Opera Scotland

Tamerlano Tamerlane

Music
George Frideric Handel (born Halle, 23 February 1685; died London, 14 April 1759).

Text
Nicola Francesco Haym adapted from Il Tamerlano (1711) and Il Bajazet (1719) by Agostino Piovene.

Source
French drama Tamerlan, ou La mort de Bajazet (1675) by Jacques Pradon.

Premieres
First performance: London (King’s Theatre, Haymarket), 31 October 1724.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 1 September 1982.
Scottish Opera première: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 7 November 2006.

Background
The subject of Tamburlaine was familiar to London audiences through the work of contemporary authors such as Nicholas Rowe (Tamerlane 1701), rather than through the earlier masterpiece by Marlowe. Piovene’s revision of 1719 is important because it expanded the role of Bajazet to make it the first great role for an operatic tenor. That tenor, Borosini, having sung the part in Gasparini’s version, brought the new text to London in time to allow elements to be incorporated into Handel’s new version. The opera makes its effects through the cumulative impact of the sequences of arias in the second and third acts, and the scene of Bajazet’s suicide is a piece of great dramatic power.

Characters
Tamerlano, Emperor of the Tartars, in love with Asteria, but betrothed to Irene (alto)
Andronico, a Greek prince, Tamerlano’s ally, betrothed to Asteria (alto)
Bajazet, Sultan of Turkey, now a prisoner of the Tartars (tenor)
Asteria, Bajazet’s daughter, betrothed to Andronico (soprano)
Irene, Princess of Trebizond, betrothed to Tamerlano (alto)
Leone, confidant of Andronico and Tamerlano (bass)

Plot Summary
The action occurs shortly after the Tartar conquest of Turkey in 1402. Bajazet, released from prison by Andronico, is dissuaded from suicide only by his love for his daughter. Tamerlano tells Andronico that he will be returned to his own throne of Byzantium and marry Irene, while Tamerlano intends to marry Asteria. Andronico needs time to find a solution. Bajazet is angered by the idea that his daughter should marry Tamerlano, and Asteria herself is offended by the prospect of her lover giving her up for a kingdom and an heiress. When Irene arrives, and discovers she is no longer to marry Tamerlano, Andronico confides in her, and persuades her to disguise herself as her own envoy and await events. Asteria agrees to marry Tamerlano and blames Andronico for this outcome. Tamerlano maintains he will marry Irene only if Asteria displeases him. This is precisely what Asteria expects, since it is her intention to kill him when she gets close. To prevent the marriage, Bajazet prostrates himself before the throne, forcing his daughter to step over him to reach it, which she refuses to do. Tamerlano condemns both father and daughter to death. In prison, Bajazet and Asteria share their supply of poison so they can commit suicide if necessary. Tamerlano decides Asteria is to become a slave, and she is brought out to wait at table. She takes her chance to poison his drink, but is seen by Irene, who saves Tamerlano, exposes Asteria, and then reveals her own identity. As Asteria is condemned to further punishment word arrives that Bajazet has taken poison. He is brought in before he dies, still cursing Tamerlano. The Emperor, tired of blood, decides to marry Irene and let Asteria marry Andronico, who will return to rule in Byzantium.

The Cast

Andronico
 a Greek prince, Tamerlano's ally
Asteria
 Bajazet's daughter
Bajazet
 Sultan of Turkey, now a prisoner
Irene
 Princess of Trebizond
Leone
 confidant of Andronico and Tamerlano
Tamerlano
 Emperor of the Tartars

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