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Nicola Porpora Composer

Semiramide riconosciuta (opera)

Performances: 2
Tracks: 2
Musicology (work in progress):
  • Semiramide riconosciuta (opera)
    Year: 1729
    • In braccio a mille furie
Semiramide riconosciuta is a dramma per music composed to a libretto by Pietro Metastasio. Metastasio was the premier poet of the eighteenth century, and his libretto texts were often set dozens of times by various composers. His texts were adapted during the century as the style of operatic writing changed, but when they were initially written, they set the standard for the type of dramatics expected in a classical opera seria. Porpora's setting of this Metastasio libretto was one of the very first. Leonardo Vinci's Semiramide riconosciuta, also of 1729, is considered to be the original, and authentic version of the libretto, for the production was overseen by Metastasio himself. The text Porpora used was probably adapted somewhat by Domenico Lalli, a Venetian poet working at the theater where Porpora's opera premiered. There are several classical sources for Metastasio's story, which tells of Semiramide, queen of Assyria, who supposedly reigned disguised as her own son. Metastasio took his characters from a series of fables told by Diodorus Siculus, but other sources include Herodotus, Strabo, and Ctesias. Semiramide's history was quite popular, and versions were written in French, Spanish, and Italian poetry, drama, and lyric prose. Metastasio's version was set as an opera almost 40 times, and other Italian librettists, such as Silvani and Zeno, also turned her tale into lyric drama. Later eras saw Voltaire's violent account of her reign turned into grand opera by Gioachino Rossini and Christoph Willibald Gluck.

The premiere of Porpora's Semiramide riconosciuta took place at the Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo of Venice during the Carnival celebrations of 1729. Porpora's production featured the finest castrato singer of the era, Carlo Broschi, also known as Farinelli, in the one of the lead roles. The rest of the cast was also exceptional, and Porpora could afford to compose virtuosic music to showcase the vocal talents at his disposal. Porpora was a celebrated music and voice teacher. He trained many of the finest virtuosos of the century, including Farinelli, and taught music to some of the best composers, including Haydn and Hasse. His score shows a sensitivity towards text setting, an ability to write gratefully for the voice, and a gift for elegant, ornate melodies.

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