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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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(‘The Impresario from the Canary Islands’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Domenico Sarro (1724, Naples). Versions of the libretto also appear under the titles Dorina e Nibbio, L’impresario, L’impresario dell’isole Canarie and L’impresario e la cantante.

Part 1 Dorina, a prima donna, is impatient with her attendants because she cannot find a ‘modern’ piece, with embellishments on every word, to sing at an embassy function. Nibbio, the impresario from the Canary Islands, calls on Dorina, reassures her that texts are unimportant in opera, and coaxes her to sing for him. Enraptured, he presents her with a cantata of his own, the airing of which occupies the remainder of the interview until Dorina contrives an escape.

Part 2 Dorina is upbraiding the wardrobe assistants when she is again visited by Nibbio to whom she explains the miseries of pleasing an audience; she is also concerned that, in having to show extreme emotion on stage, she may damage her voice. She obliges Nibbio with an excerpt from ...

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Don Neville

(‘Hypermnestra’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Johann Adolf Hasse (1744, Vienna).

Act 1 Danao [Danaus], King of Argos, is informed by an oracle that he will lose his life at the hands of a son of Aegyptus. He therefore commands his daughter, Hypermnestra, betrothed to Linceo [Lynceus], a son of Aegyptus, to murder him on their wedding night; but, unable to commit such a crime, Hypermnestra decides to reject Lynceus. Told of this action by Adrasto [Adrastus], his confidant, Danaus condemns his daughter, who still refuses Lynceus when next she meets him.

Act 2 Danaus instructs Adrastus to tell Elpinice, his niece, that she will inherit the throne if she convinces Hypermnestra to change her mind. Unsure of what to do, Elpinice seeks counsel. Meanwhile, Hypermnestra pleads in vain with her father to spare Lynceus. She learns from Lynceus himself that he plans suicide; she begs him to refrain, but refuses to admit that she still loves him....

Article

Julie E. Cumming

Libretto subject used in the 18th century. Its source is the Iphigeneia in Aulis of Euripides , but Racine’s Iphigénie (1674) is of equal importance. Librettos on the subject were written in French (Iphigénie en Aulide), German (Iphigenie in Aulis) and Italian (Ifigenia in Aulide).

In Euripides’ account, the Greek fleet is becalmed at Aulis where it has assembled to sail for Troy. An oracle demands that Agamemnon sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia, in order that the winds may blow. Agamemnon vacillates; Clytemnestra protests; Achilles defends Iphigenia; Iphigenia goes willingly to the altar. At the last minute Diana carries her off, leaving a deer in her place. This version permits a sequel, Iphigenia in Tauris . According to Racine there is a second Iphigenia, known as Erifile [Eriphyle]. At the last moment the high priest realizes that Eriphyle is the one who must die; she kills herself, and Iphigenia and Achilles marry. The third common variant is a compromise, in which, without Eriphyle, Iphigenia is saved by divine intervention and marries Achilles....

Article

Julie E. Cumming

Libretto subject popular in the 18th century. Its source is the Iphigenia in Tauris of Euripides, although Guimond de la Touche’s spoken drama Iphigénie en Tauride (1757) was also influential. Librettos on the subject were written in Italian (Ifigenia in Tauride), French (Iphigénie en Tauride) and German (Iphigenie in Tauris); they were sometimes named after the two principal male characters (Oreste; Oreste e Pilade; Pilade e Oreste) or their friendship (La forza dell’amicizia).

Iphigenia is a priestess at the temple of Diana in the barbarian kingdom of Tauris, having been transported there after her supposed sacrifice in Aulis. Her brother Orestes arrives in Tauris with his faithful friend Pylades. He is being pursued by the Furies for having killed his mother, Clytemnestra, and must do penance by finding the statue of Diana in Tauris and returning it to Greece. They are captured and the tyrant, Thoas, demands that they be sacrificed. Iphigenia does not recognize them, but feels a strange affinity with Orestes; there is a recognition scene, an attempt to escape, and a final ...

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Don Neville

(‘Hypsipyle’)

Libretto by Pietro Metastasio, first set by Francesco Conti (1732, Vienna).

Act 1 Delayed in Thrace, the men of Lemnos have made concubines of the young Thracian women. In revenge, the women of Lemnos vow to murder their menfolk upon their return. Toante [Thoas], King of Lemnos, has a particular enemy in the widowed princess, Eurinome [Eurynome], whose son, Learco [Learchus], he banished for the harassment of his daughter, Hypsipyle. When Hypsipyle vows to murder her father to satisfy Eurynome, she secretly plans to warn him not to land, but is too late. Thoas is surprised at his daughter’s cool public greeting, but she explains all privately when she bids him hide in the sacred grove of the goddess Diana.

Act 2 Unknown to all, Learchus has returned with a band of pirates and, unrecognized, tells Thoas to flee the grove for his daughter’s sake. Masquerading as Thoas, Learchus plans to seize Hypsipyle and leave Lemnos. Meanwhile, Hypsipyle sacrifices another Lemnian in place of her father, passing the body off as that of Thoas. So convincing is her deception that Giasone [Jason], betrothed to Hypsipyle and just returned to Lemnos, renounces her when he learns of her patricidal act from Eurynome....

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(b Littlefield, TX, Feb 17, 1928). American lyricist and composer. He has often worked with the composer harvey Schmidt , and the duo bear the distinction of writing The Fantasticks, which in the early 2010s was the longest-running off-Broadway musical of all time. It opened on 3 May 1960 and ran 17,162 performances before closing on 13 January 2002. It received a Special Tony Award in 1992 for its staying power and status as a musical theater icon, and a film version was released in 1995. Jones and Schmidt had met at the University of Texas, Austin, and collaborated on a few projects, but were mired in a complicated, overly large project based on an Edmond Rostand play (a spoof of Romeo and Juliet) when they got the offer to create the musical one-act that became their signature piece. They kept their play’s basic concept but jettisoned all of their material except the song “Try to Remember,” and the result was ...