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date: 31 May 2020


  • Marita P. McClymonds


Libretto subject used chiefly in the 18th century, derived from plays by Sophocles and Euripides . Italian librettos on the subject were entitled Antigona or occasionally Creonte.

The plot concerns Antigone, daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta. Her brothers Polynices and Eteocles have died, each at the other’s hand; their maternal uncle Creon, who is acting as regent in Oedipus’s absence, has forbidden the proper burial of Polynices, but Antigone defiantly attempts to bury him. In Sophocles’ version of the story Creon inters her alive in a vault and her betrothed Haemon kills himself; in Euripides’ version Creon hands Antigone over to Haemon to be executed, but instead he hides her among shepherds and she bears his child.

Early operas on the subject take up the story when Antigone’s daughter is a young woman. The earliest libretto may be Benedetto Pasqualigo’s Antigona in five acts, for G. M. Orlandini (1718), much performed early in the century. At the beginning of the opera, Antigone’s daughter Jocasta has appeared after a long absence and is not recognized. Creonte [Creon] has ordered Antigone’s husband, here called Osmene, to marry Jocasta, not knowing she is his daughter. Antigone returns to Thebes, identifies herself and attempts to stab Creon. Osmene is again ordered to kill his wife, but Creon dies in a popular insurrection and the couple are reunited with their daughter....

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