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Curtis Price

Pastoral in a prologue and three acts by Jakob Greber to a libretto after A. Amalteo; London, Queen’s Theatre, Haymarket, 9 April 1705.

Gli amori di Ergasto, the music of which does not survive, was the first Italian opera produced in London in Italian and inaugurated John Vanbrugh’s Haymarket Theatre, the principal opera house in London until ...


Pastorale in nine scenes by Michel-Richard de Lalande; Fontainebleau, autumn 1697.

An occasional piece for the French court, L’amour, fléchy par la constance represents the reduced scope of Lalande’s middle-period stage compositions following the War of the League of Augsburg. The work played twice at Fontainebleau in autumn ...


James R. Anthony

Comédie lyrique in three acts by Jean-Joseph Mouret to a libretto by Philippe Néricault-Destouches, Sceaux, December 1714, as Le mariage de Ragonde et de Colin, ou La veillée de village (revised version, Paris, Opéra, 30 January 1742, as Les amours de Ragonde, ou La soirée de village...


Jérôme de La Gorce

Opéra-ballet in a prologue and three entrées by Thomas-Louis(-Joseph) Bourgeois to a libretto by Louis Fuzelier ; Paris, Opéra, 22 August 1713.

This work, which takes its title from a ballet of 1664 by Lully, was so successful that it was revived in 1714 with a new act, ...



Bertil H. van Boer

Opéra-ballet in a prologue and one act by Johann Gottlieb Naumann to a libretto by Gudmund Göran Adlerbeth after Antoine Léonard Thomas’s play; Stockholm, Bollhus Theatre, 24 January 1778.

Antiope (soprano) loves Mercury’s son, Amphion (tenor) who is able to calm the passions of beasts through his song. She is threatened by the Chieftain of the barbarians (bass), who demands her love. Rejected, he captures and threatens both her and Amphion with death, but Amphion disarms the barbarians by singing. They promise to reform themselves, and Amphion weds Antiope....


Nigel Burton

Opera in three acts by Isidore De Lara to a libretto by Augustus Henry Glossop Harris and Frederick Edward Weatherly, after Walter Scott’s novel Kenilworth; London, Covent Garden, in a French translation by Paul Milliet, 20 July 1893.

The Earl of Leicester (tenor) fears that he will lose the favour of Queen Elizabeth (mezzo-soprano) if she learns of his secret marriage to Amy Robsart (soprano). Amy is therefore kept secluded at Cumnor Hall in the care of Leicester’s wicked retainer Varney (baritone). Her childhood sweetheart Tressilian (tenor), ignorant of her marriage, petitions the Queen for her release. Varney, fearful for his own ambitions, plots Amy’s murder; Leicester arrives at Cumnor to rescue her but, to his horror, she plunges to her death through a hidden trapdoor previously set by Varney....


Acte de ballet by Jean-Philippe Rameau to a libretto by (Jean-)Louis de Cahusac ; Fontainebleau, 23 October 1754.

Intended for a projected opéra-ballet, Les beaux jours de l’Amour, this is one of two independent works by Rameau with the same title (the other, to a libretto by Pierre-Joseph Bemard, eventually became part of ...


Brian W. Pritchard

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Caldara to a libretto by Gerolamo Gigli ; Rome, Palazzo Bonelli, 4 January 1711.

This opera, commissioned by Francesco Maria Ruspoli for Carnival 1711, was staged 13 times by 5 February and was perhaps the most frequently performed of all Caldara’s operas. Its plot is based on an incident in Bartolommeo de Rogatis’s ...


Stephen Shearon

Dramma per musica in three acts by Leonardo Leo to a libretto by Antonio Salvi after Jean Racine ’s play Andromaque; Naples, Teatro di S Carlo, 4 November 1742.

Andromaca was the alternative title of Salvi’s libretto Astianatte. Leo’s setting – his penultimate opera seria – was performed for the name-day of King Charles III. The opera represents a decisive advance in the composer’s powers of dramatic expression. The stylistic language is leaner and simpler, but more profound, than that found in his earlier works. In addition to powerfully emotive accompanied recitatives one finds choruses and marches; modified da capo arias are the norm, but where the drama requires greater flexibility it is given; and the use of orchestration and dynamics is more sophisticated than in ...


Dale E. Monson

Libretto subject popular in the 18th century. Homer ’s Iliad recounts the unfortunate early life of Andromache, daughter of Eëtion, the king of Thebes in Cilicia. Andromache’s husband Hector, as well as her father and brothers, are killed in the Trojan war, and her son Astyanax (also known as Scamandrius) is thrown from the walls. (In some versions of the legend he survives; librettos using this story are sometimes entitled ...


Dale E. Monson

Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its source is Greek mythology.

The story of Perseus’ rescue of Andromeda from a sea monster was one of the most popular subjects of early opera, with over 25 independent librettos before 1800 (operas on the subject were also entitled ...


Opera in a prologue and three acts by Francesco Manelli to a libretto by Benedetto Ferrari ; Venice, Teatro S Cassiano, Carnival 1637, before 25 February.

The opera, based on the myth of Perseus and Andromeda, is set in Ethiopia and required two stage sets. The account that follows is a conflation of the ...


Richard Taruskin

Opera in four acts by César Antonovich Cui to a libretto by Viktor Burenin after Victor Hugo ’s Angelo, tyran de Padoue; St Petersburg, Mariinsky Theatre, 1/13 February 1876.

Despite its subtext of political liberation, Hugo’s play was pre-eminently an erotic one: a love rectangle, one has to call it, among Angelo Malipieri (bass in the opera), the ruler of Padua, his wife Caterina (soprano) and his mistress Thisbe (mezzo-soprano), both of whom love not him but Ezzelino da Romano, alias Rodolfo (tenor), scion of the former ruling clan of Padua. Caterina is saved from a life-threatening plot by the self-sacrificing Thisbe, who accidentally learns that Caterina had saved her mother’s life long ago in Venice. It is interesting to compare the libretto of Cui’s opera with the one ‘Tobia Gorrio’ (Arrigo Boito) fashioned from the same play for Ponchielli’s exactly contemporary ...


Tim Carter

Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Its source is Ludovico Ariosto ’s epic poem Orlando furioso (1516); operas based on the story were also entitled Orlando, Roland, Orlando paladino and Le pazzie di Orlando.

Orlando (in French, Roland), nephew of Charlemagne, is one of several warriors infatuated with the pagan Angelica, daughter of the Great Khan of Cathay. The issue comes to a head with the appearance (in Canto xviii:165ff) of Medoro, an African prince. Medoro is seriously injured attempting to rescue the body of Prince Dardinello from the Christian camp. Angelica (xix: 17) heals his wounds and, as they rest in a shepherd’s house, falls in love with him: the account of Angelica and Medoro’s union as they dally in forest groves carving their names on trees and rocks (xix: 26–36) produces some of Ariosto’s most sensual verse. The couple leave for Spain; Angelica rewards the shepherd with a bracelet given to her by Orlando. Orlando, arriving in the forest (xxiii: 101), is incensed to see the carvings and even more distraught on hearing the shepherd’s tale and seeing the bracelet. Mad with rage, he runs naked through the land, wreaking havoc and destruction (xxiii: 129–xxiv: 14). He catches up with Angelica and Medoro in Spain (xxix:58–67), kills Medoro’s horse and pursues Angelica, who escapes only by virtue of a magic ring. Orlando continues on the rampage (xxx:4–15), swimming the straits of Gibraltar to Africa. Orlando’s allies hear of his madness (xxxi:42–8, 61–4), and St John the Evangelist explains (xxxiv:62–6) to Astolfo, Prince of England, that it is divine punishment for his loving a pagan. They fly to the moon to recover Orlando’s wits, stored there in a phial. Orlando arrives at Astolfo’s camp (xxxix:35), is forcibly restrained by the Christians, and (xxxix:57) has his wits restored. Sane, he is no longer in love, and he continues the campaign against the infidels. Angelica and Medoro’s fate is less clear, although we are told (xlii:38) that they sail to India where (xxx:16) he will become king....


Richard Langham Smith

Farce in one act by Jacques Ibert to a libretto by Nino (pseudonym of Michel Veber); Paris, Théâtre Bériza, 28 January 1927.

Set in a port, the opera concerns a woman, Angélique (soprano), who has been put up for sale by her husband Boniface (baritone) with the aid of Charlot (baritone), who takes money from three would-be buyers: an Italian (tenor), an Englishman (tenor) and a negro (bass), all characterized by clever musical pastiches. None of them can cope with her ebullience, and despairingly Boniface cries ‘the devil take her!’. Obediently the devil appears and takes her, but even he cannot keep her and he too gives her back to the despairing Boniface: she is destined to be always for sale. A drinking-chorus finishes off this concise and fast-moving work, where each set piece is clearly defined....



Opera by C. A. Cui; see Andzhelo .



Anders Wiklund

‘Revue about man in time and space’ in two acts by Karl-Birger Blomdahl to a libretto by Erik Lindegren after Harry Martinson’s poem; Stockholm, Royal Opera, 31 May 1959.

The space-ship Aniara has left the desolated and poisoned Earth and is travelling to Mars. Through Mimaroben (bass-baritone), operator of the Mima (tape), a computer which is the master of Aniara, the emigrants learn about the cruelty of man. During the midsummer celebration Aniara is thrown off its course and panic breaks out. The commander, Chefone (baritone), says that the passengers are now doomed to travel towards the constellation Lyra until the ends of their lives. The Chief Technician I (tenor) compares the journey to the movement of an air-bubble through glass. A beam from the Mima blows up the Earth. The comedian Sandon (high ...


John C.G. Waterhouse

Opera in three acts by Franco Vittadini to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Luigi Motta partly after Serafín and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero’s comedy El genio alegre; Rome, Teatro Costanzi, 15 April 1921.

Vittadini’s biggest operatic success, which was performed in several foreign countries (including the USA) as well as in Italy, is blessed with a libretto of great charm, originally intended for Puccini. The plot centres on the beneficial effect that youthful exuberance can have on older people if only they can be persuaded to open their minds. Donna Sacramento (mezzo-soprano), Marchioness of Arrayanes, has become set in her ways, and her house has become so gloomy and forbidding that her son Pedro (tenor) spends as little time there as possible, preferring to live in Granada. But during one of his brief visits to his mother, his young cousin Consuelo (soprano), whom he has not seen for ten years, turns up unannounced, and her effervescent personality completely transforms the atmosphere of the place: she and Pedro fall in love; Donna Sacramento (after initial resistance) eventually warms to her charms, encouraged by the fact that Pedro no longer wants to keep his distance from the family home; and even the Marchioness’s crusty old administrator Don Eligio (bass) reveals an unsuspected humanity when Consuelo insists on regarding him, too, as a friend....


Mary Hunter

Dramma per musica in four or five acts by Joseph Haydn to a libretto by Carlo Francesco Badini; Florence, 9 May 1951.

This opera, commissioned by Johann Peter Salomon in 1791 for the reopening of the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket, London, was never performed in Haydn’s lifetime. The project fell through when George III denied a licence to Sir John Gallini, the impresario of the theatre, and no other arrangements were made to stage the work. It is not certain whether the opera is complete. The sources indicate only four acts, but Haydn’s letter of ...


William Ashbrook

Tragedia lirica in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Felice Romani after Ippolito Pindemonte’s Enrico VIII ossia Anna Bolena and Alessandro Pepoli’s Anna Bolena; Milan, Teatro Carcano, 26 December 1830.

This was Donizetti’s first great international success, giving him his initial exposure to Paris and London audiences. Pasta (Anne) and Rubini (Percy) sang in the première. Immensely popular for almost half a century, it re-entered the modern repertory following a triumphant revival at La Scala with Callas in ...