(‘Zenobia of Palmyra’)
Dramma per musica in three acts by Pasquale Anfossi to a libretto by Gaetano Sertor ; Venice, Teatro S Benedetto, 26 December 1789.
The libretto, by the innovative Sertor, has a different plot from that of Metastasio’ Zenobia. Publia, daughter of the Roman Emperor Gallieno, has fallen in love with Arsace, Prince of Persia, who is a prisoner of Aureliano [Aurelian], Emperor of Rome, and betrothed Zenobia, Queen of the Palmyrans. Zenobia arrives to negotiate for Arsace’s release, and Aurelian falls in love with her, but she refuses to renounce Arsace. As the Romans rout the Palmyrans, Arsace escapes from prison, joins Zenobia, and leads the Palmyrans in successful retaliation. They are recaptured, and Arsace is condemned to death; but when Zenobia threatens to follow him in death and draws a dagger, Aurelian spares him.
A mature work, Zenobia was Anfossi’s most successful opera seria; Sartori’s libretto catalogue lists 11 productions in ten years. The work contains two duets and a trio for the principals and a short third act of four scenes, the last including an aria-length cavatina, and it offers several opportunities for lavish military display....