03 Mar 2008


Fetonte: Dramma per musica in three acts.

Music composed by Niccolò Jommelli (1714-1774). Libretto by Mattia Verazi, after the libretto, Phaéton by Philippe Quinault (written in collaboration with Lully) and Metamorphoses by Ovid.

First Performance: 11 February 1768, Schlosstheater, Ludwigsburg

Principal Characters:
Fetonte, son of Il Sole and Climene Soprano
Climene, widow of Merope Soprano
Libia, daughter of Merope and heir to his kingdom Soprano
Teti Soprano
La Fortuna Soprano
Orcane, King of the Congo Tenor
Il Sole [Helios] Soprano
Proteo, God of the Sea Soprano
Epafo, King of Egypt Alto


Act I

Climene and the priests of Teti invoke the sea nymph from her sacred cave. Climene confides her fears regarding the wedding planned by her now deceased husband between his daughter, Libia, and Climene’s son, Fetonte. King Epafo, however, has designs upon Libia. Proteo foretells that Fetonte will threaten humanity.

Libia and Fetonte later learn that Climene has been imprisoned by Epafo, who will not free her unless Libia agrees to marry him. King Orcane, wishing to marry Climene, plots with Epafo to arouse the Queen’s jealousy.

Act II

Having discovered their plans, Climene and Libia confuse Orcane about their real feelings. Fetonte, on the other hand, becomes disturbed. Climene announces that she will abdicate the throne in favor of Libia when the girl marries a child of a god in accordance with the oracle’s prophecy. Climene chooses Fetonte and reveals his divine origin. The rivals, however, challenge Fetonte to prove his divine nature.

Climene guides Fetonte to Il Sole. To show his true origins, Fetonte will ask permission to appear in the sky in Il Sole’s chariot and to bring daylight upon the Earth. Libia vainly implores Fetonte to desist.


Il Sole welcomes Fetonte into his palace. Fetonte is instructed of the danger if he proceeds. Fetonte refuses the protection of La Fortuna.

Meanwhile, Climene is seized by Epafo. Libia is taken under the protection of Orcane. The two kings prepare for battle. Epafo flees, taking Climene with him. Fetonte appears in the sky; but, losing control of the chariot, it appears that he will destroy the Earth. Zeus’ intervention is invoked, who directs lightning at Fetonte. He falls into the sea. Climene, who learns that Libia is dead, throws herself into the sea to join her son’s fate.

Click here for Lully's score of Phaeton.

Phaeton.pngPhaéton sur le char du soleil