- John A. Rice
Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th and 18th centuries, based on Euripides′ Alcestis. When Admetus, King of Pherae in Thessaly, is ill and about to die an oracle announces that he will be saved if someone else is willing to die in his stead. His wife Alcestis displays her conjugal devotion by offering herself; she dies and Admetus recovers. According to some versions, Hercules then brings Alcestis back from the Underworld and reunites her with Admetus.
In Aureli’s L’Antigona delusa da Alceste, first performed in 1660 with music by P. A. Ziani and reset by several other composers (including Handel, Admeto, 1727), the story is embroidered with typically Venetian intrigue. Princess Antigona [Antigone] loves Admetus; dressed as a man, she goes in search of him. On hearing of Alcestis’s death she reveals her identity to try to win Admetus. In the meantime, Hercules brings Alcestis back from the Underworld; now it is her turn to be disguised in male clothes. Hercules tells Admetus that he was unable to rescue Alcestis. Admetus decides to marry Antigone but changes his mind when Alcestis reveals her true identity and angrily accuses him of infidelity. In Philippe Quinault’s ...