25 Feb 2008

VINCI: La Partenope

La Partenope: Dramma per musica in three acts.

Music composed by Leonardo Vinci. Libretto by Silvio Stampiglia.

First Performance: 1725, Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo, Venice.

Principal Characters:
Rosmira, Princess of Cyprus Soprano
Partenope, Queen of Partenope (later Naples) Contralto
Arsace, Prince of Corinth Soprano
Armindo, Prince of Rhodes Tenor
Emilio, Prince of Cuma Mezzo-Soprano
Ormonte, Captain of Partenope's Guard Tenor


Partenope (or Parthenope) appears in Greek mythology and classical sources as one of the sirens who taunted Odysseus. One version has her throwing herself into the sea because her love for Odysseus was not returned. She drowns. Her body washes ashore at Naples, which was called Partenope after her name. From this, Silvio Stampiglia created a fictional account where Partenope appears as the Queen of Naples. According to Robert Freeman:

[T]he libretto for Partenope . . . [was] first set for performance in Naples during 1699 with music by Luigi Mancia, and produced all over Italy in more than a dozen versions with music by a variety of composers . . . [The libretto involves] a young lady named Rosmira, once betrothed to and then deserted by Arsace, now a suitor of Partenope, Queen of Naples, where the drama takes place. Early in the libretto, Rosmira, disguised as a man, charges Arsace with infidelity and defies him to redeem his honor by promising never to reveal her identity. After Arsace promises, Rosmira taunts him before the court, then challenges him to a duel, which Arsace quite naturally tries to evade. But in the final scene Arsace hits upon a solution. He agrees to the duel, but on condition that it be fought with combatants stripped to the waist. . . Rosmira admits her identity and there is no duel.
Notes, Vol. 28, No. 2 (Dec., 1971), pp. 216-217.

Click here for the complete libretto.