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date: 23 September 2020

Tamerlano (libretto by Piovene) (‘Tamerlane’)locked

  • Kurt Markstrom

Extract

(‘Tamerlane’)

Libretto by Agostin Piovene after Michel Ducas’ Historia byzantina (1649) and Jacques Pradon’s play Tamerlan, ou La mort de Bajazet (1675, itself related to Racine’s Bajazet of 1672), first set by Francesco Gasparini (1711, Venice); Gasparini made two further settings (see Bajazet ).

The defeat of Sultan Bajazet (Bayazeid; 1347–1403) by the Turko-Mongol emperor Tamerlane (Timur I Leng, Tamburlaine; 1333–1405) had been treated in Antonio Salvi’s Il gran Tamerlano, also after Pradon, first set by Alessandro Scarlatti (1706, Florence) and subsequently by Gasparini (and two of his pupils) as Il Trace in catena (1717, Rome). Piovene locked his characters into a Racinian series of dilemmas: Tamerlane has defeated the Ottoman emperor Bajazet but is prevented from destroying his enemy because he loves his daughter Asteria; Bajazet desires to ennoble his defeat by committing suicide but fears for his daughter’s safety at Tamerlane’s hands; Asteria would like to reject Tamerlane in favour of the Greek prince Andronico [Andronicus] but is incensed by his complicity with Tamerlane and fears for her father’s safety; Andronicus intends to declare openly his love for Asteria but is bound by duty to his ally Tamerlane; and Princess Irene of Trebizond wants to break off her engagement to Tamerlane but is compelled by love to dissemble and wait. Eventually Asteria, Andronicus and Bajazet defy Tamerlane who, enraged, condemns all three, creating a dramatic impasse which is resolved only by Bajazet’s suicide....

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