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Article

Hugo Cole

Opera in three acts by Iain Hamilton to his own libretto, after Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy ; London, Coliseum, 7 May 1981.

Hamilton’s opera centres on the relationship between Anna (soprano), her husband Karenin (baritone) and her lover Vronsky (tenor). Act 1 depicts the growth of Anna’s passion for Vronsky and its effects on family and friends. Act 2 explores further the relationship between Karenin and Anna, and ends, after Anna has borne Vronsky’s child, with the reconciliation of husband and lover brought about by Anna. Act 3 begins after Anna and Vronsky have returned from Italy and ends with Anna’s suicide....

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Tommaso Traetta to a libretto by Marco Coltellini; St Petersburg, Imperial Theatre, 11 November 1772.

A terrifying introduction, combining pantomime, dance, recitative and chorus, opens each act: in Act 1 Antigone’s brothers engage in mortal combat; in Act 2 Antigone (soprano) prepares a secret, nocturnal funeral; and in Act 3, condemned by Creon (tenor), Antigone prepares for her death. Unusual for an ...

Article

Erik Levi

Tragedy in five acts by Carl Orff to Sophocles’ drama translated into German by Friedrich Hölderlin; Salzburg, Felsenreitsschule, 9 August 1949.

After the death of Oedipus, King of Thebes, his sons Eteocles and Polyneices were supposed to share the throne. But the brothers quarrelled and Polyneices fled to Argos to organize an army in order to occupy Thebes. The revolt was suppressed when the brothers killed each other. The opera begins as Creon (baritone) succeeds to the throne. He decrees that anyone who contemplates burying Polyneices will be put to death. But Oedipus’s daughter Antigone (dramatic soprano) is determined to accord her brother the true rites of burial. She attempts to enlist the support of her sister Ismene (soprano), but Ismene, fearful of the consequences, tries to discourage Antigone. Antigone ignores her and visits her brother’s corpse alone. As she scatters earth on the body she is seized by soldiers and taken prisoner by Creon. Ismene, ashamed of her former cowardice, admits complicity in the deed and is also imprisoned. Creon’s son Haemon (tenor), to whom Antigone is betrothed, goes to the king to plead for mercy, threatening to kill himself if either of the sisters is put to death. But while Creon releases Ismene he condemns Antigone to solitary confinement. The blind soothsayer Tiresias (tenor) appears and prophesies disaster for the king if he does not release Antigone and give Polyneices an honourable burial. Creon bows to this pressure but is unable to forestall a dreadful sequence of events. Antigone has already hanged herself with her sash and Haemon, clinging to her body, kills himself with his sword. When Creon’s wife Euridice [Eurydice] (contralto) hears this news, she also takes her own life. Creon is now in despair and longs for death, but is unable to effect complete absolution. The final words in the opera are reserved for the Chorus: only in wisdom can there be peace of mind and man should not profane the teachings of the gods....

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Libretto subject used chiefly in the 18th century, derived from plays by Sophocles and Euripides . Italian librettos on the subject were entitled Antigona or occasionally Creonte.

The plot concerns Antigone, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. Her brothers Polynices and Eteocles have died, each at the other’s hand; their maternal uncle Creon, who is acting as regent in Oedipus’s absence, has forbidden the proper burial of Polynices, but Antigone defiantly attempts to bury him. In Sophocles’ version of the story Creon inters her alive in a vault and her betrothed Haemon kills himself; in Euripides’ version Creon hands Antigone over to Haemon to be executed, but instead he hides her among shepherds and she bears his child....

Article

Don Neville

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio , first set by Johann Adolf Hasse (1743, Hubertus burg). The title Alessandro, rè d’Epiro was used for a later version of the libretto.

Act1 Princess Berenice of Egypt is engaged to Antigonus, King of Macedonia, but loves his son Demetrio [Demetrius]. Antigonus banishes Demetrius who returns to warn his father that King Alessandro [Alexander] of Epirus, previously spurned by Berenice, seeks revenge in a campaign against the Macedonians. Ismene, Antigonus’s daughter, confesses to Berenice her love for Alexander. During the battle, Demetrius disobeys his father in order to ensure the safety of Berenice, and the Macedonians are defeated. Antigonus, after banishing his son, is captured by Alexander along with Ismene and Berenice who steadfastly resists her captor’s protestations of love....

Article

Anush  

Laurel Fay

Opera in four acts by Armen Tigran Tigranyan , orchestrated by G. Ya. Burkovich, to his own libretto after Hovhannes T’umanyan’s poem; Alexandrapol (now Kumayrï), People’s City Hall, 4 /17 August 1912.

Anush was the first opera to receive its première in Armenia, in amateur productions which helped to disseminate its popular melodies. It also helped establish the foundations for a national operatic style. In ...

Article

Julian Rushton

Intermezzo in three acts, K38, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a Latin libretto by Rufinus Widl; Salzburg, Benedictine University, 13 May 1767.

Mozart’s first stage work, Apollo et Hyacinthus is an intermezzo, written for performance by students with the five-act Latin tragedy Clementia Croesi...

Article

Arbace  

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Francesco Bianchi to a libretto by Gaetano Sertor ; Naples, Teatro S Carlo, 20 January 1781.

Arbace (soprano castrato) poses as his own murderer, Belesi, in order to rescue his wife Semiri (soprano) from his enemy Scitalce (tenor), ruler of Assyria. Arbace’s true identity is exposed when he declines to marry Scitalce’s sister Alsinda (soprano), and Semiri cannot bring herself to take revenge on her husband’s supposed murderer. Condemned to death, the pair are confined in a terrible subterranean prison. The soldiers of their friend Idaspe (soprano) take the city and release the prisoners. They learn that Scitalce has set fire to himself and his treasures in the seraglio. All celebrate the release from tyranny and hail Arbace as their new ruler....

Article

Dorothea Link

Dramma giocoso in two acts by Vicente Martín y Soler to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte; Vienna, Burgtheater, 1 October 1787.

For his third collaboration with Martín, commissioned for the marriage of Joseph II’s niece, Maria Theresa, Da Ponte ‘wanted a gentle subject, suited to the sweetness of his melodies which are felt in the soul but which few can imitate’. Da Ponte drew his ‘gentle subject’ from the repository of pastoral scenarios cultivated by the ...

Article

Bruce Alan Brown

Opéra comique in one act by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck to a libretto after Jean-Joseph Vadé;’s opéra comique Le poirier (1752); Vienna, Schönbrunn Schlosstheater, 3 October 1759 (revised version, Versailles, 27 February 1775).

Based on a tale from Boccaccio’s Decameron...

Article

Dale E. Monson

Dramma giocoso in three acts by Baldassare Galuppi to a libretto by Carlo Goldoni ; Venice, Teatro S Angelo, 14 May 1749.

Fabrizio Fabroni da Fabriano (bass), who owns a villa overlooking the river Brenta, entertains a variety of guests and foreigners in his idyllic Arcadia, now a year old. But, as Foresto (bass) insistently tries to tell him (though he cannot rouse Fabrizio from his slumber), there is no more money – and more visitors are expected! Rosanna, Laura and Giacinto (sopranos), three of his guests, sing praises to their peaceful life and natural surroundings, and the women lead Fabrizio to believe that they are enamoured of him and seek his attentions. Madama Lindora (soprano) soon joins their ranks; she is of the most extreme affectation and complains of too much walking (a few steps), noises that are too loud and too many bad smells out of doors, etc. After bitter complaints about Fabrizio and his household, she wanders off. Count Bellezza (tenor) is another caricature. He simply cannot cease praising Fabrizio and his Arcadia, and this in the most outrageous hyperbole in rhymed couplets. Fabrizio is at first flattered, then impatient and annoyed as he cannot make him stop this patter. He finally threatens, ‘Either you go, Signore, or I will’. Left alone, he laments that, with two more fools in the company, his ‘Arcadia in Brenta’ is now at an end. He sings an aria explaining how he hopes at least to sell off his possessions to maintain the ladies’ favour (‘Per Lauretta vezzosetta la carrozza vada pure’). The first act finale describes a meeting with Lindora and the Count. Fabrizio offers the two tobacco, which makes everyone sneeze, particularly the sensitive Lindora....

Article

Nicholas Williams

Opera in two acts, op.21, by Alexander Goehr to a libretto by Erich Fried (English version by Geoffrey Skelton); Hamburg, Staatsoper, 5 March 1967.

The murder of Arden (bass), a prosperous businessman, is planned by his wife, Alice (mezzo-soprano), and her lover, Mosbie (tenor). Two landowners ruined by Arden, Greene (baritone) and Reede (bass), and two disaffected servants, Susan (soprano) and Michael (tenor), are also involved in the conspiracy. After three bungled attempts, the hired assassins Shakebag (tenor) and Black Will (bass) murder Arden at a reconciliation banquet arranged by him for his so-called friends. In the concluding court scene, Alice and Mosbie admit their guilt, while the others attempt to deny their complicity....

Article

Heading normally given to the prefatory material of a printed libretto ( see Libretto ) in which the background to the plot (‘the story so far’) is outlined. Its purpose is to inform the audience of relevant events supposed to have taken place before the rise of the curtain and thus to help elucidate what follows....

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Giuseppe Gazzaniga to a libretto by Simeone Antonio Sografi ; Venice, Teatro S Samuele, Carnival 1790.

Eeta [Aeetes] (tenor), King of Colchis, welcomes Giasone [Jason] (tenor) and the Argonauts. The high priestess Medea (soprano), daughter of Aeetes, warns Jason of danger: another stranger, Frisso [Phrixus], husband of her sister Calciope [Chalciope] (soprano), has already been killed by monsters leaving four children, among them Argo (soprano castrato). Jason resolves to earn the golden fleece by battling with the monsters and succeeds with Medea’s help; Phrixus’s ghost (bass) appears in the midst of the rejoicing to demand revenge. Aeetes condemns Medea to be sacrificed, but Jason returns to save her, and she and Chalciope set sail with Jason, Argo and the Argonauts, leaving Aeetes alone on shore....

Article

Ariadne  

John A. Rice

Libretto subject used chiefly during the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries (also as Ariane or Arianna). Its source is Greek mythology. Ariadne, daughter of Minos, king of Crete, fell in love with the Athenian hero Theseus, who came to Crete to slay the Minotaur, the monstrous offspring, half-bull, half-man, of Minos’s wife Pasiphae; she helped him to escape the Labyrinth by providing him (in one version) with a ball of string that he unwound as he penetrated it, thus enabling him to find his way out. Ariadne accompanied Theseus to the island of Naxos, where he abandoned her. In some versions she dies of grief; in others she is rescued by the god Dionysus (Bacchus), whom she weds....

Article

Thomas Bauman

(‘Ariadne on Naxos’). Duodrama (melodrama for two principal characters) in one act by Georg Benda (see Benda family, §1) to a text by Brandes, Johann Christian after Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg’s cantata of the same name; Gotha, Schloss Friedenstein, 27 January 1775.

Ariadne (spoken role), having fled from Crete with Theseus (spoken role), awakens on the desolate island of Naxos to learn that he has abandoned her. Feelings of disbelief, anger, grief and love swirl in her mind along with tender memories. A storm mounts and at its height she throws herself from a cliff into the sea....

Article

Christina Bashford

Opéra in a prologue and five acts by Robert Cambert and Luis Grabu to a libretto by Pierre Perrin ; London, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 30 March 1674.

In Perrin’s libretto the story of Bacchus’s wooing of Ariadne on Naxos is complicated by the unsuccessful attempts by Mars, god of war, and Silene [Silenus], Bacchus’s foster-parent, to dissuade him from subordinating war and wine to love....

Article

Jan Smaczny

Opera in one act (three tableaux) by Bohuslav Martinů to his own libretto after Georges Neveux’s play Le voyage de hésée; Gelsenkirchen, 2 March 1961.

A significant factor determining the style and nature of this opera was Martinů’s admiration for the singing of Maria Callas, accounting for the bravura writing in the part of Ariadne (soprano). For his text Martinů returned to the author of the play on which he had based ...

Article

Ronald Crichton

Tale in three acts by Paul Dukas to a libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck after Charles Perrault; Paris, Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), 10 May 1907.

Maeterlinck’s many-sided, symbolic libretto (originally considered and rejected by Grieg) was written for his companion Georgette Leblanc, actress and singer. He claimed that it was based on actual experiences of hers. With typical Maeterlinckian ambiguity, questions are posed but not answered. We know by the end that the former wives are still attracted to their torturer and that they have refused Ariane’s offer of liberty. Bluebeard’s power is broken but uncertainty remains. In spite of her composure Ariane has achieved little except, as Dukas suggested (in a note published in ...

Article

Arianna  

John Whenham

Tragedia in one act by Claudio Monteverdi to a libretto by Ottavio Rinuccini ; Mantua, ducal palace, 28 May 1608.

Arianna was written for the celebrations following the marriage of Francesco Gonzaga, elder son of the Duke of Mantua, to Margherita, daughter of the Duke of Savoy. Monteverdi probably received the libretto in ...