(‘Hadrian in Syria’)
Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Caldara to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio ( see Adriano in Siria above), with ballet music by Nicola Matteis; Vienna, Hoftheater (Teatro Grande), 9 November 1732.
Caldara’s 13th opera for the name-day celebrations of the Habsburg emperor Charles VI has the Roman emperor Adriano [Hadrian] (tenor) as its nominal hero. The plot deals with his amorous dalliance with Emirena (soprano), a captive Parthian princess, his arrogant dismissal of Farnaspe [Pharnaspes] (alto), Emirena’s lover, and his deception of his wife Sabina (soprano). In the lieto fine Metastasio’s allusion to the incorruptible position of the Holy Roman Emperor is obvious, as Hadrian rises above temptation to impart further dignity to his imperial role.
Caldara’s setting, however, emphasizes the three characters most affected by Hadrian’s illicit desires. Hadrian himself is drawn rather shallowly in arias that (apart from the tender ‘Dal labbro che t’accende’, 1.i) are mostly stereotyped but superficially impressive gestures of rage and revenge, such as ‘Tutti nemici’ (2.ix). The two minor characters, Osroa [Osroes] (tenor), Emirena’s father, and Aquilio [Aquilius] (bass), Hadrian’s treacherous confidant, likewise react conventionally to their situations, although the former’s ‘Sprezzo il furor del vento’ (1.iii) and the latter’s ‘Saggio guerriero antico’ (2.v) include clever pictorialisms. In contrast, Caldara acords Emirena, Sabina and Pharnaspes a series of intimate arias that capture moods of estrangement, abandonment and desolation, as well as reconciliation and optimism, and maintain a level of lyricism rarely surpassed in his other operas. Sensitive scorings, with relatively few contrapuntal devices in the accompaniments, enhance the emotional tension, especially in Pharnaspes’ ‘Doppo un tuo sguardo’ (1.v) and Sabina’s ‘Numi sì giuste siete’ (1.xi)....