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Article

Stephen Johnson

Opera in four acts by Zakhary Petrovich Paliashvili to a libretto by P. Mirianashvili after the Georgian legend Eteriani; Tbilisi, Georgian National Opera House, 21 February 1919.

Paliashvili began work on Absalom and Etery in 1909, three years after co-founding the Fraternity for the Creation of Opera in the Georgian Language. His studies with Taneyev (...

Article

Daisi  

Laurel Fay

Lyric-dramatic opera in three acts by Zakhary Petrovich Paliashvili to a libretto by V. Guniya after verses by Shota Rustaveli, N. Baratashvili, Akvsenti Tsereteli and Vazha Pshavela; Tbilisi, Georgian National Opera House, 19 December 1923.

Paliashvili’s second opera, Twilight was the first opera to appear in Soviet Georgia and draws on motifs from Georgian folk legends. Set in late 18th-century Georgia, the story combines romantic and heroic themes, effectively playing off the dramatic conflict between love and patriotic duty. As in his earlier ...

Article

Andrew Lamb

‘Japanese musical play’ in two acts by Sidney Jones to a libretto by Owen Hall with lyrics by Harry Greenbank and additional numbers composed by Lionel Monckton, James Philp and Napoleon Lambelet ; London, Daly’s Theatre, 25 April 1896.

In the Japanese Teahouse of Ten Thousand Joys, run by the Chinaman Wun-hi (...

Article

Kerem  

Faruk Yener

Opera in three ads by Ahmed Adnan Saygun to a libretto by Selahattin Batu after an old Turkish legend; Ankara, State Opera, 22 March 1953.

Set in Anatolia, the story concerns Kerem (tenor), the son of the Khan (bass), who falls in love with Asli (soprano), the daughter of the Vizier (bass). Their love is thwarted by the Khan because the Vizier has betrayed his country; on being forbidden to marry Asli, Kerem picks up his instrument and leaves home. One day he dreams that he meets an old man (bass) who offers him a drink. Pouring it on the ground, Kerem has a vision of Asli. A caravan train then appears, and he is told that his suffering will soon end. He returns home to take part in a minstrel contest that includes a riddle set by the Khan. He relates how his mother and the Vizier’s wife met an old man who cut an apple in half, offering it to each of the women and prophesying that their children would marry. The Khan declares the riddle solved and the Vizier, now forgiven, leaps up to embrace Kerem, who slowly walks away towards the sound of Asli’s call....

Article

Masakata Kanazawa

Opera in three acts by Kan Ishii to a libretto by Yasuo Yamanouchi after the Japanese epics Heike monogatari and Genpei seisuiki; Tokyo, Metropolitan Festival Hall, 20 November 1968.

The story is based on a historical incident in Kyoto around 1137. Endō Moritō (baritone), a young warrior, brings a Magician (bass) to a flower-viewing party held by his close friend Watanabe-no-Wataru (tenor). The Magician sees a bad omen on Wataru’s face and then disappears mysteriously. At the height of the party Wataru’s wife, Kesa Gozen (soprano), appears and greets the guests; Moritō is struck by her beauty. Desperately in love, Moritō tries to see Kesa, but their meeting is interrupted by his angry fiancée, Shiragiku (soprano). Kesa, seeing the impossibility of the situation, tells Moritō to kill Wataru in his bedroom; Moritō follows her instructions. But it is Kesa herself who is in Wataru’s bed and whom Moritō kills. After a long period of torments, reflections and meditation, Moritō decides to become a priest, assuming the name of Mongaku. ...

Article

Andrew Clements

Opera in three acts by Judith Weir to her own libretto based in part on Chi Chun-Hsiang’s The Chao Family Orphan; Cheltenham, Everyman Theatre, 8 July 1987.

Weir’s ‘opera within an opera’ uses a realization of the Yuan dynasty play as its central act, while the outer acts present a reflection of that drama in the ‘real-life’ terms of 13th-century China. The ‘orphan’ is the explorer and canal-builder Chao Lin (baritone), and the story of his exile after the invasion of his city by Kublai Khan and subsequent career is told in a series of swiftly moving scenes. Chao Lin attends a clandestine performance of ...

Article

John A. Rice

Dramma eroicomico in two acts by Antonio Salieri to a libretto by Giovanni De Gamerra ; Vienna, Kärntnertortheater, 14 October 1795.

A monster has been terrorizing Persia. The High Priest (bass) makes an oracular pronouncement: one of the kings who seek the hand of Princess Palmira (soprano) in marriage will kill the monster and thereby win her. Three kings arrive: the timid Egyptian Alderano (bass), the boastful Scythian Oronte (bass) and the brave Indian Alcidoro (tenor) are welcomed by King Dario [Darius] of Persia (bass). Alcidoro and Palmira are already secret lovers; they express their passion in the duet ‘O del cor speme gradita’. After Alderano’s cowardice is made known and Oronte fails to kill the monster, Alcidoro triumphs; the opera ends with joyful celebration of his impending marriage to Palmira....

Article

Stephen Johnson

Opera in four acts by Fikret Amirov to a libretto by Talet Eyubov after Jafar Jabarli’s play; Baku, Azerbaijani Theatre of Opera and Ballet, 25 December 1953.

Described as a ‘national lyrical-psychological opera’, Sevil’ depicts the liberation of Azerbaijani women from Islamic repression in 1918–19...

Article

Stephen Johnson

Opera in three acts by Reyngol’d Moritsevich Glier after an Azerbaijani legend; Baku, 17 March 1927 (revised version, Baku, 1934).

The opera tells of the wandering ‘Ashug’ musician Kerib (tenor), who takes part in a singing competition for the hand of the Shah’s beautiful daughter, Shakh-Senem (soprano). He wins, but the Shah (baritone) is angered by his poverty and his championship of the oppressed people. He banishes Kerib, but the people, who have sided with the young Ashug, mutiny, and Shakh-Senem defies her father, vowing to be faithful to Kerib. Her patience is rewarded in Act 3, when her lover returns in triumph to claim her hand and liberate the people from the Shah’s tyranny....

Article

Julian Budden

Opera in three acts by Umberto Giordano to a libretto by Luigi Illica ; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 19 December 1903.

The action takes place in Russia and Siberia during the 1850s. Act 1 opens in a palace in St Petersburg where the demi-mondaine Stefana (soprano) has been installed by her latest protector, Prince Alexis (tenor). Stefana is awaited by her anxious housekeeper Nikona (mezzo-soprano). When Alexis arrives with two friends, Nikona tells them that her mistress is still asleep, whereupon they sing her a ...

Article

Howard Mayer Brown

Opera seria in three acts by Johann Adolf Hasse to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio ; Bologna, Teatro Malvezzi, 2 May 1733 (second setting, Dresden, Hoftheater, and Warsaw, Imperial Theatre, Carnival 1763).

The castrato Farinelli sang the title role in the original version of this opera in Bologna; on ...

Article

Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto adapted by Nicola Francesco Haym from Pietro Metastasio’s Siroe as revised for Naples (1727); London, King’s Theatre, 17 February 1728.

Siroe was Handel’s twelfth full-length opera for the Royal Academy of Music and the fourth of the group of five operas in which the leading female roles were designed for the rival sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni; they sang Laodice and Emira. The other singers were the alto castratos Senesino as Siroe and Antonio Baldi as Medarse, with the basses Giuseppe Maria Boschi as Cosroe and Giovanni Battista Palmerini as Arasse (this part has no arias). Some of the music was originally composed for a version of Beregan’s libretto ...

Article

Stephen Johnson

Opera in three acts by Dimitri Ignat’yevich Arakishvili to a libretto by A. Khakhanashvili after a Georgian folk legend; Tbilisi, Opera Theatre, 5 February 1919.

Shota Rustavelze was a Georgian poet, probably in the late 12th or early 13th century, whose exploits became legendary. In the first act, Rustavelze (tenor) sets off from his home to study, leaving behind his childhood sweetheart Nina (soprano). In Act 2 he learns that in his absence Nina has married, and he himself takes a wife. When one of his poems wins him honour from Queen Tamara, there is a great celebration; in the midst of it he is told by a mysterious young man that he must return home. In the final act he surprises his wife in the arms of an Arab servant, and subsequently discovers, to his amazement, that the mysterious youth is in fact Nina in disguise. He leaves in high dudgeon and Nina commits suicide. It is a little surprising that Arakishvili should have chosen this variant against the legend’s more common ending, where Rustavelze in his fury kills the nameless youth, only then to discover that it is Nina....

Article

Laurel Fay

Opera in four acts by Sergey Artem’yevich Balasanian to a libretto by A. Dekhoti and M. Tursun-zade; Stalinabad (now Dushanbe), Tajik Musical Theatre, 16 October 1939.

Conscious that he was composing the first Tajik opera, Balasanian steeped himself in the history and lore of the peasant uprising of the 1880s, the subject of his opera, visiting locations in the Bukhara khanate and studying the extensive musical folklore. He kept the style of his opera simple and accessible, emphasizing familiar couplet forms, unpretentious harmonies and transparent orchestration; in the second version, first performed at the Ayni Tajik Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet, Stalinabad, on ...

Article

Yūzuru  

Masakata Kanazawa

Opera in one act by Ikuma Dan , to a libretto which is the unchanged text of Junji Kinoshita’s play based on a Japanese folktale; Osaka, Asahi Hall, 30 January 1952 (revised version Zürich, 27 June 1957).

In a snowy village lives Yohyō (tenor), a farmer, with his new wife Tsū (soprano), who is popular among the village children. Yohyō is an honest and simple young man, but recently he has become lazy, while Tsū supports him by weaving a luxurious fabric made of heron feathers. Two sly villagers, Unzu (baritone) and Sōdo (bass), suspect that Tsū may be a heron which has taken human form, and find out that Yohyō did once help a heron hurt by an arrow; they persuade him to go to the capital to sell the fabric for a very high price. Meanwhile Tsū appears with the village children and laments the change in Yohyō’s character. Yohyō asks Tsū to weave the fabric once more, and she finally agrees on condition that he will not look into her room while she is weaving. The temptation, however, is too strong and he peeps in only to find a heron working on the loom. Tsū appears with the newly woven fabric, confesses that she is the bird Yohyō once helped, and disappears. As Yohyō desperately holds the fabric in his arms, the village children notice a heron disappearing in the evening sky....