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Adelaide [L’Adelaide](ii)locked

  • Norbert Dubowy

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Sartorio to a libretto by Pietro Dolfin; Venice, Teatro S Salvatore, 1672 (libretto dedicated 19 February 1672).

The libretto is based on historical events of ad951 (for a fuller account of these events, see Lotario (‘Lothair’, ‘Lotharius’) , by Handel). Adelaide (soprano), the widow of Lotario, King of Italy, is commanded by Berengario (bass), the second King of Italy, to marry his son Adalberto (soprano). She steadfastly resists all Adalberto’s attempts to force her into marriage and is repeatedly imprisoned. She receives aid from Ottone [Emperor Otto] (soprano), who has come disguised as a fisherman to ask for her hand in marriage himself. He rescues her three times and eventually frees her from Berengario’s clutches. The subplot centres on the imaginary character of Gissilla (soprano), daughter of Adelaide’s uncle Annone (alto), Duke of Canossa; Gissilla is in love with Adalberto. The secondary characters include the courtier, Lindo (tenor), and the old woman Delma (tenor), as well as the shepherd Armondo (bass) and General Amedeo (tenor). Although the main action adheres closely to historical fact, the opera is embellished with a number of stock scenic and dramatic features from Venetian opera, including spectacular scenes such as a leap into a lake, disguises, cases of mistaken identity, attempted poisonings and unexpected rescues. A scene in a marble quarry indicates a realistic tendency.

The two versions of the opera differ to some extent in the instrumental accompaniment: the sinfonia, famous as the first evidence for the use of trumpets in opera, occurs only in the Venetian score. Outstanding among the arias (about 75 in all, some 20 with written-out accompaniment) are Adalberto’s lament (2.vii) and the wide-ranging opening aria of Act 1 which sets out the theme of the drama, the virtue of steadfastness personified in the heroine.