Radamisto
  • George Frideric Handel. Opera in three acts. 1720.
  • Libretto adapted from the 1712 version of Domenico Lalli’s L’amor tirannico, o Zenobia (Tyrannical Love, or Zenobia).
  • First performance at the King’s Theatre, London, on 27th April 1720.
CHARACTERS

Radamisto, son of Farasmane (male)

soprano

Zenobia, his wife

contralto

Farasmane, King of Thrace

bass

Tiridate, King of Armenia

tenor

Polissena, his wife, daughter of Farasmane

soprano

Tigrane, Prince of Pontus

(male) soprano

Fraarte, brother of Tiridate

male soprano

Tiridate falls in love with his sister-in-law Zenobia and makes war against Farasmane, assisted by Tigrane, who makes advances to Polissena. Farasmane is taken prisoner and his kingdom seized, while Radamisto and Zenobia take refuge in the capital city, where they resist attack, escaping, in spite of the threats made against the life of the captive Farasmane. After various confusions of disguise, capture and recapture, Tiridate is defeated but magnanimously pardoned by Radamisto, content now to be reunited with his Zenobia.

Radamisto won success with the London public in 1720 and was first revised in the same year, with the title role transposed down for the alto castrato Senesino and the part of Tiridate given to a bass. The roles of Radamisto and Tigrane were originally taken by women, but in December 1720 were allotted to castrati, with further revisions for 1728, when the redoubtable prime donne Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni competed for attention as Zenobia and Polissena respectively. The aria Ombra cara di mia sposa (Dear shade of my wife) was a particular favourite of Handel himself.