Admeto (Admetus)
  • George Frideric Handel. Opera in three acts. 1727.
  • Libretto adapted, probably by Haym and Rolli, from the work of Ortensio Mauro, itself based on an earlier Italian version by the Venetian librettist Aurelio Aureli.
  • First performance at the King’s Theatre, London, on 31st January 1727.
Admeto (Admetus), King of Thessaly male alto
Alceste (Alcestis), his wife soprano
Ercole (Hercules) bass
Orindo, a courtier contralto
Trasimede (Thrasymedes), brother of Admeto male alto
Antigona, a Trojan princess soprano
Meraspe, her governor bass
Oracle of Apollo bass

The opera treats the legendary story of King Admetus, the subject of the play by Euripides. Admetus is dying and the oracle of Apollo tells Alcestis, his wife, that he can only be saved if someone will take his place. Matters are complicated by the arrival of the Trojan princess, Antigona. She had been betrothed to Admetus, who had never seen her, and believes his illness a punishment for not carrying out his promise to marry her. Alcestis kills herself to save her husband and Admetus asks Hercules to bring her back from the Underworld. Thrasymedes, meanwhile, has long loved Antigona, and had tricked his brother by giving him a less attractive picture of the girl he was supposed to marry, keeping Antigona’s picture for himself. She disguises herself and, with her governor Meraspe, takes work in the palace gardens, disguised as a peasant, while Alcestis, returned from the dead, is now disguised as a warrior. Matters reach a considerable degree of complication before all can end in the necessary relative happiness, with Antigona possibly to be united with Thrasymedes, or so he now hopes, and Alcestis now certainly restored to her husband Admetus.

As with many of Handel’s operas, Admeto, rè di Tessaglia (Admetus, King of Thessaly) underwent various changes to suit different theatrical circumstances. The original production at the King’s Theatre employed the rival singers Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni in the respective roles of Alceste and Antigona, with the famous castrato Senesino as Admeto and the castrato Antonio Baldi as his brother. Audiences were loudly divided in their support for the two rival sopranos, at the expense of the drama.