Antonio Lotti: Alessandro Severo


Alessandro Severo was the 20th opera written by Antonio Lotti, and his last to be performed in Venice, in January 1717 at the Teatro Grimani di S. Giovanni Grisostomo.
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The opera requires a cast of six, and the original performers are shown next to the roles:

Giulia             Soprano      Marianna Benti Bulgarelli, 'La Romanina'
Alessandro      Soprano       Francesco di Grandi (castrato)
Sallustia         Soprano       Faustina Bordoni
Albina            Contralto      Diana Vico
Claudio           Soprano       Antonio Pasi (castrato)
Marziano        Tenor           Francesco Guicciardi

The instrumentation is 2 violins (with oboe doubling), viola, bass and keyboard continuo. The opera contains two male soprano roles originally sung by castrati (Alessandro, Claudio), two female soprano roles (Giulia, Sallustia), a contralto role (Albina), and one tenor part (Marziano). The castrato roles are perhaps uncomfortably high for most countertenors : one performance suggestion is for all the roles to be played by women. (The tenor part either at pitch, or up an octave.)

Alternatively, the male Soprano roles could be performed down an octave by Tenors.

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The plot is loosely based around real historical characters: the Roman Emperor Alexander Severus (c.207 - 235); his mother, Julia Mamaea (c. 180 - 235), and his wife Sallustia Orbiana.
On the birthday of his maturity, Alessandro is hailed as the new Emperor of Rome, and with him, his wife Sallustia is greeted as Empress, with the title of Augusta. Alessandro’s mother, Giulia, having previously acted as Regent, is also titled Augusta, and feels threatened by Sallustia. In order to retain her power and influence over her son, she plans to discredit his wife, and tricks her son into writing a letter of condemnation, sentencing Sallustia to exile.
Meanwhile, Albina, a Roman noble, dresses in men’s clothes in an attempt to get close to her former lover, Claudio.
Marziano, General of the Roman Army and father of Sallustia, plots a coup with Claudio against Giulia. Albina learns of the plot, and reveals it to Sallustia, who intervenes, offering her own life in place of Giulia. As a result of this selfless action, Giulia’s envy of Sallustia turns to admiration and remorse for her actions. She confesses to her son. All are forgiven and reunited.

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The libretto was written by the leading Venetian playwright, Apostolo Zeno. All the libretti for Lotti's operas were newly commissioned texts, and most would be re-used by other composers. Zeno's libretto for Alessandro Severo was set to new music a further 15 times, including by Handel.

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A FULL SCORE of the complete opera is available to download as a PDF. Instrumental parts are available on request.

This is a part of our series of all Lotti's surviving opera scores.