Antonio Lotti: Ascanio


Ascanio was the twenty-second of Lotti's twenty-three operas, performed in Dresden for the Carnival in February 1718.
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The opera requires a cast of eight*, and the original performers are shown next to the roles:

Ascanio                   Castrato         Francesco Bernardi ('Senesino')
Evandro                  Castrato         Matteo Berselli
Silvia                     Contralto       Santa Stella Lotti
Alba                      Alto               Johanna Elisabeth Döbricht-Hesse
Mezenzio                Tenor             Francesco Guicciardi
Oreste                    Alto               Gaetano Berenstadt?
Celso                      Contralto        Vittoria Tesi
Nana                      Soprano         "Baronessa di Bön"

The instrumentation is 2 violins, 2 oboes, 2 flutes, 2 horns (corni da caccia), viola, bass and keyboard continuo (inc. bassoon).

The libretto lists Giuseppi Boschi in the role of ORESTE, though Boschi was a Bass, and the role is for a Castrato (Alto). Dresden Mus. 2159-F-6 is a contemporary manuscript of the arias, with each singer listed in the Index of Arias. It lists Gaetano Berenstadt, a suitable castrato, in the role. (Interestingly, they have the same initials.) It also lists Margherita Zani in the role of ALBA, and Lucia Gaggi in that of CELSO. The remaining singers are the same. The opera was repeated on 7 and 29 September 1719, which could explain the changes.

* The role of Nana is one recit and aria, entirely incidental to the plot, and could be excised without damage.

The opera could be performed with the high castrato parts sung down one octave as Tenor parts. Indeed: the Alto part Oreste could conceivably be sung by a Bass, on the assumption that it was originally conceived as a Bass part for Boschi and was re-cast for Alto upon his indisposition.

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Ascanio, though young, siezes the throne of Agellia, ousting Mezenzio, who flees with his son and daughter. A storm wrecks their ship, and Mezenzio believes his son to be drowned. He meets Lavinia, Ascanio’s step-mother and widow of Aeneas (of Trojan fame). She has been sent into exile by Oreste, who sees her as a threat to Ascanio, because she is pregnant. She gives birth to a daughter, and dies. Mezenzio raises the baby, Silvia, along with his own daughter Alba. Mezenzio brings up Silvia to seek revenge against Ascanio. Meanwhile, Mezenzio’s baby son is discovered by Oreste, and brought up as his own, named Evandro.
They return to the city, and under the name of Asterio, Mezenzio insinuates himself into the court. Evandro falls in love with Alba (his sister), planning to marry her. Ascanio, too falls for Silvia (his half-sister), and she is conflicted.
Ascanio and Evandro have become companions, and Ascanio seeks to crown Evandro alongside himself. Oreste halts the ceremony, and reveals that Evandro is not his son, but the son of Mezenzio.
Silvia comes across a sleeping Ascanio, but cannot bring herself to kill him. She flees, leaving a sword beside him. Mezenzio goes to complete the task, but Evandro stops him. Mezenzio reveals his true identity to his son, and flees. Ascanio wakes to find the dropped sword, and suspects Evandro, who refuses to explain. Evandro is shackled and sentenced to death. Silvia learns of this, and confesses to Ascanio. Oreste pushes Ascanio to execute Silvia and Evandro. Mezenzio lies about the true birth of Evandro and Silvia to save them, and reveals himself to Ascanio, who tells hims that Silvia and Evandro are dead. After seeing Mezenzio’s grief, Ascanio reveals Evandro and Silvia. All are reunited and the noble lineage of the combined Royal family, past and future, is shown.

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The libretto was written by Antonio Maria Lucchini (c.1690 - 1730).

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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.