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date: 06 April 2020

Arbacelocked

  • Marita P. McClymonds

Extract

Opera seria in three acts by Francesco Bianchi to a libretto by Gaetano Sertor ; Naples, Teatro S Carlo, 20 January 1781.

Arbace (soprano castrato) poses as his own murderer, Belesi, in order to rescue his wife Semiri (soprano) from his enemy Scitalce (tenor), ruler of Assyria. Arbace’s true identity is exposed when he declines to marry Scitalce’s sister Alsinda (soprano), and Semiri cannot bring herself to take revenge on her husband’s supposed murderer. Condemned to death, the pair are confined in a terrible subterranean prison. The soldiers of their friend Idaspe (soprano) take the city and release the prisoners. They learn that Scitalce has set fire to himself and his treasures in the seraglio. All celebrate the release from tyranny and hail Arbace as their new ruler.

Contrary to Italian dramaturgical tradition in which Acts 1 and 2 reach a central peak and then decline in action towards the end, each act of this opera mounts steadily towards a strong conclusion. The final scenes are through-composed, moving through various styles of obbligato recitative and cavatinas before the final ensembles. Wind instruments (including clarinet and bassoon) and the unearthly sounds of the ...

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