10 Feb 2008


Andromaca: Dramma per musica in three acts.

Music composed by Vicente Martín y Soler. Libretto adapted from Andromaca by Apostolo Zeno and Andromaque by Jean Racine.

First Performance: 26 December 1780, Teatro Regio di Torino, Turin

Zeno’s [Racine’s] Principal Characters:
Pirro [Pyrrhus], son of Achille, King of Epirus (Ipiros) and lover of Andromaca
Andromaca [Andromaque], widow of Ettore, Trojan princess and slave of Pirro
Astianatte [Astyanax], adolescent son of Andromaca
Telemaco, adolescent son of Ulisse raised by Andromaca under the name of Astianatte
Ulisse, King of Itaca and Greek ambassador
Ermione [Hermione], daughter of Melelao (King of Sparta) and Helen, promised to Pirro and lover of Oreste
Eleno, prince of the royal Trojan blood and secret lover of Andromaca
Oreste [Orestes], son of Agamennone (King of Argo) and lover of Ermione
Eumeo [Phoenix?], tutor of Telemaco and confidante of Ulisse
[Pylade], friend of Oreste
[Cléone], confidante of Ermione

Setting: Troy after its fall to the Greeks


According to the Argomento to his libretto, Zeno explained that this work is as amalgam of Andromaca of Euripides and Racine and of the Troadis (Troades (The Trojan Women)) by Euripides and Seneca. Although none of the characters are of his own invention, Zeno asserts that he has woven them together in an authentic manner.


At the end of the Trojan war Andromaca [Andromaque], Ettore’s [Hector’s] faithful widow, her son Astianatte [Astyanax] and his ‘brother’ Telemaco [Telemachus in The Odyssey], Ulisse’s [Ulysses’] child, whom she had abducted and raised as her own, are held captive by Pirro [Pyrrhus] (soprano), King of Epirus, who desires Andromaca although she rejects his love. She fears for the life of Astianatte, whom the Greeks regard as heir to Ettore’s strength. The Spartan princess Ermione [Hermione], betrothed to Pirro [Pyrrhus], is overcome with jealousy at her lover’s betrayal, and wants to eliminate her rival. Ulisse [Ulysses (or Odysseus)] comes to press Pirro into honouring his commitment to Ermione, to punish Andromaca for the abduction and murder (he thinks) of his son, and to kill Astianatte. Protected by Pirro, Andromaca hides the boys in Ettore’s tomb. When Ulisse discovers them, she reveals that one of them is his son. After Ermione identifies Telemaco, and Astianatte is taken to be executed, Pirro commands that Telemaco too must die. Ulisse then relents and their lives are spared. Pirro, hearing that Andromaca would kill herself if forced to be his wife, accepts Ermione.

Click here for Zeno’s complete libretto.

Many thanks to Carlo Vitali for his helpful comments.