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date: 20 November 2019

Tito (‘Titus’)locked

  • Carl B. Schmidt

Extract

(‘Titus’)

Melodramma in three acts by Antonio Cesti to a libretto by Nicolò Beregan ; Venice, Teatro di SS Giovanni e Paolo, 13 February 1666.

Beregan probably formed the outline of his plot from Flavius Josephus’s account of the Jewish War and C. Suetonius Tranquillus’s account of Emperor Titus in The Lives of the Twelve Caesars. The opera deals with the future Roman emperor’s conquering of Jerusalem in ad 70, and his subsequent love for the conquered Palestinian princess Berenice. After numerous complications, woven into the plot by a cast of 15 characters, Polemone, whom Berenice has claimed as her brother, is revealed to be her husband, and Titus abandons his quest for love in favour of his former militaristic ways. Three characters, Titus (soprano castrato), Berenice (soprano) and Domitian (soprano castrato), are drawn from history and another, Polemone (tenor), portrayed as the King of Licea, is probably the equivalent of Polemon, the priest-king of Olba in Cilicia. The fictional character Martia Fulvia (soprano) may have been inspired by the historical Marcia Furnilla, daughter of a noble Roman family, whom Titus married but subsequently divorced. The remaining cast of generals, servants, pages and sorceresses remind us of Racine’s famous dictum ‘Toute l’invention consiste à faire quelque chose de rien’....

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Venice, Archivio di Stato