Demetrio e Polibio (‘Demetrius and Polybius’)
- Richard Osborne
(‘Demetrius and Polybius’)
Dramma serio in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Vincenzina Viganò-Mombelli; Rome, Teatro Valle, 18 May 1812.
Rossini’s first attempt at a full-scale opera, though not his first work to be staged, this dramma serio was assembled piecemeal during Rossini’s student years in Bologna and completed by 1808. The opera’s title refers not to the young lovers but to their fathers, the kings of Syria and Parthia. As often in myth and fairy-tale, the two men are radically opposed in temperament. The kindlier Polybius (bass) is a father twice over: father to his daughter Lisinga (soprano) and adopted father to her lover Siveno (contralto), the estranged son of Demetrius (tenor), now living in the Parthian court. Demetrius, the villain of the piece, turns up in disguise and demands Siveno’s return to Syria. His seizing of Lisinga and Polybius’s tit-for-tat arrest of Siveno precipitate the opera’s one moment of dramatic confrontation and the famous quartet ‘Donami ormai Siveno’. Otherwise, the highlight of the score is the duet for the young lovers, ‘Questo cor ti giura amore’, a charming and characteristic invention that Rossini was to redeploy on several subsequent occasions....