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George J. Buelow

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....


Opéra-ballet in a prologue and three entrées by Jean-Philippe Rameau to a libretto by (Jean-)Louis de Cahusac; Versailles, La Grande Ecurie, 15 March 1747.

Intended to appear as Les dieux d’Egypte, this work was adapted for the celebrations surrounding the dauphin’s second marriage, to Maria Josepha of Saxony. Its theme was fortuitously appropriate: each of the three entrées, ‘Osiris’, ‘Canope’ and ‘Aruéris, ou Les Isies’, culminates in the marriage of one of the Egyptian gods. In the first, Osiris (...


Paul Corneilson

Libretto subject much used in the 17th and 18th centuries. Its principal sources are the historical accounts of the Roman leader Julius Caesar as recorded in Plutarch’s Lives. Opera librettos have tended to focus either on Caesar’s visit to Egypt, where he falls in love with Cleopatra (the subject of Bernard Shaw’s play ...


Virginia Saya

Opera in one act by Dominick Argento to a libretto by John Donahue; Minneapolis, Cedar Village Theater, 14 October 1971.

From an abstract libretto by the children’s theatre director John Donahue (with lines in no set sequence, assigned to no particular character), Argento created a symbolic fantasy based on the guarded interactions of seven people waiting for a train. Their activities are interrupted by abrupt leaps of time and strange entertainments (a cabaret song to nonsense syllables, a puppet show with lifelike puppets, a Viennese operetta duet). Each character performs an aria of minimal self-revelation and carries an item of luggage, the contents of which he or she symbolically protects from the prying of the others. When Mr Owen (tenor), the only named character, is forced to reveal that his suitcase is empty, he is cut off from the group and, in heroic style, sets out on a voyage of self-discovery in a ship built by the puppets....


Richard Taruskin

Projected grand opera in four acts by Modest Petrovich Musorgsky to his own libretto after Gustave Flaubert’s novel; concert performance of fragments, Milan (RAI), 10 November 1980.

Three major scenes and three additional numbers were composed between autumn 1863 and spring 1866. The plot, set in Carthage during the Punic Wars, in many ways parallels that of Serov’s opera ...



Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym adapted from Carlo Sigismondo Capece’s Tolomeo et Alessandro (1711, Rome); London, King’s Theatre, 30 April 1728.

Tolomeo was Handel’s 13th and last full-length opera for the Royal Academy of Music, and the last of the five operas in which the leading female roles were designed for the rival sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni, who sang Seleuce and Elisa. The other singers were the alto castratos Senesino (Ptolemy) and Antonio Baldi (Alessandro), and the bass Giuseppe Boschi (Araspe)....