(b West Point, MS, Feb 5, 1941). American lyricist and vocalist. Barrett Strong first had success as a vocalist with his only hit record as a performer, “Money (That’s what I want)” (1959). Released on Tamla, the song hit no.2 on the R&B charts the next year and became Berry Gordy’s first hit for his Motown enterprise. Strong was hired as staff lyricist at Motown, often writing in partnership with Norman Whitfield, with whom he crafted many of Motown’s top hits. His songwriting spanned from the emotion of “I heard it through the grapevine” (recorded by Marvin Gaye and others) to the antiwar urgency of “War” (Edwin Starr), and other topical numbers such as “Ball of Confusion (That’s what the world is today)” (the Temptations). All of these were crossover R&B and pop hits. With Whitfield, he became deeply involved with writing for the Temptations, contributing the lyrics to such songs as “Cloud Nine,” “Just My Imagination,” and “Papa was a rolling stone,” the last of which won him a Grammy Award. After Motown moved to Los Angeles in ...
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....
Dale E. Monson
Libretto subject popular in the 18th century. The story of Telemachus, son of Odysseus and Penelope, is recounted in the first four books of Homer’s Odyssey, in which Telemachus learns from Menelaus that his father is a prisoner of Calypso on a distant island; Odysseus later returns and they are reunited. The Telemachus legend takes various forms; it is frequently held that he later married Circe, and from this union Latinus was born. François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon’s version of the myth, in his novel Aventures de Télémaque (1699), aroused considerable controversy during the 18th century. Often parodied and criticized, the work became a political pawn in the dispute between Fénelon (Archbishop of Cambrai and champion of an anti-cartesian Christianity) and Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux. A didactic novel, it was designed to demonstrate to Fénelon’s pupil, the Duke of Burgundy (heir apparent to the French throne), the right way to govern. Fénelon expanded on the classical account, passing Telemachus through dozens of adventures and trials as he sought his father. In the seventh book, Telemachus is shipwrecked on the island of the goddess Calypso, who falls in love with him, though he is enamoured of a shepherdess, Eucharis. Calypso, jealous, tries to detain him and his tutor (Minerva in disguise) by burning the ship that is to provide their escape; at the last moment the tutor pushes Telemachus into the sea from a rock and together they swim to a passing ship....
Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Antonio Caldara (1736, Vienna).
Fearful of his power and fame, the people of Athens have driven Themistocles from the city. He believes that his daughter, Aspasia, dispatched to Argos for safety, has perished in a shipwreck, and with his son, Neocle [Neocles], has taken refuge in the land of his enemy, Serse [Xerxes], King of Persia, where he remains unrecognized. Meanwhile, Aspasia, rescued from the sea, has become attendant to the Princess Rossana [Roxana], now residing in Susa.
Aspasia learns from Sebaste [Sebastes], confidant of Xerxes, that there is a price on her father’s head, information that she conveys to him when the two meet and recognize each other. She is in love with Lisimaco [Lysimachus], the Athenian ambassador, who arrives in Susa in search of Themistocles. A friend of Themistocles, but bound by patriotic duty, Lysimachus entreats Xerxes to return the fugitive to Athens to stand trial, but Xerxes refuses and Lysimachus departs. Unexpectedly, Themistocles reveals himself to the king who, admiring his courage, befriends him and offers him refuge. Roxana, in love with Xerxes, suspects Aspasia of being a rival and joins with Sebastes, now resentful of the king’s new friendship, in a conspiracy against the throne....
Libretto by Gaetano Roccaforte, first set by Gennaro Manna (1742, Rome).
The libretto is based on a story found in Livy’s history of Rome, book 8. Having shared the hardships of war, the Latins, allies of the Romans, want representation in government; the Roman Senate refuses the request, whereupon the Latins declare war on the Romans. The Roman consul, Titus Manlius, commands his son Manlio [Manlius] to enter the Latin camp to determine the army’s strength, but gives him explicit orders not to engage in any fighting. In the camp Manlius is challenged to a duel by Geminio [Geminius], the Latin leader, whom he kills. Manlius returns in triumph, but his father harshly reminds him of his violated orders. To uphold the authority of the Senate and to maintain discipline in the army, Titus Manlius condemns his son to execution.
The libretto expands the story by introducing three more characters. Sabina is the sister of Manlius and Geminius’s secret lover. Lucio [Lucius] is a Latin but also a friend of Manlius, secretly in love with Sabina. Servilia, the sister of Geminius, is also Manlius’s intended wife. Manlius is sent on his mission at the end of Act 1. The encounter with Geminius takes place off stage, and Act 2 begins with Manlius’s return to Rome. In the final scene, Lucius rouses the army in support of Manlius, whereupon Titus is obliged to recognize the voice of the people and pardon his son....
(b Chicago, IL, May 31, 1892; d Barcelona, Spain, Nov 19, 1954). American lyricist. Trent, who was African American, most likely studied at Pittsylvania Industrial, Normal, and Collegiate Institute in Virginia. He appears to have managed music publishing houses and was a writer and assistant director for films and the author of Modern Adaptation of Primitive Tones. Trent is known mainly for his work as a lyricist in the 1920s and 30s. His songs were recorded by Bessie Smith and Fletcher Henderson, Bing Crosby and Paul Whiteman, Joe Venuti, Bix Beiderbecke, Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, Joan Crawford, and others. Collaborators included Clarence Williams (“Outside of that, he’s all right with me”), Duke Ellington (“Blind Man’s Buff,” “Pretty Soft for you”), Fats Waller (“In Harlem’s Araby,” “Georgia Bo-Bo”), Porter Grainger, Willard Robison, Peter DeRose (“Muddy Water,” with Harry Richman), “I just roll along, havin’ my ups and downs”), Louis Alter (“My Kinda Love,” “Gotta feelin’ for you”), Hugo Riesenfeld, and Hoagy Carmichael (“In the Still of the Night,” “Sing it way down low”). Some of his songs appeared in musicals and revues such as ...
(‘The Triumph of Cloelia’)
Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Johann Adolf Hasse (1762, Vienna).
In league with Tarquinio [Tarquinius, Tarquin], who seeks restoration to the throne, Porsenna [Porsena], King of the Etruscans, lays siege to Rome. The Romans, however, obtain a truce and, as a sign of their good faith, present Porsena with a group of young hostages, among whom is the noblewoman Cloelia.
Cloelia, betrothed to Orazio [Horatius], the Roman ambassador, refuses Tarquinius when he offers her both throne and marriage, reminding him that the throne is not his to give and that he is already promised to Larissa, daughter of Porsena. Learning from Larissa that Porsena knows nothing of Tarquinius’s duplicity, Cloelia begs Horatius to flee with her, but soon realizes that such an action would betray Rome. She is comforted, however, to learn from Mannio [Manius], Prince of the Veientes and in love with Larissa, that he is bent on proving Tarquinius’s unworthiness. When negotiations between Horatius and Porsena fail, Tarquinius plays upon the ambassador’s patriotism by offering to relinquish all claims to the throne in exchange for Cloelia....
Marita P. McClymonds
(‘The Revenge of Nino’)
Libretto subject used in the 18th and 19th centuries. Its source is Voltaire ’s Sémiramis and it deals with different incidents from those treated in Metastasio’s Semiramide riconosciuta (libretto by Metastasio) (libretto by Metastasio) . Operas on the subject are also entitled Semiramide and La morte de Semiramide.
Semiramide, who has murdered her husband Nino and plans an incestuous marriage, is fatally stabbed by their son, unwitting agent of his father’s vengeful ghost. Angiolini and Gluck’s ballet for Vienna, 1765, preceded by 20 years the first opera on the subject by an Italian composer. In Ferdinando Moretti’s libretto Semiramide, set by Michele Mortellari (1784, Milan), Nino’s ghost is satisfied with the assassination offstage of Semiramide’s lover and the establishment of a new generation on the throne; in this version Semiramide is innocent of her husband’s death, and the matricide is thus avoided.
The libretto for Alessio Prati’s opera (1786...
Marita P. McClymonds
(‘The Virgin of the Sun’)
Libretto subject used in the 18th century. Its source is Jean François Marmontel ’s Les Incas, ou La destruction de l’empire du Pérou. Operas on the subject were also entitled Alonso e Cora, Cora och Alonzo and Idalide.
Alonso, a conquistador, has assisted the Inca ruler Ataliba in vanquishing his enemies; as a reward, Ataliba bestows his sister’s hand on the Spaniard. Alonso, however, has fallen in love with Cora, a virgin of the sun. A volcanic eruption destroys the temple of the sun, threatening Cora’s life; in saving her, Alonso carries her from the temple. But in leaving the temple she has broken a sacred law and must die by burial alive. Alonso resolves to die with her. They are saved when the ancient law is abrogated.
Gudmund Göran Adlerbeth prepared a Swedish version of this plot, Cora och Alonzo, set by J. G. Naumann for the inauguration of the Royal Opera House, Stockholm, on ...
Tim Carter, Graham Sadler, Peter Branscombe, Roger Savage and Arnold McMillin
This article considers verse structure in librettos in the chief languages of the opera repertory; for a fuller discussion of words and music, see Libretto, §I .
Two issues concern the analysis of Italian verse: the number of syllables in a given line and the position of the final accent. Accordingly, this verse is essentially qualitative rather than quantitative – insofar as such terms have any meaning – although the issue was always a matter of some debate among Italian theorists, especially in periods drawn to classical antiquity. In general, a given line can be from three to eleven syllables in length (thus ternario, quaternario, quinario, senario, settenario, ottonario, novenario, decasillabo and endecasillabo): the endecasillabo is the ‘classic’ norm, with its chief component, the settenario, in second place. Syllable counts are affected by elisions (sinalefe) and diphthongs (sineresi): respectively, the fusion of the final and initial vowels of two consecutive words in a given line into one syllable, and the similar fusion – permitted in specific contexts – of consecutive vowels in a single word. Thus...