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Erifile  

Marita P. McClymonds

Libretto by Giovanni De Gamerra , first set by Antonio Sacchini (1778, London). Operas on the subject were also called Erifile regina di Lacinto and Cleomene.

Learco, general of Zacinto’s army, has destroyed the royal family of Lacinto except for Erifile, whom he wishes to wed to establish himself on the throne he has usurped. The queen’s unyielding resistance, Cleomene’s invincible love for her and the tyrant’s rage at their undaunted fidelity constitute the centre of the drama, which ends with the deposition or assassination of the tyrant and the restoration of Erifile and Cleomene.

The first version, as published by Giuseppe Piatolli in 1784, cites Sacchini’s setting for London as the first production. Thus Mysliveček’s Erifile (1773, Munich), for which neither score nor libretto seems to have survived, was probably not based on De Gamerra’s text. In De Gamerra’s original text, Erifile is forced to take poison and appears to die at the end of the duet closing Act 2. In Francesco Bianchi’s setting (...

Article

Don Neville

(‘The Chinese Hero’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio , first set by Giuseppe Bonno (1752, Vienna). The title Narbale was used for a later version of this libretto.

During an insurrection which forced the Chinese emperor, Livanio [Li-vang], into exile, his son, Svenvango [Swen-vang], was saved by Leango [Le-ang], who wrapped his own infant son in the royal garments and left him for the mob. Later, as regent, Le-ang raised the royal heir as his own child under the name of Siveno [Si-veng].

Si-veng and Lisinga [Li-sing], a captive Tartar princess, are in love. Li-sing is reminded by her sister, Ulania [U-lan], that Si-veng is not only a commoner but also her enemy: for these reasons, U-lan claims, she will leave Minteo [Min-ti], Si-veng’s friend and a mandarin in the Chinese army. Si-veng and Li-sing despair when her father sends word that she must marry the unknown heir to the Chinese throne. With this opportunity for an alliance with the Tartars, Le-ang feels ready to reveal Si-veng’s identity; Si-veng, however, announces that the populace call for Le-ang himself as emperor. Le-ang’s response leads Li-sing to suspect that Si-veng is indeed the heir....

Article

Ezio  

Don Neville

(‘Aetius’)

Libretto by pietro Metastasio, first set by Nicola Porpora (1728, Venice).

Act 1 Aetius returns to Rome in triumph after his victory over Attila. The Emperor Valentiniano [Valentinian] III (reigned 425–55), though grateful to his returning general, resents the celebrity being accorded him. To Massimo [Maximus], his confidant, the emperor speaks of Fulvia, Maximus’s daughter, whom he loves. Although aware of the love between Fulvia and Aetius, Maximus, instead of enlightening Valentinian, encourages his suit; secretly an enemy of the emperor, Maximus proposes to use this marriage to gain control over the throne. Since Aetius is the throne’s protector, Maximus is glad to place enmity between him and the emperor by telling him of Valentinian’s intentions towards Fulvia. Informed by her father of his plans, Fulvia is repelled by his proposed treachery against Aetius, Valentinian and herself, but filial duty compels her silence. The emperor offers Aetius the hand of his sister, Onoria [Honoria], in recognition of his military achievements; Aetius asks instead for Fulvia, only to learn from Honoria that Valentinian plans to wed her himself the following day. Honoria, secretly in love with Aetius, is astonished by his violent threats against her brother, and she and Fulvia express their suspicions of each other’s affections for Aetius....

Article

Faust  

F.W. Sternfeld

Libretto subject, popular in the 19th century. The legend of Faust (or Doctor Faustus), like that of Orpheus or Don Juan, is an old one surviving in several popular sources; it has been extensively drawn upon by opera composers. Its sources fall into two main genres: ‘histories’, published in folk-books (or chapbooks), and dramatic versions, preserved in puppet plays. The Historia von Dr. Johann Fausten published at Frankfurt in 1587 by Johann Spiess seems to have been a source of Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, probably first performed in 1594 and printed in 1604 and 1616. Goethe was familiar with both the traditions of the chapbooks and the puppet plays. His Faust, in its definitive version, appeared in two instalments, Part I in 1808 and Part II in 1832; although the libretto of Busoni’s opera was also affected by the puppet play and by Marlowe, it is fair to say that most Faust operas after ...

Article

Thomas Bauman

(‘The Island of the Spirits’)

Libretto in three acts by Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter and Friedrich Hildebrand von Einsiedel after William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. It was first set by Friedrich Fleischmann (1796, Regensburg).

Nine years after arriving on the island and subduing the witch Sycorax, Prospero faces a night of trials: Sycorax will return to join forces with her brutish son Caliban, and Prospero will be powerless to protect his daughter Miranda. A storm gathers; at its height a ship appears in distress and vanishes beneath the waves. After the storm clears Prospero comes upon one of its survivors, young Fernando, who falls instantly in love with Miranda. Elsewhere, several of Fernando’s companions encounter Caliban, who enlists them in a plot to kill Prospero. Caliban discovers the lovers, but Prospero’s magic protects them from his fury. As night falls Prospero sets Fernando and Miranda counting corals. A deep sleep overtakes him. Sycorax emerges from the ground, but the benign spirit Maja thwarts her attempt on Prospero and pitches her into a flaming ravine. After Prospero awakes, Caliban and his crew mount their assault, but Ariel foils them. Caliban throws himself into the sea. A ship lands, bringing the news that the people of Milan want Prospero to return as their ruler. He bids farewell to his familiar spirits, then breaks his magic staff....

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Brian Trowell

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John A. Rice

Libretto subject, used several times in the 18th century. Idomeneus was King of Crete during the time of the Trojan War. Beset by a violent storm as he returned to Crete, he vowed to Neptune that if he escaped shipwreck he would sacrifice to the god the first living thing he saw on his safe arrival; that thing turned out to be his own son. Idomeneus carried out his vow; the inhumanity of his deed caused such horror that he was forced to abdicate and leave Crete. This story, whose parallels with the story of Agamemnon and Iphigenia and the biblical stories of Abraham and especially Jephtha are obvious, is unmentioned by Homer. It may not have been associated with Idomeneus until late antiquity, and probably under the influence of other legends. The 4th-century grammarian Servius, in his commentary on Virgil’s Aeneid, is the author of what is apparently the earliest surviving account....

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Brian Trowell

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Brian Trowell

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