Domenico Cimarosa – Gli Orazi e i Curiazi (1796)
(b. Aversa, 17 December 1749 – d. Venice, 11 January 1801)
Domenico Cimarosa was an Italian composer of the Neapolitan school, having been studying at the Conservatorio di S. Maria di Loreto since 1761. He was principally based in Naples, but spent part of his career in various other parts of Italy, composing for the opera houses of such cities as Rome, Venice and Florence, and abroad. Cimarosa wrote more than eighty operas, the best known of which is Il matrimonio segreto (1792); most of his works belong to the comic genre (the first was the commedia per musica Le stravaganze, performed at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples in 1772), but he was the author of 11 titles in the genre of seria, and composed instrumental and sacred music, too. His early serious operas, including Caio Mario (1780) and Alessandro nell’Indie (1781) had their premieres in Rome at the Teatro delle Dame and the Teatro Argentina. Beyond Italy, he was court composer in St Petersburg and Vienna. From 1787 to 1791 he stayed at the court of Empress Catherine the Great (ruled 1762 – 1796), where he was probably invited on recommendation of the Duke of Serra Capriola, the ambassador to Russia of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. On his way to the Russian Empire, he visited Livorno as a guest of Grand Duke Leopold of Tuscany, who was to invite him to Vienna after becoming Emperor in 1791, and to subsequently commission his masterpiece Il matrimonio segreto. Presumably in 1793 the composer returned to Naples, where in 1796 he was appointed first organist of the royal chapel. In his later years, he backed the losing side in the struggle to overthrow the monarchy in Naples (the so-called ‘Parthenopean Republic’), and was imprisoned (1799) and then exiled. He died in Venice at the age of 51.
Gli Orazi e i Curiazi is a ‘tragedia per musica’ in three acts based on Pierre Corneille’s tragedy Horace (1640), which was reduced from five to three acts by librettist Simeone Antonio Sografi (1759 – 1818). The action takes place in ancient Rome during the kingdom of Tullus Hostilius (7th century BC), notably during the war against the city of Alba Longa that was narrated by the historian Livy in his Historiae. The plot of the opera accounts of the epic clash between the Roman triplet warriors Horatii and the Alban Curiatii. Despite the hostility between the two peoples, these families are related one to each other by means of two marriages: Sabina (soprano), a member of the Curiazi family, has married Marco Orazio (tenor), while during a truce in the war (act 1) his sister Orazia (mezzosoprano/contralto) becomes the espouse of Curiazio (soprano castrato), who is the leader of the opposed family. The kings of the two cities, Tullus Hostilius and Mettius Fufetius, decide to settle their conflict by a fight to the death between the members of the two families. The two sisters in law grieve when they understand that they will see either their husbands or their brothers die. …
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