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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

Elizabeth Forbes

Musikalisches Lustspiel in one act by Eugen d’ Albert to a libretto by Ferdinand von Sporck after a comedy by August von Steigentesch (1828); Frankfurt, 28 October 1898.

The action takes place in late 18th-century Germany. Gilfen (baritone), whose relationship with his wife Luise (soprano) has cooled, debates whether or not to go on a long-planned but much delayed journey: an absence might help his marriage, but he is suspicious of the motives of his friend Trott (tenor) in encouraging the journey and making the necessary arrangements. Finally Gilfen pretends to leave, but returns almost at once, to discover that Trott has wasted no time before pressing his attentions on Luise. Gilfen and his wife are reconciled, while it is Trott who takes the journey he has so carefully planned....

Article

Erik Levi

Opera in one act, op.43, by Boris Blacher to a libretto by Werner Egk; Mannheim, Nationaltheater, 17 October 1953 (previously broadcast on Hessischer Rundfunk, 28 June 1953).

This 35-minute opera scored for soprano, tenor and baritone, mixed choir and instrumental ensemble is divided into seven self-contained scenes entitled Angst (Fear), Liebe I (Love 1), Schmerz (Pain), Verhandlung (Negotiation), Panik (Panic), Liebe II (Love 2) and Angst (Fear). There is no conventional plot as such; rather the opera, constructed in arch-form, offers an exploration of various states of mind. The vocal writing dispenses with comprehensible speech and relies on syllables and stage gestures to make its effect. In the opening scene the dialogue between the three soloists consists entirely of primeval wails based on the sound patterns of ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’. Following this is the first love scene which ends in hilarity when a dressmaker’s dummy is shot by the soprano. At the centre of the work lies the fourth scene, ‘Verhandlung’, in which an infantile and barely comprehensible discussion between a Russian (baritone) and American diplomat (tenor) breaks down through lack of communication. With the return to the ‘Angst’ scene at the end of the opera comes an overriding feeling of the futility of modern life....

Article

Clive Brown

Singspiel in one act, j106, by Carl Maria von Weber to a libretto by Franz Carl Hiemer after Antoine Galland’s story Le dormeur éveillé; Munich, Residenztheater, 4 June 1811.

Hiemer based his libretto on the second part of Galland’s version of the well-known tale of ‘Abu Hassan, or The Sleeper Awakened’ from the Arabian ...

Article

Graham Sadler

Pastorale-héroïque in three acts by Jean-Philippe Rameau to a libretto by Jean François Marmontel ; Paris, Opéra, 19 November 1751.

To protect Acante (haute-contre) and Céphise (soprano) from the menacing genie Oroès (bass), the fairy Zirphile (soprano) gives the lovers a talisman. This provides them with the telepathic power (‘la sympathie’ of the subtitle) to sense each other’s feelings even when separated. The work, which celebrated the Duke of Burgundy’s birth, includes more inventive music than such a puerile plot deserves, and incorporates the earliest surviving clarinet parts in French opera. The overture, a representation of the nation’s joy at the royal birth, uses cannon fire in its portrayal of fireworks....

Article

Achille  

Scott L. Balthazar

Melo-dramma eroico in two acts by Ferdinando Paer to a libretto by Giovanni De Gamerra after Homer ’s Iliad; Vienna, Kärntnertor-theater, 6 June 1801.

One of Paer’s best early operas, Achille was particularly admired by Napoleon. In De Gamerra’s version of the story, the armies of Achilles (tenor), King of Thessaly, and Agamemnon (bass), leader of the Greek armies, are preparing to attack the city of Lyrnessus, which is allied with the Trojans. Achilles wishes to be reunited with Briseis (soprano), daughter of Briseus (bass), King of Lyrnessus. Upon defeating Briseus’s army, both Achilles and Agamemnon demand Briseis in exchange for clemency. She chooses Achilles, but Agamemnon later has her kidnapped. Suspecting foul play by his purported ally, Achilles refuses to lead his army against the Trojans, although he does eventually send them into battle under the command of his companion Patroclus (bass), cloaked in Achilles’ armour. After Patroclus is killed, Achilles relents and finally agrees to fight when Agamemnon surrenders Briseis. The opera ends with Achilles’ defeat of Hector and the Trojans....

Article

Don Neville

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Antonio Caldara (1736, Vienna). The title Il trionfo della gloria was used for later versions of this libretto.

In order to circumvent the destiny that awaits Achilles in the Trojan War, his mother, Thetis, has asked Chiron, his old tutor, to conceal him on the island of Scyros; Chiron has placed his charge among the women at the court of King Licomede [Lycomedes]....

Article

Stanley Sadie

Masque or serenata in one (later two) acts by George Frideric Handel to words by John Gay and others; Cannons, summer 1718 (revised version in three acts, incorporating Italian words by Nicola Giuvo, London, King’s Theatre, 10 June 1732).

During the period 1717–20 Handel spent much of his time at Cannons, the seat of James Brydges, Earl of Carnarvon (later Duke of Chandos), at Edgware, a short distance north-west of London. As resident composer, he supplied his patron with church music, principally anthems, and two dramatic works, ...

Article

Lois Rosow

Pastorale-héroïque in a prologue and three acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully ( see Lully family, §1 ) to a libretto by Campistron, Jean Galbert de after Ovid ’s Metamorphoses; Anet, château (without machines), 6 September 1686, and Paris, Opéra, 17 September 1686.

This work was privately commissioned by the Duke of Vendôme for a celebration to honour the dauphin, it subsequently enjoyed public success. Lully turned to Galbert de Campistron because Quinault, his usual collaborator, had withdrawn from theatrical work. In keeping with the conventions of the ...

Article

Louise K. Stein

Zarzuela in two acts with music by Antonio de Literes to a libretto by José de Cañizares; Madrid, Alcázar palace or Coliseo del Buen Retiro, 19 December 1708.

A partly sung zarzuela on the story of Acis, Galatea and Polifemo [Polyphemus], it was composed for King Philip V’s birthday and performed by the combined companies of Joseph Garcés and Juan Bautista Chavarría. The characters also include Doris, Glauco [Glaucus], Tisbe [Thisbe], Telemo [Telemus], Momo [Momus] and Tíndaro [Tyndareus], as well as choruses. In the original cast only Polyphemus, Telemus and Tyndareus were played by men. After its first performance at court, the work entered the repertory of the public theatres in Madrid when the company of Garcés performed it in the Teatro del Príncipe for an extended run in ...

Article

Actéon  

John S. Powell

Pastorale in six scenes by Marc-Antoine Charpentier ; Paris, Hotel de Guise, 1683–5.

Actaeon (haute-contre) and a chorus of hunters are tracking game while Diane [Diana] (soprano) and her companions are bathing in a nearby spring. Actaeon takes leave of his party to find a quiet glade to sleep. Encountering the bathers, he attempts to hide but is immediately discovered. To prevent him from boasting of what he has seen, Diana transforms him into a stag. The hunters come looking for Actaeon to invite him to join their hunt, but Junon [Juno] (mezzo-soprano) appears and announces the death of Actaeon, who has been torn to pieces by his own hounds. A miniature ...

Article

Ada  

Masakata Kanazawa

Opera in two acts by Minoru Miki to a libretto by James Kirkup after Otokichi Mikami; London, Old Vic, 5 October 1979.

In a Zen monastery, Yukinojō (tenor), once a popular kabuki actor specializing in female roles, reminisces over his past with remorse, seeing a vision of his beloved Namiji (soprano). He was destined to avenge his parents’ death by killing Lord Dobe (bass), a corrupt magistrate, and his henchman Kawaguchiya (tenor). He accomplished the deed successfully and also caused the downfall of Hiromiya (bass), a dishonest rice dealer, but it was done at the price of the life of Namiji, Lord Dobe’s daughter, promised to the Shogun (tenor). The music consists principally of declamatory solo singing with few ensembles, and exploits the tone colours of individual instruments. The orchestra is small and includes three Japanese instruments: koto, shamisen and percussion. The writing is spare but dramatically effective. At the première the role of Yukinojō was performed by two artists: a singer and a dancer....

Article

Norbert Dubowy

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Sartorio to a libretto by Pietro Dolfin; Venice, Teatro S Salvatore, 1672 (libretto dedicated 19 February 1672).

The libretto is based on historical events of ad951 (for a fuller account of these events, see Lotario (‘Lothair’, ‘Lotharius’)...

Article

Richard Osborne

Dramma in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giovanni Schmidt ; Rome, Teatro Argentina, 27 December 1817.

The setting is 10th-century Italy (as in Sartorio’s Adelaide ). Lotario, the King of Italy, has been murdered by Berengario (bass). Lotario’s wife, Adelaide (soprano), has survived but is under siege in a fortress waiting for a promised intervention by Ottone (contralto), the German King Otto I, who has a longstanding treaty with the peoples of Italy. In the opera’s first concerted number, Adelaide rejects Berengario’s sly suggestion that his son Adelberto (tenor) should marry Adelaide in return for her restoration to Lotario’s throne. Ottone arrives and is also offered false peace terms, this time by the wily Adelberto. In the Act 1 finale Ottone finds himself immured in the fortress. At the start of Act 2, the fortress is still under siege, though Ottone has fled to rally forces that will eventually rout Berengario. Apart from the closing victory arias by Adelaide and Ottone, Act 2 is notable for the development of Adelberto’s character, caught between his military duties, his growing love for the widowed Adelaide, and his love for his mother, Eurice (mezzo-soprano). Fearful for her husband’s life, Eurice has thrown confusion into his plans and Adelberto’s by proposing a truce and the peaceful exchange of Adelaide and Berengario under Ottone’s auspices. But the plan only causes further confusion and the opera ends with the defeat of Berengario and the crowning of Ottone as the new king. Despite the somewhat grey atmosphere of feudal militarism and the relative anachronism of the ...

Article

Thomas Bauman

Schauspiel mit Gesang in four acts by Christian Gottlob Neefe to a libretto by Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Grossmann; Frankfurt, Theater in der Junghof, 23 September 1780.

Achmet, Pasha of Tunis, so loves the captive German Adelheit von Veltheim that he has raised her to the status of his sole wife. Her fiancé Karl von Bingen, also a captive, works in the Pasha’s garden. He is the object of the attentions of Donna Olivia, a hot-headed Italian in the Pasha’s harem who is furious over the preferment shown to Adelheit. Karl, intent on abducting Adelheit, plays along with Olivia’s scheme to escape with him. With a ladder she has provided, he and Adelheit flee to a waiting frigate, but the Pasha’s forces overtake them and the Maltese knights on board. Asked to judge Karl’s behaviour, the knights condemn him to death, but the Pasha forgives the couple and frees them and the rest of his harem....

Article

Simon Maguire

Opera semiseria in three acts by Vincenzo Bellini to a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after François-Thomas de Baculard d’Arnaud’s novella Adelson et Salvini: Anecdote anglaise and Prospère Delamarre’s play Adelson et Salvini; Naples, Conservatorio di S Sebastiano, some time between 11 and 15 February 1825...

Article

Ademira  

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Angelo Tarchi to a libretto by Ferdinando Moretti; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 27 December 1783.

Ademira (soprano) has fallen in love with her captor, the Roman emperor Flavio Valente (soprano castrato). Her father Alarico [Alaric] (tenor), King of the Goths, has sworn vengeance on the emperor because he killed his son in battle. In an attempt on the emperor’s life, Alaric mistakenly stabs his own ambassador Eutarco (contralto castrato), who reveals that the man whom he thought to be his son had actually been switched at birth with Auge (soprano), Ademira’s sister, now posing as her friend. Alaric then embraces his newly found daughter and blesses the union of the lovers. The opera is innovatory for incorporating large choruses and dance: an antiphonal chorus serves as an introduction, a chorus with central solo section is used in Act 1, and a divertimento with dance and chorus opens Act 2. A conventional duet and a trio conclude each of the first two acts, but a dramatic cavatina ...

Article

Adina  

Richard Osborne

Farsa in one act by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Marchese Gherardo Bevilacqua-Aldobrandini; Lisbon, Teatro de S Carlos, 22 June 1826.

The opera was written in 1818, to a libretto adapted from Felice Romani ’s Il califfo e la schiava, as a private commission for a Portuguese patron. The Caliph of Baghdad (bass) plans to marry the beautiful young slave-girl Adina (soprano). She, for reasons which are not immediately evident, is not unsympathetic to the Caliph but the reappearance of her one-time lover Selimo (tenor) puts her in a dilemma. Aided by his servant Mustafà (...

Article

Dale E. Monson

Opera seria in three acts by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio ( see Adriano in Siria above); Naples, Teatro S Bartolomeo, 25 October 1734.

In May 1734 the Kingdom of Naples was recaptured from the Austrian Habsburgs by Charles Bourbon (later Charles III) of Spain. To celebrate the birthday of the queen mother, Elisabeth Farnese, the Teatro S Bartolomeo staged a new work by Pergolesi, ...

Article

Stephen C. Fisher

Dramma per musica in three acts by Pasquale Anfossi to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio ( see Adriano in Siria above); Padua, Teatro Nuovo, June 1777.

The libretto is much altered from the 1752 version, incorporating some elements from the 1732 original but giving the three Parthian characters – Osroa [Osroes], Emirena and Farnaspe [Pharnaspes] – greater prominence. Anfossi used a substantial amount of accompanied recitative and he wrote a trio for Emirena, Pharnaspes and Osroes to conclude Act 2. Act 3, greatly shortened in accordance with the conventions of the period, ends with simple recitative. Osroes and Aquilio [Aquilius] (whose role is cut substantially) are written for tenors, while the four lovers are soprano roles. Apart from a few cavatinas, the arias retain the textual structure of da capo arias but are through-composed. Many are in a sonata-form design in which the ...