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Tamerlano


Tamerlano is an opera seria in three acts by Georg Frideric Handel, set in the aftermath of the Tartar conquest of Turkey, and delves into a complex web of love, power, and vengeance. The defeated Ottoman Sultan, Bajazet, languishes in captivity, contemplating suicide until his love for his daughter, Asteria, compels him to endure. Meanwhile, the victorious Tartar emperor, Tamerlano, becomes captivated by Asteria's beauty and proposes a deal: her hand in marriage for her father's freedom. This seemingly straightforward proposition throws the characters into turmoil. Asteria is already in love with Andronico, a Byzantine prince who has sided with Tamerlano. Andronico, bound by both duty and affection, struggles with his conflicting loyalties to Tamerlano and Asteria. Further complicating the situation, Tamerlano has also arranged a marriage with Irene, a princess from a neighbouring kingdom. As the opera progresses, these characters are forced to make agonising decisions. Asteria must choose between love and duty to her father. Andronico grapples with betrayal and the potential to reclaim his throne. Tamerlano vacillates between his desire for Asteria and his commitment to Irene. Ultimately, the opera explores the human cost of conquest and the lengths to which individuals will go for love, power, and ultimately, survival. The opera premiered at the King's Theatre in London on the 31st of October 1724. The libretto, by Nicola Francesco Haym, was adapted from Agostin Piovene's libretto Tamerlano of 1711, and also from Bajazet of 1719, another version of the same libretto revised by Ippolito Zanelli and Francesco Borosini after Jacques Pradon's play Tamerlan, ou La mort de Bajazet of 1675. The music itself exemplifies the Baroque style with its focus on clear melodies, intricate counterpoint, and dramatic use of the orchestra. Singers take centre stage, particularly the castrato roles, alongside soprano and tenor characters, with arias often utilising the da capo form. Tamerlano received initial acclaim upon its debut, but its popularity subsided over the years. This has been attributed to the complexity of the plot or the changing tastes of audiences, while others point to the eventual decline of the castrato singing tradition, which played a central role in the opera.

 
The Opera
Characters
Name
Description
Voice Type
Premiere Cast
Tamerlano 
Emperor of the Tartars
alto-castrato
Andrea Pacini
Bajazet
Sultan of the Turks, prisoner of Tamerlano
tenor
Francesco Borosini
Asteria
daughter of Bajazet, lover of Andronico
soprano
Francesca Cuzzoni
Andronico
Byzantine prince
contralto/mezzo-soprano
Senesino 
Irene
Princess of Trebizond, betrothed to Tamerlano
contralto/mezzo- soprano
Anna Vincenza Dotti
Leone
servant to Tamerlano, friend to Andronico
bass
Giuseppe Boschi
Zaida
friend to Asteria
[silent role]
Setting
Conquered Turkish city of Prusa [Bursa], capital of Bithynia, 1402
Acts and Scenes
Overture
Act I
Role
Scene I
1
Sinfonia
 
[orchestra]
2
Recitative
'Esci, esci, oh Signore!'
Andronico, Bajazet
3
Sinfonia
 
[orchestra]
4
Recitative
'Prence, lo so, ti devo'
Bajazet, Andronico
5
Aria
'Forte e lieto a morte andrei'
Bajazet
Scene II
6
Recitative
'Non si perda di vista il disperato'
Andronico, Tamerlano
7
Aria
'Vo' dar pace a un'alma altiera'
Tamerlano
Scene III
8
Recitative
'Il Tartaro ama Asteria'
Andronico
9
Aria
'Bella Asteria, il tuo cor mi difenda'
Andronico
Scene IV
10
Recitative
'Il fortunato Andronico'
Asteria, Tamerlano
11
Aria
'Dammi pace'
Tamerlano
Scene V
12
Recitative
'Serve Asteria di prezzo'
Asteria
13
Aria
'Se non mi vuol amar'
Asteria
Scene VI
14
Recitative
'Non ascolto più nulla'
Bajazet, Andronico, Asteria
15
Aria
'Ciel e terra armi di sdegno!'
Bajazet 
Scene VII
16
Recitative
'Asteria, non parlate?'
Andronico, Asteria
17
Aria
'Deh! lasciatemi il nemico'
Asteria
Scene VIII
18
Recitative
'Così la sposa il Tamerlano accoglie?'
Irene, Leone, Andronico
19
Aria
'Dal crudel che m'ha tradita'
Irene
Scene IX
20
Accompanied Recitative
'Chi vide mai più, sventurato amante?'
Andronico
21
Aria
'Benchè mi sprezzi l'idol ch'adoro'
Andronico
Act II
Role
Scene I
1
Recitative
'Amico, tengo un testimon fedele'
Tamerlano, Andronico
2
Aria
'Bella gara, che faranno'
Tamerlano 
Scene II
3
Recitative
'Qui l'infedel! cogliamo'
Asteria, Andronico
4
Aria
'Non è più tempo'
Asteria
Scene III
5
Accompanied Recitative
'Ah no! Dove trascorri, idolo mio?'
Andronico
6
Aria
'Cerco in vano di placare'
Andronico
Scene IV
7
Recitative
'Signor, vergine illustre'
Leone, Tamerlano, Irene 
Scene V
8
Recitative
'Senti, chiunque tu sia'
Asteria, Irene
Scene VI
9
Recitative
'Gran cose espone Asteria.'
Irene, Leone
10
Aria
'Par che mi nasce in seno un raggio di speranza'
Irene
11
Recitative
'Veggio da questi amori''
Leone
12
Aria
'Amor dà guerra e pace'
Leone
Scene VII
13
Recitative
'Dov'è mia figlia, Andronico?'
Bajazet, Andronico
14
Aria
'A suoi piedi padre esangue'
Bajazet
Scene VIII
15
Recitative
'Se Asteria mi tradisce'
Andronico
16
Aria
'Più d'una tigre altero'
Andronico
Scene IX
17
Accompanied Recitative
'Al soglio, al soglio, oh bella!'
Tamerlano, Asteria, Bajazet, Andronico, Irene
Scene X
18
Recitative
'E per lei vengo ad impegnar quel post!'
Irene, Asteria, Tamerlano, Bajazet, Andronico
19
Trio
'Voglio stragi, voglio sangue' 
Tamerlano,  Bajazet, Asteria
20
Recitative
'Padre dimmi, son più l'indegna figlia?'
Asteria
21
Aria
'Nò, nò, il tuo sdegno mi placò'
Bajazet 
22
Recitative
'Andronico, son più l'infida amante?'
Asteria 
23
Aria
'Nò, che del tuo gran cor'
Andronico
24
Recitative
'Amica, son quella superba donna?'
Asteria
25
Aria
'Nò, che sei tanto costante nella la fede' Irene
26
Recitative
'Sì, sì, son vendicata' Asteria
27
Aria
'Se potessi un di placare' Asteria
Act III
Role
Scene I
1
Recitative
'Figlia, siam rei' Bajazet, Asteria 
2
Aria
'Cor di padre, e cor d'amante' Asteria
Scene II
3
Recitative
'Andronico, il mio amore'
Tamerlano, Andronico, Asteria
Scene III
4
Recitative
'Come? Asteria, tu a piè del Tamerlano?'
Bajazet, Tamerlano, Andronico
5
Aria
'A dispetto d'un volto ingrato'
Tamerlano
Scene IV
6
Recitative
'Figlia, con atto vil tutta perdesti' Bajazet, Asteria, Andronico
Scene V
7
Recitative
'Asteria, allor che andaste' Andronico, Asteria, Leone
8
Duet
'Vivo in te, mio caro bene!'
Andronico, Asteria
Scene VI
9
Recitative
'Reina vuoto il trono' Leone, Irene
10
Aria
'Crudel più non son io' Irene
11
Recitative
'Se Irene al trono ascende' Leone
12
Aria
'Se ad un costante core'
Leone
Scene VII
13
Recitative
'Eccoti Bajazete'
Tamerlano, Bajazet, Andronico
14
Aria
'Se non mi rendi' 
Andronico
Scene VIII
15
Recitative
'Eccomi, che si chiede?' Asteria, Tamerlano, Andronico, Bajazet, Irene
16
Accompanied Recitative
'Padre, amante' Asteria
17
Arioso
'Folle sei, se lo consenti' Asteria
18
Recitative
'Beva dunque la rea' Asteria, Andronico, Bajazet, Tamerlano
19
Accompanied Recitative
'E il soffrirete, d'onestade, oh numi?' Bajazet
20
Aria
'Empio, per farti guerra' Bajazet
21
Recitative
'Signor, fra tante cure'
Irene, Tamerlano
22
Duet
'Vedrò ch'un di si cangerà'
Tamerlano, Irene
Scene IX
23
Recitative
'Vieni, Asteria' Leone, Andronico, Tamerlano, Asteria
Scene X
24
Recitative
'Oh per me lieto'
Bajazet, Tamerlano
25
Accompanied Recitative
'Fremi, minacci! mi rido' Bajazet, Asteria
26
Recitative
'No, vo' seguirti anch'io'
Asteria, Bajazet
27
Arioso 
'Figlia mia, non pianger, nò!' Bajazet
28
Accompanied Recitative
'Tu, spietato, il vedrai' Bajazet
29
Aria and Accompanied Recitative
'Sù, via, furie, e ministre' Bajazet
30
Recitative
'Barbaro! al fin sei sario ancor?' Andronico, Asteria
31
Accompanied Recitative
'Mirami, io quella son che gia due volte'  Asteria



Sources:
1. George Frideric Handel, Tamerlano [CD]. Lehane, Young, Baker, Burrowes, Kern et al, English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Sir Anthony Lewis, recorded 1972, Ponto, 2008.
2. George Frideric Handel and Nicola Francesco Haym. Tamerlano: opera di G. F. Händel. New York: Edwin F. Kalmus, 1876.
3. Stanley Sadie, ed. The Grove Book of Operas, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
   

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