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date: 21 October 2019

Adriano in Siria(ii) (‘Hadrian in Syria’)locked

  • Dale E. Monson

Extract

(‘Hadrian in Syria’)

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, Adriano in Siria. This was the third of the four opere serie written by Pergolesi, and his first to a libretto by Metastasio. For Pergolesi the libretto was much altered. Of Metastasio’s 27 original aria texts, only ten were retained: ten substitute arias and a new duet were inserted, and several alterations to the recitatives were made to accommodate those changes. Most of these alterations can be attributed to the magnificent cast hired by the new king, with his typically Spanish emphasis on theatrical splendour. Caffarelli was the primo uomo; he received all new texts, and the position of some of them was shifted to give him a more prominent role: his character sings at the end of the first two acts. Caffarelli’s music is the most careful, extensive and lyrical in the opera, and includes the particularly exquisite ‘Lieto così tal volta’, with obbligato oboe, and ‘Torbido in volto e nero’, for double orchestra (this aria must have been particularly effective since it was later borrowed, without change, for ...

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