[Die unglückselige Cleopatra, Königin von Egypten, oder Die betrogene Staats-Liebe (‘The Unfortunate Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, or The Fraudulent State Love Affair’)]
Drama per musica in three acts by Johann Mattheson to a libretto by Friedrich Christian Feustking; Hamburg, 20 October 1704.
The libretto is loosely based on Roman history and the account of Mark Antony by Plutarch. In addition to Cleopatra (soprano), Marcus Antonius [Mark Antony] (tenor) and their children Candace (soprano), the young Cleopatra (Egyptian princess) and Ptolemaeus [Ptolemy] (alto; Egyptian prince), the cast includes Archibius (baritone), governor of Alexandria; Dercetaeus (tenor), freed servant of Antony; Caesar Augustus (baritone); Mandane (soprano), an Armenian princess in love with Ptolemy; Juba (tenor), Mauritanian crown prince; Proculejus (alto), Roman general; and Nemesis (soprano), goddess of vengeance.
Act 1 takes place after the disastrous battle at Actium where Antony led his and the Egyptians’ combined naval forces to defeat by the Romans of Augustus. Antony has fled to an island, where he swears he will become, like Timon of Athens, misanthropic and never again be lured into the arms of Cleopatra. The latter, however, arrives and quickly persuades her lover to rejoin her in another attempt to drive out the Romans from Egypt. Secondary pairings of lovers are established: Mandane (who is in the Roman camp) loves Ptolemy, but in their first encounter in Act 1 she finds him, she thinks, in the company of another woman, not recognizing Candace as his sister. Juba, also from the Roman camp, is attracted to Princess Candace. The Roman general Proculejus also loves Mandane. During a battle between Egyptian and Roman forces at the gates of Alexandria, Juba willingly surrenders to Antony, hoping thus to be brought close to Candace. The act ends with Caesar Augustus plotting to deceive both Antony and Cleopatra by offering his former Roman general freedom if he will lay down his arms, open Alexandria to the Romans, and hand over Cleopatra to him....