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Actéon  

John S. Powell

(‘Actaeon’)

Pastorale in six scenes by Marc-Antoine Charpentier ; Paris, Hotel de Guise, 1683–5.

Actaeon (haute-contre) and a chorus of hunters are tracking game while Diane [Diana] (soprano) and her companions are bathing in a nearby spring. Actaeon takes leave of his party to find a quiet glade to sleep. Encountering the bathers, he attempts to hide but is immediately discovered. To prevent him from boasting of what he has seen, Diana transforms him into a stag. The hunters come looking for Actaeon to invite him to join their hunt, but Junon [Juno] (mezzo-soprano) appears and announces the death of Actaeon, who has been torn to pieces by his own hounds. A miniature tragédie lyrique, Actéon approaches other works by Charpentier, such as David et Jonathas and Médée, in its psychological dimensions. Charpentier’s music, through affective choices of key, orchestral colour and vocal style, faithfully reflects the rapid succession of moods within the drama’s short span. Especially moving is the poignant instrumental plaint that accompanies Actaeon’s transformation into a stag....

Article

Ada  

Masakata Kanazawa

(‘Revenge’) [An Actor’s Revenge]

Opera in two acts by Minoru Miki to a libretto by James Kirkup after Otokichi Mikami; London, Old Vic, 5 October 1979.

In a Zen monastery, Yukinojō (tenor), once a popular kabuki actor specializing in female roles, reminisces over his past with remorse, seeing a vision of his beloved Namiji (soprano). He was destined to avenge his parents’ death by killing Lord Dobe (bass), a corrupt magistrate, and his henchman Kawaguchiya (tenor). He accomplished the deed successfully and also caused the downfall of Hiromiya (bass), a dishonest rice dealer, but it was done at the price of the life of Namiji, Lord Dobe’s daughter, promised to the Shogun (tenor). The music consists principally of declamatory solo singing with few ensembles, and exploits the tone colours of individual instruments. The orchestra is small and includes three Japanese instruments: koto, shamisen and percussion. The writing is spare but dramatically effective. At the première the role of Yukinojō was performed by two artists: a singer and a dancer....

Article

Norbert Dubowy

[L’Adelaide]

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Sartorio to a libretto by Pietro Dolfin; Venice, Teatro S Salvatore, 1672 (libretto dedicated 19 February 1672).

The libretto is based on historical events of ad951 (for a fuller account of these events, see Lotario (‘Lothair’, ‘Lotharius’) , by Handel). Adelaide (soprano), the widow of Lotario, King of Italy, is commanded by Berengario (bass), the second King of Italy, to marry his son Adalberto (soprano). She steadfastly resists all Adalberto’s attempts to force her into marriage and is repeatedly imprisoned. She receives aid from Ottone [Emperor Otto] (soprano), who has come disguised as a fisherman to ask for her hand in marriage himself. He rescues her three times and eventually frees her from Berengario’s clutches. The subplot centres on the imaginary character of Gissilla (soprano), daughter of Adelaide’s uncle Annone (alto), Duke of Canossa; Gissilla is in love with Adalberto. The secondary characters include the courtier, Lindo (tenor), and the old woman Delma (tenor), as well as the shepherd Armondo (bass) and General Amedeo (tenor). Although the main action adheres closely to historical fact, the opera is embellished with a number of stock scenic and dramatic features from Venetian opera, including spectacular scenes such as a leap into a lake, disguises, cases of mistaken identity, attempted poisonings and unexpected rescues. A scene in a marble quarry indicates a realistic tendency....

Article

Richard Osborne

(‘Adelaide of Burgundy’)

Dramma in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giovanni Schmidt ; Rome, Teatro Argentina, 27 December 1817.

The setting is 10th-century Italy (as in Sartorio’s Adelaide (opera) ). Lotario, the King of Italy, has been murdered by Berengario (bass). Lotario’s wife, Adelaide (soprano), has survived but is under siege in a fortress waiting for a promised intervention by Ottone (contralto), the German King Otto I, who has a longstanding treaty with the peoples of Italy. In the opera’s first concerted number, Adelaide rejects Berengario’s sly suggestion that his son Adelberto (tenor) should marry Adelaide in return for her restoration to Lotario’s throne. Ottone arrives and is also offered false peace terms, this time by the wily Adelberto. In the Act 1 finale Ottone finds himself immured in the fortress. At the start of Act 2, the fortress is still under siege, though Ottone has fled to rally forces that will eventually rout Berengario. Apart from the closing victory arias by Adelaide and Ottone, Act 2 is notable for the development of Adelberto’s character, caught between his military duties, his growing love for the widowed Adelaide, and his love for his mother, Eurice (mezzo-soprano). Fearful for her husband’s life, Eurice has thrown confusion into his plans and Adelberto’s by proposing a truce and the peaceful exchange of Adelaide and Berengario under Ottone’s auspices. But the plan only causes further confusion and the opera ends with the defeat of Berengario and the crowning of Ottone as the new king. Despite the somewhat grey atmosphere of feudal militarism and the relative anachronism of the ...

Article

Thomas Bauman

Schauspiel mit Gesang in four acts by Christian Gottlob Neefe to a libretto by Gustav Friedrich Wilhelm Grossmann; Frankfurt, Theater in der Junghof, 23 September 1780.

Achmet, Pasha of Tunis, so loves the captive German Adelheit von Veltheim that he has raised her to the status of his sole wife. Her fiancé Karl von Bingen, also a captive, works in the Pasha’s garden. He is the object of the attentions of Donna Olivia, a hot-headed Italian in the Pasha’s harem who is furious over the preferment shown to Adelheit. Karl, intent on abducting Adelheit, plays along with Olivia’s scheme to escape with him. With a ladder she has provided, he and Adelheit flee to a waiting frigate, but the Pasha’s forces overtake them and the Maltese knights on board. Asked to judge Karl’s behaviour, the knights condemn him to death, but the Pasha forgives the couple and frees them and the rest of his harem....

Article

Simon Maguire

(‘Adelson and Salvini’)

Opera semiseria in three acts by Vincenzo Bellini to a libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after François-Thomas de Baculard d’Arnaud’s novella Adelson et Salvini: Anecdote anglaise and Prospère Delamarre’s play Adelson et Salvini; Naples, Conservatorio di S Sebastiano, some time between 11 and 15 February 1825.

The action takes place in 17th-century Ireland at the castle of Lord Adelson (bass). While Adelson is abroad an Italian painter, Salvini (tenor), has fallen in love with his fiancée, Nelly (mezzo-soprano). Nelly rejects the infatuated Salvini, who tries to commit suicide. In Act 2 Adelson’s enemy, Struley (bass), enlists the help of Salvini in his plot to abduct Nelly. During the ensuing struggle a shot is heard and Salvini mistakenly believes that Nelly has been killed. In Act 3 (mostly cut in Bellini’s second version) Adelson stages a trial of Salvini, who confesses his guilt. When Nelly revives, Salvini recovers from his infatuation and she prepares to marry Adelson....

Article

Ademira  

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Angelo Tarchi to a libretto by Ferdinando Moretti; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 27 December 1783.

Ademira (soprano) has fallen in love with her captor, the Roman emperor Flavio Valente (soprano castrato). Her father Alarico [Alaric] (tenor), King of the Goths, has sworn vengeance on the emperor because he killed his son in battle. In an attempt on the emperor’s life, Alaric mistakenly stabs his own ambassador Eutarco (contralto castrato), who reveals that the man whom he thought to be his son had actually been switched at birth with Auge (soprano), Ademira’s sister, now posing as her friend. Alaric then embraces his newly found daughter and blesses the union of the lovers. The opera is innovatory for incorporating large choruses and dance: an antiphonal chorus serves as an introduction, a chorus with central solo section is used in Act 1, and a divertimento with dance and chorus opens Act 2. A conventional duet and a trio conclude each of the first two acts, but a dramatic cavatina ...

Article

Adina  

Richard Osborne

[Adina, o Il califfo di Bagdad (‘Adina, or the Caliph of Baghdad’)]

Farsa in one act by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Marchese Gherardo Bevilacqua-Aldobrandini; Lisbon, Teatro de S Carlos, 22 June 1826.

The opera was written in 1818, to a libretto adapted from Felice Romani ’s Il califfo e la schiava, as a private commission for a Portuguese patron. The Caliph of Baghdad (bass) plans to marry the beautiful young slave-girl Adina (soprano). She, for reasons which are not immediately evident, is not unsympathetic to the Caliph but the reappearance of her one-time lover Selimo (tenor) puts her in a dilemma. Aided by his servant Mustafà (buffo bass), a gardener in the royal palace, Selimo persuades Adina to elope with him; which is just as well for it turns out that Adina is the Caliph’s longlost daughter. The abduction goes awry, however, leading to a vivid little scene among the fishermen of the Tigris as the lovers are arrested. Selimo is sentenced to death and Adina faints, but a medallion round her neck happily reveals her true identity to the Caliph. This eminently stageable work is a pen-and-ink sketch rather than a full-scale drawing, notable for the tender, elaborate music provided for Adina (the only woman in the cast), for the crystal-clear orchestration, and for a mood which is prevailingly sad. There is no overture, nor is there any evidence that Rossini ever heard the piece in performance....

Article

Admeto  

Anthony Hicks

[Admeto, rè di Tessaglia (‘Admetus, King of Thessaly’)]

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto anonymously adapted from Ortensio Mauro ’s L’Alceste (1679, Hanover) after Antonio Aureli’s L’Antigona delusa da Alceste (1660, Venice); London, King’s Theatre, 31 January 1727.

Admeto was Handel’s tenth full-length opera for the Royal Academy of Music, and the second of the group of five operas in which the leading roles were designed for the rival sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni; they sang Antigona and Alcestis. The other singers were the alto castratos Senesino and Antonio Baldi (Admetus and Thrasymede), the contralto Anna Vincenza Dotti (Orindo), and the basses Giuseppe Boschi and Giovanni Palmerini (Hercules and Meraspes). The opera achieved an excellent opening run of 19 performances to 18 April (during which period the act giving Handel British nationality was passed); two new arias seem to have been provided for Faustina during the run.

The opera was revived for six performances at the King’s Theatre from ...

Article

Julian Budden

Opera in four acts by Francesco Cilea to a libretto by Arturo Colautti after Eugène Scribe and Ernest Legouvé’s play Adrienne Lecouvreur; Milan, Teatro Lirico, 6 November 1902.

Adriana Lecouvreur was commissioned by the publisher Edoardo Sonzogno following the success of Cilea’s L’arlesiana. Cilea chose the subject for its mixture of comedy and tragedy, its 18th-century ambience, the loving intensity of its protagonist and the moving final act; three other operas use the story of Adrienne Lecouvreur (by Edoardo Vera, Tommaso Benvenuti and Ettore Perosio). Colautti reduced the intricate mechanism of Scribe’s plot to a serviceable operatic framework, occasionally at the expense of clarity. The première, however, was outstandingly successful, with a cast that included Enrico Caruso (Maurizio), Angelica Pandolfini (Adriana) and Giuseppe De Luca (Michonnet). The conductor was Cleofonte Campanini. The first London performance took place at Covent Garden in 1904 in the presence of the composer with Rina Giachetti (Adriana), Giuseppe Anselmi (Maurizio) and Mario Sammarco (Michonnet), again under Campanini. Three years later the opera arrived at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, with Caruso (Maurizio), Lina Cavalieri (Adriana) and Antonio Scotti (Michonnet). Since then ...