Tamerlano (Tamburlaine)
  • George Frideric Handel. Opera in three acts. 1724.
  • Libretto by Nicola Francesco Haym, after a libretto by Agostin Provene.
  • First performance at the King’s Theatre, London, on 31st October 1724.
CHARACTERS

Tamerlano (Timurlenk), Emperor of the Tartars

male alto

Bajazete (Beyazit), Emperor of the Turks

tenor

Asteria, his daughter

soprano

Andronico (Andronicus), a Greek prince

male alto

Irene, Princess of Trebizond, betrothed to Timurlenk

contralto

Leone (Leo), friend of Timurlenk & Andronicus

bass

Zaida, friend of Asteria

silent role

Beyazit is a prisoner of Timurlenk and, released by his captor, threatens suicide, from which Andronicus dissuades him. Timurlenk is in love with Asteria and will allow her father to live in return for her love, while proposing to give Irene, his betrothed, to Andronicus, now appointed King of Byzantium but formerly Asteria’s lover. Irene arrives at court, is excluded, but gains entry in disguise. She angrily upbraids Timurlenk, while Beyazit refuses to sanction Asteria’s marriage with the Tartar Emperor. Asteria herself has planned, in any case, to murder Timurlenk. Father and daughter are imprisoned and prepare to take poison and Asteria and Andronicus openly declare their love for each other. After dire threats from Timurlenk, Beyazit takes poison, but his daughter and Andronicus are pardoned by Timurlenk, who is now united with Irene.

The subject of the tyrant known to Christopher Marlowe as Tamburlaine and in Turkish as Timurlenk, Timur the Lame, provided the Elizabethan theatre with two of its most popular tragedies. Operatic conventions of Handel’s time demanded a happy ending, achieved only after the death of Beyazit. The work contains notable scenes of confrontation between conqueror and conquered.