- 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 opera seria are the trios (in Acts 1 and 2), the arias that merge into ensembles, and the duet for the hero, Emone (alto castrato), and Antigone’s sister Ismene (soprano), replacing the usual love duet at the close of Act 1. The opera has French-inspired elements, including many choruses and dances within the action, arias with chorus and a joyous final chorus and ballet. The music, especially rich in the expressive use of wind instruments (including clarinet and bassoon), reveals Traetta in full command of his mature powers. Passages of orchestrally accompanied recitative reach levels of profound dramatic expression. For both Traetta and Coltellini, this masterpiece represented the culmination of a decade of effort to breathe new life into Italian opera through a Franco-Italian synthesis as envisioned in Algarotti’s ...