- Dale E. Monson
Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its source is Greek mythology.
The story of Perseus’ rescue of Andromeda from a sea monster was one of the most popular subjects of early opera, with over 25 independent librettos before 1800 (operas on the subject were also entitled Andromeda e Perseo, Andromeda liberata, Persée and Perseo). Perseus, the son of Danaë and Zeus, cast into the sea with his mother by the King of Argos (Danaë’s father, Acrisius), grew up on the island of Seriphus. Later in life he saved his mother from the advances of Polydectes with the aid of the head of Medusa, which he cut off with a magic sword while shielded by godly armaments. An apparently middle-eastern addition to this legend concerns Perseus’ rescue of Andromeda. Andromeda’s mother, Cassiopeia, dared compare her beauty to the Nereids, so Poseidon sent a sea monster to plague the town. King Cepheus, Andromeda’s father, was told through Zeus’ oracle that the town could be saved only by sacrificing Andromeda to the monster. On his return from slaying Medusa, Perseus fell in love with the chained Andromeda, turned the monster to stone by exposing it to Medusa’s head and took Andromeda for his wife....