so offered him an opportunity to confront a significant public and theatre with whom he had so far had little success. And it presented a chance to collaborate with Salvadore Cammarano, resident poet at the S Carlo, certainly the most famous librettist still working in Italy, renowned for his string of successes in the previous decade with Gaetano Donizetti. Because of Cammarano’s fame, Verdi seems to have taken little active part in the formation of the libretto (this in contrast to the works he prepared with his principal librettist of the period, Piave), being for the most part happy to accept the dictates of Cammarano’s highly professional instincts. Work on ...


Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to an anonymous libretto adapted from Antoine Houdar de Lamotte ’s libretto Amadis de Grèce (1699, Paris); London, King’s Theatre, 25 May 1715.

The original cast of Amadigi consisted of the castrato Nicolini (Amadigi), the contralto Diana Vico (Dardano), Anastasia Robinson (Oriana) and Elisabetta Pilotti-Schiavonetti (Melissa). (The singer of Orgando’s role, which consists only of brief recitatives, is unknown.) Robinson fell ill after the first night and was probably replaced by Caterina Galerati. (It may have been at this point that Oriana’s last aria in Act 2, ‘Affannami, tormentami’, was replaced by ‘Ch’io lasci mai d’amare’.) Further changes were made for revivals of the opera in the following seasons (...


Lois Rosow

Tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully (see Lully family, §1) to a libretto by Quinault, Philippe after Nicolas Herberay des Essarts’ adaptation of Garcí Rodríguez de Montalvo’s Amadís de Gaula; Paris, Opéra, 18 January 1684.

Lully’s last three ...


Ernest Warburton

(‘Amadis of Gaul’) [Amadis des Gaules (‘Amadis of the Gauls’)]. Tragédie lyrique in three acts by Johann Christian Bach to a libretto by Philippe Quinault revised by Alphonse-Denis-Marie de Vismes du Valgay; Paris, Opéra, 14 December 1779.

Johann Christian Bach’s only French opera entered the repertory of the Académie Royale de Musique (with the ...


Caroline Wood

Tragédie en musique in a prologue and five acts by André Cardinal Destouches to a libretto by Antoine Houdar de Lamotte ; Paris, Opéra, ?26 March 1699.

After about 1700 chivalric subjects became a popular alternative to mythology for French opera librettos; alongside this went a growing taste for horror and the supernatural, supplied here by the intervention of the sorceress Mélisse (soprano). The plot concerns Amadis (bass) and the Prince of Thrace (...


Bruce Archibald

Opera for television in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti to his own libretto; NBC, New York, 24 December 1951.

The stage is in two parts. One is the stark interior of a shepherd’s hut; surrounding it is the exterior showing distant hills, a road winding offstage to the left and reappearing among the hills, and a starry sky with the star of Bethlehem shining brightly. After a very short prelude of soft, tender music Amahl (boy soprano, about 12 years old), who is crippled, is seen and heard (oboe) playing his shepherd’s pipe. It is a cheerful C major tune, totally diatonic, over a drone C–G bass 5th. He is seated outside the hut wearing an oversized cloak. His mother (soprano) calls him to go to bed. He delays as long as possible but finally takes his crutch and hobbles into the hut. He tells her of the large bright star and she replies that he is a chronic liar and complains of their poverty. Amahl begins a short duet – comforting his mother – which closes with ‘Good night’. While they sleep, he on a bed of straw and she on a bench, the voices of the Three Kings are heard in the distance: Kaspar (tenor), Melchior (baritone) and Balthazar (bass). Amahl wakes up and hobbles to the window. He tells his mother that he sees three kings and, of course, she does not believe him. The kings and a page (baritone) are allowed in by the bewildered mother. They settle in, the kings seated on the bench and the page on a stool, to a stately but sprightly march from the orchestra. During the following conversation there is a humorous song by Kaspar – ‘This is my box’. He shows off the precious gems in his box, but most important is the liquorice. He gives some to Amahl. In staged performances this song is often sung with Kaspar walking among the audience tossing out sweets....


Dale E. Monson

Dramma giocoso in three acts by Baldassare Galuppi to a libretto by Antonio Galuppi ; Venice, Teatro S Moisè, 15 November 1760.

Don Orazio (bass) suspects his wife Lucinda (soprano) of indiscretion and offers the peasant Mingone (tenor) a reward to spy for him. His suspicions are confirmed when Lucinda invites Marchese Canoppio (alto castrato) and Clarice (soprano), a woman of the most delicate affectation, and receives a third guest, Conte Eugenio (soprano castrato), who by his own admission is hopelessly in love with whichever woman is nearby; he alternately courts Clarice, Lucinda and even the servant Dorina (soprano). Surprised at dinner by Orazio, who has been warned by Mingone, the guests discover they cannot leave, since their coach has departed. Later, Orazio and Mingone thwart a rendezvous between Eugenio and Lucinda. Lucinda, Dorina and Canoppio threaten Mingone for his treachery, and Orazio is outraged; Dorina is given her salary and dismissed, and Canoppio is insulted. In the end Clarice and Eugenio become engaged, Orazio forgives Lucinda, and she reciprocates with an apology. Everyone sings, ‘What has happened has happened, and we shouldn’t dwell on the past’....


Stephen Shearon

Dramma per musica in three acts by Francesco Mancini to a libretto by Giovanni Pietro Candi revised by Ginlio Convò and Silvio Stampiglia ; Naples, Teatro S Bartolomeo, ?Carnival 1705.

The opera was the fourth by Mancini to be performed at the S Bartolomeo; the revised libretto included new or additional material by the Neapolitan Abate Convò and comic scenes by Stampiglia. The tale concerns the Persian king Artaserse [Artaxerxes] (contralto) and his problems with two pairs of lovers: his nephew Idaspe [Hydaspes] (soprano) and Berenice (soprano), whom Artaxerxes wants for himself, and his brother Dario [Darius] (contralto) and Mandane (soprano), daughter of the King of Media and a captive of Artaxerxes. Another pair of ‘generous lovers’ written in by Stampiglia – Ircano (bass), one of Darius’s soldiers, and Mandane’s maid Drosilla (soprano) – offers comic relief. Artaxerxes plans, with the aid of his captain Arbace [Arbaces] (soprano), to put his rival Hydaspes to death. Arbaces becomes disillusioned with the actions of his king and joins Darius, who attacks Artaxerxes’ capital city, Susa. But when Artaxerxes’ life is threatened by Darius’s soldiers Darius and Hydaspes protect him, whereupon he admits his past mistakes and gives Berenice to Hydaspes and Mandane to Darius....


Stephen C. Fisher and Harris S. Saunders

Dramma per musica in three acts by Carlo Pallavicino to a libretto by Giulio Cesare Corradi ; Venice, Teatro SS Giovanni e Paolo, shortly after 1 February 1686.

L’amazone corsara was produced twice at the Teatro SS Giovanni e Paolo, in 1686 and 1688. Six unattributed productions for other Italian cities between ...



Harris S. Saunders

Dramma per musica in three acts by Francesco Gasparini to a libretto by Apostolo Zeno and Pietro Pariati after Saxo Grammaticus: Historiae Danicae; Venice, Teatro S Cassiano, Carnival 1706.

Ambelto was first performed during the week before 16 January 1706, with the alto castrato Nicolini in the title role. The libretto is based on Saxo Grammaticus, one of Shakespeare’s indirect sources. The characters in ...


Bruce Archibald

Opera buffa in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti to his own libretto; Philadelphia, Academy of Music, 1 April 1937 (in English).

Written when Menotti was 23, Amelia al ballo became his first major success. It was given its première, in an English translation by George Mead, by members of the Curtis Institute of Music (where Menotti had studied). It was performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York on ...



Charles Garrett

A national song of the United States, also known by the words of its first line, “My country, ’tis of thee”; see Patriotic music.


Peter Ross

Commedia lirica in three acts by Pietro Mascagni to a libretto by P. Suardon (Nicola Daspuro) from Erckmann-Chatrian’s story L’ami Fritz; Rome, Teatro Costanzi, 31 October 1891.

The sensational success of Cavalleria rusticana in 1890 aroused hopes that the precarious state in which Italian opera had existed for some decades was reaching a turning-point. In the next year Mascagni fulfilled those high hopes with ...


William Ashbrook

Tragedia lirica in four acts by Franco Faccio to a libretto by Arrigo Boito after William Shakespeare ’s play Hamlet; Genoa, Teatro Carlo Felice, 30 May 1865 (revised, Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 9 February 1871).

The second and last of Faccio’s operas, Amleto commands attention for two reasons. First, it marks an effort of two prominent members of the Scapigliatura (a late Romantic reform movement in northern Italy in the 1860s and 70s) to renew the tradition of Italian opera. Second as the first of Boito’s librettos derived from Shakespeare, it reveals the future poet of ...


Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in two acts by Gaetano Andreozzi to a libretto by Giuseppe Maria Foppa after a tragedy by Jean-François Ducis; Padua, Teatro Nuovo, 12 June 1792.

Amleto (soprano castrato) is tormented by his father’s ghost demanding revenge for his murd’er. In an attempt to learn who committed the deed, all gather at his funeral urn. As Amleto’s mother Geltrude (soprano) and her lover Claudio (tenor) approach, the urn bursts into flames. Amleto holds Claudio responsible. Amelia (mezzo-soprano), Claudio’s daughter and Amleto’s betrothed, reports to Geltrude and Noresto (mezzo-soprano castrato) that conspirators are seeking Amleto’s death. In the final scene Claudio fatally wounds Geltrude. Amleto captures him and bids a heartbroken farewell to his dying mother....


Scott L. Balthazar

Farsa sentimentale in one act by Simon Mayr to a libretto by Gaetano Rossi after Jean-Nicolas Bouilly ’s libretto Léonore, ou L’amour conjugal; Padua, Teatro Nuovo, 26July 1805.

Mayr’s opera is the third of four works based on Bouilly’s story; the others are by Gaveaux (...


Graham Hardie

Commedia per musica in three acts by Leonardo Leo to a libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico; Naples, Teatro Nuovo, autumn 1739.

Amor vuol sofferenza is one of the finest surviving examples of the Neapolitan dialect comedy tradition, with the librettist at pains to ensure cohesion between the ...


Joshua Kosman

Opera buffa in three acts by Florian Leopold Gassmann to a libretto by Carlo Goldoni ; Vienna, Burgtheater, 26 April 1767.

One of Gassmann’s most enduring successes, this opera was performed throughout Austria, Italy and Germany, sometimes in translation as Die Liebe unter den Handwerksleuten; Haydn oversaw three productions at Eszterháza. The libretto, first set in ...


Luca Zoppelli

Poema tragico in three acts by Italo Montemezzi to a libretto by Sem Benelli after his play; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 10 April 1913.

The action is set in the Middle Ages in a remote castle in Italy 40 years after a barbarian invasion. In the first act Baron Archibaldo (bass), old and blind, is wandering restlessly around his castle at night, reflecting on his heroic youth when he, a barbarian, had conquered Italy. His son Manfredo (baritone) is away fighting, and Manfredo’s young Italian wife Fiora (soprano) has been left in the castle, where she meets her lover Avito (tenor), also an Italian, at night. Archibaldo guesses that they have an adulterous relationship and interrogates Fiora, but his blindness prevents him from discovering the truth and he has to repress his hatred of her. When Manfredo returns, innocently happy at seeing Fiora again, she receives him with cold courtesy....


John C.G. Waterhouse

Comic opera in two acts by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari to a libretto by Enrico Golisciani after Molière’s play L’amour médecin; Dresden, Hoftheater, 4 December 1913.

After his uncharacteristic excursion into post-Mascagnian verismo in I gioielli della Madonna (1911), Wolf-Ferrari returned, in this sixth of his published operas, to that special vein of lighthearted satirical comedy in which he most often gave of his best. ...