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Article

John C.G. Waterhouse

(‘A Lively Spirit’)

Opera in three acts by Franco Vittadini to a libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Luigi Motta partly after Serafín and Joaquín Álvarez Quintero’s comedy El genio alegre; Rome, Teatro Costanzi, 15 April 1921.

Vittadini’s biggest operatic success, which was performed in several foreign countries (including the USA) as well as in Italy, is blessed with a libretto of great charm, originally intended for Puccini. The plot centres on the beneficial effect that youthful exuberance can have on older people if only they can be persuaded to open their minds. Donna Sacramento (mezzo-soprano), Marchioness of Arrayanes, has become set in her ways, and her house has become so gloomy and forbidding that her son Pedro (tenor) spends as little time there as possible, preferring to live in Granada. But during one of his brief visits to his mother, his young cousin Consuelo (soprano), whom he has not seen for ten years, turns up unannounced, and her effervescent personality completely transforms the atmosphere of the place: she and Pedro fall in love; Donna Sacramento (after initial resistance) eventually warms to her charms, encouraged by the fact that Pedro no longer wants to keep his distance from the family home; and even the Marchioness’s crusty old administrator Don Eligio (bass) reveals an unsuspected humanity when Consuelo insists on regarding him, too, as a friend....

Article

Mary Hunter

[L’anima del filosofo, ossia Orfeo ed Euridice (‘The Spirit of the Philosopher, or Orpheus and Eurydice’)]

Dramma per musica in four or five acts by Joseph Haydn to a libretto by Carlo Francesco Badini; Florence, 9 May 1951.

This opera, commissioned by Johann Peter Salomon in 1791 for the reopening of the King’s Theatre in the Haymarket, London, was never performed in Haydn’s lifetime. The project fell through when George III denied a licence to Sir John Gallini, the impresario of the theatre, and no other arrangements were made to stage the work. It is not certain whether the opera is complete. The sources indicate only four acts, but Haydn’s letter of 14 March 1791 indicates that five were intended. In the modern edition in Haydn’s complete works the last scene of the fourth act is designated as Act 5. The meaning of the work’s title is obscure; neither the identity of ‘the philosopher’ nor his relevance to the story of Orpheus and Eurydice has been explained. The most likely candidate for the role of philosopher is Creonte [Creon], whose first-act aria is among the more philosophical texts in the piece, but that leaves open the relevance of his spirit to the rest of the opera....

Article

William Ashbrook

(‘Anne Boleyn’)

Tragedia lirica in two acts by Gaetano Donizetti to a libretto by Felice Romani after Ippolito Pindemonte’s Enrico VIII ossia Anna Bolena and Alessandro Pepoli’s Anna Bolena; Milan, Teatro Carcano, 26 December 1830.

This was Donizetti’s first great international success, giving him his initial exposure to Paris and London audiences. Pasta (Anne) and Rubini (Percy) sang in the première. Immensely popular for almost half a century, it re-entered the modern repertory following a triumphant revival at La Scala with Callas in 1957. Since then the work has proved a favourite vehicle for such bel canto specialists as Sutherland, Sills and Caballé.

It was long a commonplace of criticism that with Anna Bolena Donizetti at a single stroke emerged from the shadow of Rossini into a more personal style, yet one influenced by Bellini. Now, however, thanks to our greater familiarity with the operas that precede Anna in the Donizetti canon, this fallacious notion has been superseded by our understanding that it is, rather, a logical extension of directions that Donizetti had already explored. The part of the score that has been regarded as most ‘Bellinian’, Anne’s Larghetto in the final scene, has on closer acquaintance turned out to be a reworking of an aria from Donizetti’s first performed opera, ...

Article

Hugo Cole

Opera in three acts by Iain Hamilton to his own libretto, after Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy ; London, Coliseum, 7 May 1981.

Hamilton’s opera centres on the relationship between Anna (soprano), her husband Karenin (baritone) and her lover Vronsky (tenor). Act 1 depicts the growth of Anna’s passion for Vronsky and its effects on family and friends. Act 2 explores further the relationship between Karenin and Anna, and ends, after Anna has borne Vronsky’s child, with the reconciliation of husband and lover brought about by Anna. Act 3 begins after Anna and Vronsky have returned from Italy and ends with Anna’s suicide.

Hamilton makes use of a lyrical, romantic, tonally based idiom and adopts many of opera’s traditional forms and devices. Conflicts among the emotions of the characters are expressed in ensembles such as the trio in Act 2, in which Anna’s husband, her brother Stiva (baritone), and her lover give vent to their feelings. Tonalities are used to define character: throughout the opera, Anna and Vronsky’s underlying incompatibility is stressed by the tonal clash between Anna’s D and Vronsky’s E♭. As in many operas of the last century, a chain of ballroom dances provides the background for dramatic action. Big ensemble and chorus scenes at the station, in the ballroom and at the racecourse presuppose a large-scale and spectacular production, such as the opera received at the Coliseum in ...

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

(‘Antigone’)

Opera seria in three acts by Tommaso Traetta to a libretto by Marco Coltellini; St Petersburg, Imperial Theatre, 11 November 1772.

A terrifying introduction, combining pantomime, dance, recitative and chorus, opens each act: in Act 1 Antigone’s brothers engage in mortal combat; in Act 2 Antigone (soprano) prepares a secret, nocturnal funeral; and in Act 3, condemned by Creon (tenor), Antigone prepares for her death. Unusual for an opera seria are the trios (in Acts 1 and 2), the arias that merge into ensembles, and the duet for the hero, Emone (alto castrato), and Antigone’s sister Ismene (soprano), replacing the usual love duet at the close of Act 1. The opera has French-inspired elements, including many choruses and dances within the action, arias with chorus and a joyous final chorus and ballet. The music, especially rich in the expressive use of wind instruments (including clarinet and bassoon), reveals Traetta in full command of his mature powers. Passages of orchestrally accompanied recitative reach levels of profound dramatic expression. For both Traetta and Coltellini, this masterpiece represented the culmination of a decade of effort to breathe new life into Italian opera through a Franco-Italian synthesis as envisioned in Algarotti’s ...

Article

Erik Levi

(‘Antigone’)

Tragedy in five acts by Carl Orff to Sophocles’ drama translated into German by Friedrich Hölderlin; Salzburg, Felsenreitsschule, 9 August 1949.

After the death of Oedipus, King of Thebes, his sons Eteocles and Polyneices were supposed to share the throne. But the brothers quarrelled and Polyneices fled to Argos to organize an army in order to occupy Thebes. The revolt was suppressed when the brothers killed each other. The opera begins as Creon (baritone) succeeds to the throne. He decrees that anyone who contemplates burying Polyneices will be put to death. But Oedipus’s daughter Antigone (dramatic soprano) is determined to accord her brother the true rites of burial. She attempts to enlist the support of her sister Ismene (soprano), but Ismene, fearful of the consequences, tries to discourage Antigone. Antigone ignores her and visits her brother’s corpse alone. As she scatters earth on the body she is seized by soldiers and taken prisoner by Creon. Ismene, ashamed of her former cowardice, admits complicity in the deed and is also imprisoned. Creon’s son Haemon (tenor), to whom Antigone is betrothed, goes to the king to plead for mercy, threatening to kill himself if either of the sisters is put to death. But while Creon releases Ismene he condemns Antigone to solitary confinement. The blind soothsayer Tiresias (tenor) appears and prophesies disaster for the king if he does not release Antigone and give Polyneices an honourable burial. Creon bows to this pressure but is unable to forestall a dreadful sequence of events. Antigone has already hanged herself with her sash and Haemon, clinging to her body, kills himself with his sword. When Creon’s wife Euridice [Eurydice] (contralto) hears this news, she also takes her own life. Creon is now in despair and longs for death, but is unable to effect complete absolution. The final words in the opera are reserved for the Chorus: only in wisdom can there be peace of mind and man should not profane the teachings of the gods....

Article

Barbara B. Heyman

Opera in three acts, op.40, by Samuel Barber to a libretto by Franco Zeffirelli after William Shakespeare ’s play; New York, Metropolitan Opera, 16 September 1966.

Commissioned for the opening of the new opera house at Lincoln Center, the original version of Antony and Cleopatra consisted entirely of Shakespeare’s words ( see also Cleopatra ), which Franco Zeffirelli condensed to 16 scenes set in Rome and Egypt, plus one scene aboard a Roman galley omitted in the revised version. Antony (bass-baritone) leaves Egypt and his mistress, the Egyptian Queen Cleopatra (soprano). Returning to Rome, he is pressed to marry Octavia, sister of Octavius Caesar (tenor). When he goes to Cleopatra instead, Caesar declares war and defeats him. Antony kills himself and Cleopatra commits suicide soon after.

The alternating geographical settings are mirrored in the character of the music: sinuous melodies, luminescent harmonies and exotic orchestral timbres in the Egyptian scenes and for Cleopatra contrast with the angular declamations and driving, irregular rhythms of the brash ‘Roman’ music. Conventional forms support the dramatic action: a fugato and ominous passacaglia, for example, dominate the tense meeting of Antony and Caesar in the Roman Senate (Act 1 scene ii). Recurring motives reinforce dramatic associations through transformation or expansion, giving audible unity to the opera: the Prologue’s brass fanfare opens the Roman scenes in Acts 1 and 2; Cleopatra’s serpentine phrase ‘If this be love indeed’ returns in the orchestral accompaniment to her suicide; her spine- chilling ‘my man of men’ (Act 1 scene iii) returns as the climax of her death scene in Act 3; the haunting choral evocation ‘Cleopatra’ accompanies the vision of her barge on the Nile and pervades the orchestral texture as well. Unusual instrumental combinations are strikingly effective: an electronic instrument and double bass provide an eerie background to the ‘Music i’ the air’ episode, and a solo flute and timpani are chilling accompaniment to the suicides of Antony and Enobarbus. Some of the most sensuous and soaring lyrical passages were composed especially for Leontyne Price, who created the role of Cleopatra. Two arias – ‘Give me some music’ (from Act 1) and the suicide monologue ‘Give me my robe, put on my crown, I have immortal longings in me’ (from Act 3) – were expanded in ...

Article

Anush  

Laurel Fay

Opera in four acts by Armen Tigran Tigranyan , orchestrated by G. Ya. Burkovich, to his own libretto after Hovhannes T’umanyan’s poem; Alexandrapol (now Kumayrï), People’s City Hall, 4 /17 August 1912.

Anush was the first opera to receive its première in Armenia, in amateur productions which helped to disseminate its popular melodies. It also helped establish the foundations for a national operatic style. In 1935 it was revived for Erevan in a revised version (in five acts and reorchestrated) given by the Spendiaryan Armenian Theatre of Opera and Ballet; the same company later performed Anush in Moscow at the Bol’shoy (22 October 1939). T’umanyan’s lyric poem – a timeless tragedy of lovers sacrificed on the altar of social prejudice – to which Tigranyan turned in 1908 was rich in local colour and atmosphere, features enhanced by the music. Although only one folksong is quoted, Tigranyan’s score is permeated with traces of Armenian folklore: modal melodic inflections and ornate embellishments, song forms, improvisatory flexibility, evocative instrumental colour and native drumming styles, and the traditional forms of wedding and ritual music....

Article

Julian Rushton

(‘Apollo and Hyacinthus’)

Intermezzo in three acts, K38, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to a Latin libretto by Rufinus Widl; Salzburg, Benedictine University, 13 May 1767.

Mozart’s first stage work, Apollo et Hyacinthus is an intermezzo, written for performance by students with the five-act Latin tragedy Clementia Croesi by the Benedictine Gymnasium teacher, Widl.

Hyacinthus (boy soprano), son of Oebalus (tenor), King of Lacedonia, is murdered by Zephyrus (boy alto) to incriminate Apollo (boy alto), his rival for the hand of Oebalus’s daughter Melia (boy soprano). She denounces Apollo; but the dying Hyacinthus, in a moving recitative, reveals the truth. Zephyrus is banished, Apollo and Melia marry, and the god turns Hyacinthus into the flower that bears his name.

The musical idiom is not yet characteristic, but is never less than expressive. Although the singers were aged between 12 and 23, the solo numbers (an aria for each character, two duets and a trio) are neither short nor particularly easy. There is a single-movement overture and an opening chorus....

Article

David Murray

Lyrische Komödie in three acts by Richard Strauss to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal; Dresden, Staatsoper, 1 July 1933.

This opera was the last of the Hofmannsthal–Strauss collaborations: which fact is poignantly registered in the opera itself, not to its advantage. A few days after the writer had sent Strauss his final version of Act 1, his only son committed suicide, and within 36 hours Hofmannsthal himself suffered a fatal stroke. Out of respect, the grieving composer resolved to set both the provisional draft of Act 2 and the still more tentative draft of Act 3 just as they stood, though Act 1 – one of the best-made first acts in the repertory – had been the result of long and strenuous reworking by the partners. A certain diffuseness in the later acts is disguised by their best scenes (the betrothal duet and the final making-up) and sometimes also by performers who can make the most of their sympathetic characters even when the action limps. Despite a triumphal première, ...

Article

Arbace  

Marita P. McClymonds

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 ...

Article

Dorothea Link

(‘The Tree of Diana’)

Dramma giocoso in two acts by Vicente Martín y Soler to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte; Vienna, Burgtheater, 1 October 1787.

For his third collaboration with Martín, commissioned for the marriage of Joseph II’s niece, Maria Theresa, Da Ponte ‘wanted a gentle subject, suited to the sweetness of his melodies which are felt in the soul but which few can imitate’. Da Ponte drew his ‘gentle subject’ from the repository of pastoral scenarios cultivated by the commedia dell’arte, derived from the late 16th-century pastoral; the libretto is peopled with conventional nymphs and swains and the mythological figures of Diana, Endymion and Cupid. Diana (soprano) and her three nymphs devote themselves to lives of chastity on a beautiful island. Their chastity is regularly tested by a magic apple tree, which gives off exquisite sound and light for the virtuous but pelts the guilty with deadly black apples. Amore [Cupid] (soprano), offended by the tree, undertakes to make Diana fall in love. He spirits three youths onto the island to woo the maidens. The shepherd Endymion (tenor) grazes Diana with one of Cupid’s arrows. After a desperate struggle, Diana succumbs to love and Cupid converts her realm into a garden of love....

Article

Bruce Alan Brown

[L’arbre enchanté, ou Le tuteur dupé (‘The Enchanted Tree, or The Duped Tutor’)]

Opéra comique in one act by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck to a libretto after Jean-Joseph Vadé;’s opéra comique Le poirier (1752); Vienna, Schönbrunn Schlosstheater, 3 October 1759 (revised version, Versailles, 27 February 1775).

Based on a tale from Boccaccio’s Decameron, as retold by La Fontaine, L’arbre enchanté concerns the attempt of Claudine (soprano) and her lover Lubin (under the name of Pierrot, tenor) to outwit her lecherous tutor Monsieur Thomas (baritone). Lubin climbs a supposedly enchanted pear tree and pretends to see Thomas embracing his pupil below; the tutor climbs to see for himself, whereupon the lovers actually do embrace, then remove the ladder, and run to seek protection from the village Seigneur. Throughout the opera they receive forthright encouragement from Claudine’s younger sister Lucette (soprano), and from the fisherman Blaise (tenor), who speaks mainly in dialect.

L’arbre enchanté is on an intimate scale, with unpretentious ...

Article

Dale E. Monson

Dramma giocoso in three acts by Baldassare Galuppi to a libretto by Carlo Goldoni ; Venice, Teatro S Angelo, 14 May 1749.

Fabrizio Fabroni da Fabriano (bass), who owns a villa overlooking the river Brenta, entertains a variety of guests and foreigners in his idyllic Arcadia, now a year old. But, as Foresto (bass) insistently tries to tell him (though he cannot rouse Fabrizio from his slumber), there is no more money – and more visitors are expected! Rosanna, Laura and Giacinto (sopranos), three of his guests, sing praises to their peaceful life and natural surroundings, and the women lead Fabrizio to believe that they are enamoured of him and seek his attentions. Madama Lindora (soprano) soon joins their ranks; she is of the most extreme affectation and complains of too much walking (a few steps), noises that are too loud and too many bad smells out of doors, etc. After bitter complaints about Fabrizio and his household, she wanders off. Count Bellezza (tenor) is another caricature. He simply cannot cease praising Fabrizio and his Arcadia, and this in the most outrageous hyperbole in rhymed couplets. Fabrizio is at first flattered, then impatient and annoyed as he cannot make him stop this patter. He finally threatens, ‘Either you go, Signore, or I will’. Left alone, he laments that, with two more fools in the company, his ‘Arcadia in Brenta’ is now at an end. He sings an aria explaining how he hopes at least to sell off his possessions to maintain the ladies’ favour (‘Per Lauretta vezzosetta la carrozza vada pure’). The first act finale describes a meeting with Lindora and the Count. Fabrizio offers the two tobacco, which makes everyone sneeze, particularly the sensitive Lindora....

Article

Nicholas Williams

[ Arden muss sterben ]

Opera in two acts, op.21, by Alexander Goehr to a libretto by Erich Fried (English version by Geoffrey Skelton); Hamburg, Staatsoper, 5 March 1967.

The murder of Arden (bass), a prosperous businessman, is planned by his wife, Alice (mezzo-soprano), and her lover, Mosbie (tenor). Two landowners ruined by Arden, Greene (baritone) and Reede (bass), and two disaffected servants, Susan (soprano) and Michael (tenor), are also involved in the conspiracy. After three bungled attempts, the hired assassins Shakebag (tenor) and Black Will (bass) murder Arden at a reconciliation banquet arranged by him for his so-called friends. In the concluding court scene, Alice and Mosbie admit their guilt, while the others attempt to deny their complicity.

The libretto draws both on Holinshed’s account of the 1551 murder and on the anonymous 16th-century Arden of Faversham, translating its theme of guilt from the middle-class, Christian context of the original into the contemporary world of Brechtian epic theatre. The cuckolding of Arden, which is the source of discord and retribution, becomes no more than another incident in the game of power and possession played by all the characters. And in the courtroom scene, justice is shown to be unrelated not only to moral precept, but to any precepts whatsoever apart from those of self-interested gain – in which, by virtue of the intervention of Arden’s neighbour, Mrs Bradshaw (contralto), the audience also shares....

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

[Gli Argonauti in Colco, o sia La conquista del vello d’oro (‘The Argonauts in Colchis, or the Conquest of the Golden Fleece’)]

Opera seria in three acts by Giuseppe Gazzaniga to a libretto by Simeone Antonio Sografi ; Venice, Teatro S Samuele, Carnival 1790.

Eeta [Aeetes] (tenor), King of Colchis, welcomes Giasone [Jason] (tenor) and the Argonauts. The high priestess Medea (soprano), daughter of Aeetes, warns Jason of danger: another stranger, Frisso [Phrixus], husband of her sister Calciope [Chalciope] (soprano), has already been killed by monsters leaving four children, among them Argo (soprano castrato). Jason resolves to earn the golden fleece by battling with the monsters and succeeds with Medea’s help; Phrixus’s ghost (bass) appears in the midst of the rejoicing to demand revenge. Aeetes condemns Medea to be sacrificed, but Jason returns to save her, and she and Chalciope set sail with Jason, Argo and the Argonauts, leaving Aeetes alone on shore.

This is the first of Sografi’s innovative librettos in which departures from the strict delineations between recitative and formal set pieces allow a free interplay of textural options – solo, ensemble, and chorus. Sografi goes a step beyond such constructions as the multi-sectional action ensemble or the scene complex, which were often unified with obbligato recitative. The procedures pioneered here led after ...

Article

Thomas Bauman

(‘Ariadne on Naxos’). Duodrama (melodrama for two principal characters) in one act by Georg Benda (see Benda family (opera) §(1)) to a text by Brandes, Johann Christian after Heinrich Wilhelm von Gerstenberg’s cantata of the same name; Gotha, Schloss Friedenstein, 27 January 1775.

Ariadne (spoken role), having fled from Crete with Theseus (spoken role), awakens on the desolate island of Naxos to learn that he has abandoned her. Feelings of disbelief, anger, grief and love swirl in her mind along with tender memories. A storm mounts and at its height she throws herself from a cliff into the sea.

In 1773 Brandes had given his text, written for his wife Charlotte, to Anton Schweitzer, whose setting remained incomplete; he gave the text to Benda in late 1774. The première marked the first use of historical costuming on the German stage (Duke Ernst II chose Charlotte’s flowing robe). Benda’s score, which at a stroke defined the German melodrama, swept triumphantly through Germany, and to France and Italy; its musical language, derived from obbligato recitative, includes much text painting, but there is also a firm consciousness of overall design. After Theseus’s weak opening scene the music builds impressively to the catastrophe, where Ariadne speaks over, rather than between, the orchestra’s utterances....

Article

David Murray

(‘Ariadne on Naxos’)

Opera by Richard Strauss to a libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal , existing in two versions: ‘ Ariadne I’, in one act, to be played after a German version of Molière ’s Le bourgeois gentilhomme, and ‘ Ariadne II’, in a prologue and one act; I, Stuttgart, Hoftheater (Kleines Haus), 25 October 1912, and II, Vienna, Hofoper, 4 October 1916.

In early 1911, while Der Rosenkavalier – the first wholly purpose-built collaboration between Hofmannsthal and Strauss – enjoyed its triumphant first performances, ideas for three new projects came to them. One was to thank Max Reinhardt for his productions of Wilde’s Salomé and Hofmannsthal’s Elektra (which had inspired Strauss’s third and fourth operas), and unofficially of Der Rosenkavalier itself, by turning a Molière comedy into a German words-and-music piece for his Berlin company. Another was for a half-hour chamber-opera on the Ariadne myth, in which commedia dell’arte characters would collide with 18th-century operatic stereotypes, and the third was for a ‘sombre’ but ‘fantastic’ opera ...

Article

Jan Smaczny

[Ariadna] (‘Ariadne’)

Opera in one act (three tableaux) by Bohuslav Martinů to his own libretto after Georges Neveux’s play Le voyage de hésée; Gelsenkirchen, 2 March 1961.

A significant factor determining the style and nature of this opera was Martinů’s admiration for the singing of Maria Callas, accounting for the bravura writing in the part of Ariadne (soprano). For his text Martinů returned to the author of the play on which he had based Julietta; and he had already used some lines from Le voyage de Thésée to preface the third of his orchestral Paraboly (1958). With the author’s permission, Martinů took passages from the second, third and fourth acts of the play.

After a sinfonia – the first of three in the opera – and a prologue in which a Watchman (bass) records the safe return of Theseus (baritone), the first Tableau deals with the arrival of the Athenians at Knossos. Theseus and Ariadne meet and fall in love. Ariadne fears that the Minotaur (bass) will kill him and, as evening falls, she senses the monster’s presence. The climax of the Tableau comes not with the appearance of the Minotaur, but the announcement that the king’s daughter, Ariadne, will marry the stranger, Theseus. The second Tableau presents Theseus’s encounter with the Minotaur. Knowing that no man would willingly kill his double, the Minotaur takes on Theseus’s shape. Theseus recognizes the Minotaur as the image of himself which enjoyed the bliss of a wedding night with Ariadne, and it is this which he kills. The third Tableau sees the departure of Theseus followed by a long aria of farewell (‘Thésée, je respire une dernière fois’) from Ariadne....

Article

Christina Bashford

[Ariane, ou Le mariage de Bacchus(‘Ariadne, or The Marriage of Bacchus’)]

Opéra in a prologue and five acts by Robert Cambert and Luis Grabu to a libretto by Pierre Perrin ; London, Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, 30 March 1674.

In Perrin’s libretto the story of Bacchus’s wooing of Ariadne on Naxos is complicated by the unsuccessful attempts by Mars, god of war, and Silene [Silenus], Bacchus’s foster-parent, to dissuade him from subordinating war and wine to love.

The work originated as a simple comédie en musique, written by Perrin and Cambert in 1659 at the time of the wedding of Louis XIV but never formally performed. In about 1671–2 Perrin revised and enlarged the libretto, using a bigger cast, more complex plot, corps de ballet and spectacular machine effects; but the opera remained unperformed until 1674, when a troupe of French players visited London and, under Grabu’s direction, inaugurated Charles II’s Royal Academy of Musick with Ariane (in French). The text for a new, allegorical prologue was added in London, possibly by Sébastien Brémond; it celebrated the recent marriage (...