19 Feb 2008


Medea (Médée): Opéra comique in three acts.

Music composed by Luigi Cherubini. Libretto by Franoçois-Benoît Hoffman. Italian version by Carlo Zangarini.

First Performance: 13 March 1797, Théâtre Feydeau, Paris.

Principal Characters:
Jason [Giasone], leader of the Argonauts Tenor
Medea [Médée], his wife Soprano
Neris [Néris], her confidante Mezzo-Soprano
Creon [Créon, Creonte], King of Corinth Bass
Dirce [Dircé, Glauce], his daughter Soprano
First attendant Soprano
Second attendant Mezzo-Soprano

Setting: The palace of Creon.


Act I

The wedding of Jason and Dircé, daughter of Creonte, is approaching. In a gallery in Creonte's royal palace the bride-to-be is tormented by anxiety fearing the possible return of the sorceress Medea, who refuses to accept that Jason, to whom she has given two children, has abandoned her. The chorus and the confidantes of Dircé attempt to comfort her, as do both Jason and Creonte.

The sudden appearance of Medea comes as a terrible shock to Dircé and Jason has to lead the sorceress away. Medea tries to bend to Jason's will, hoping to dissuade him from his decision to be married again. But the contrast between the two leads to the bitter hatred of Medea who summons Colchos and his darkest horrors to prevent the wedding taking place and to avenge Jason's refusal to hear her pleas.

Act II

In a wing of the palace near the temple of Juno, Medea, the abandoned and furious wife, calls upon the terrible Eumenides to shed blood and bring terror to Creonte and his daughter Dircé. Accompanied by her hand-maiden Neris, Medea obtains Creonte's permission to spend one more day in Corinth. The king begs her to calm her wrath, whereas she, with the help of Neris, is seeking vengeance to match the offence and suffering she has known.

Medea's next encounter with Jason sees her in remissive attitude, as she asks her former husband to let her have her two children back. So upset is she that she is prepared to try to win the pity of Jason, but Jason will not be moved. Medea is hurt and insulted. Events confirm her desire to seek the vengeance that she had planned. She confides in Neris, telling her that she intends to give the bride-to-be Dircé her gown, crown and her personal effects all poisoned. During the wedding procession Medea pronounces cruel wishes for the couple.


A storm which obscures the scene is the idea backdrop to the appearance of Medea who steps forward dressed in a black veil. She is awaiting the children of her marriage with Jason to complete her criminal plans. Neris pushes the children into their mother's arms. Medea is touched when she sees them but will not be distracted from her plan to kill them. They are her children but what matters most is that Jason is their father and through the children he must pay for the offence he has committed.

Cries from the palace inform us that Dircé is dead. Jason, moved to pity and fearful for his children, begs Medea to bring them to him: it is too late, they have already been killed. Jason is crushed by his sorrow. Medea calls to him that she will be waiting for him on the banks of the Styx and then sets fire to the temple.

As the crowd runs from the blaze, the flames spread and engulf both the temple and the palace; thunderbolts heighten the terror; the mountain and the temple collapse. The destruction and flames destroy the scene. Medea disappears among the burning remains.

[Synopsis Source: Opera Italiana]

Click here for the complete libretto.