- Richard Osborne
Dramma in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after Dormont de Belloy’s Zelmire; Naples, Teatro di S Carlo, 16 February 1822.
Rossini’s final Neapolitan opera, a vocally alluring showcase written with an eye to international audiences in Vienna and beyond, is set on the island of Lesbos in ancient times. Old King Polidoro (bass) has ruled over the island peaceably with his daughter Zelmira (soprano) and her husband, the Trojan prince Ilo (tenor). But Polidoro has been deposed in Ilo’s absence by an adventurer who has in turn been murdered by Antenore (tenor). Zelmira has hidden the old king and is guarding his and her son’s safety with the help of Emma (contralto); but Antenore, having been proclaimed King of Lesbos, institutes various calumnies against Zelmira. Ilo, returning, is led to believe that she has murdered Polidoro. Even when he himself is saved by her from an assassination attempt, his would-be assassin Leucippo (bass) attaches the blame to Zelmira, who is then arrested. In Act 2 Zelmira is released in the hope that she will lead them to the old king. This duly happens and they are thrown into prison to await execution; but Ilo, by now reassured of his wife’s good faith, is able to save them from the cruel fate awaiting them at the hands of Antenore....