Aeneas in Latium
- Dale E. Monson
Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its principal source is Virgil’s Aeneid. Operas on the subject appear under various titles including Enea nel Lazio, Enea in Italia and Enea e Lavinia, and in French as Enée et Lavinie.
In opera Aeneas is most widely known for his desertion of Dido (particularly in Nahum Tate’s poetry for Purcell in 1689, in Metastasio’s Didone abbandonata, found in numerous 18th-century settings, and in Berlioz’s Les Troyens) in order to appease the gods and fulfil his destiny, the founding of the Roman empire. Homer, and later Cato and Virgil, recounted the many trials and disasters to which Aeneas was subjected after the fall of his native Troy. In Virgil’s version of the episode in Latium, which follows Cato’s account, Aeneas arrives in Italy (having left Carthage and Dido) and is offered, by oracular decree, both the kingdom and the hand of King Latinus’s only daughter, Lavinia. Turnus, a foreign prince to whom these favours have previously been promised, wages a jealous war with his Rutolian forces against the king. Aeneas leads the king’s army to victory, however, and Turnus is slain. This account was the basis for numerous librettos of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 17th century Bussani’s libretto, ...