ASTIANATTE  
An Opera composed by Leonardo Vinci in 1725
Libretto by Antonio Salvi
Performances in October 2022 at ODC Theater

A dark tale of post-Iliad trauma, vengeance, sexual havoc and threatened infanticide, composed by one of the early 18th century’s most brilliant and under-recognized operatic masters. Similar material inspired such milestones as Euripides’ Andromache, Racine’s Andromaque, and Rossini’s Ermione.

 

This is by far the most disturbing work Ars Minerva has revived, set in a topsy-turvy world of grim beauty where mother love counts for little, erotic attraction excuses any cruelty, and conventional gender roles are reversed: Heroic males are at the mercy of their emotions, while women are the cold voice of duty and honor. Even death itself may not be what it seems.


Troy has fallen. Andromache, widow of the Trojan hero Hector, is the prisoner of Achilles’ son Pyrrhus, king of Epirus. Pyrrhus has fallen desperately in love with his captive and now shuns his fiancée, Hermione. Andromache is revolted at the idea of marrying the son of her husband’s killer; meanwhile, Hermione is by no means willing to be spurned without a fight. Orestes arrives, bearing an ultimatum for Pyrrhus: Kill Andromache’s and Hector’s young son Astyanax (Astianatte), or face war with Greece. Not incidentally, Orestes would also be delighted to rekindle his
relationship with the jilted Hermione.


Can a happy resolution ever be found for this tragic tangle of jealousies and emotional blackmail, in which a child’s life seems to have value only as a tool for coercion?

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Leonardo Vinci

Leonardo Vinci, (born 1690, Strongoli, died May 27, 1730, Naples), Italian composer who was one of the originators of the Neapolitan style of opera; along with Nicola Porpora, his followers included Giovanni Battista Pergolesi and Johann Adolph Hasse.

Vinci’s first known work was a comic opera in the Neapolitan dialect, Lo Cecato Fauzo (1719; “The False Blind Man”). He served as chapelmaster to the prince of Sansevero and in 1725 received a conductorship of the royal chapel at Naples, a post he held until his death. His earliest extant serious opera, Silla Dittatore (1723; “Silla the Dictator”), inaugurated a series of about 40 operas, most written for Naples but some for Rome. Arias from his operas were published in London in 1758 under the title Collection of Songs. In addition to his operas, Vinci also composed oratorios, masses, and motets.

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Composer Leonardo Vinci

The Original Cast

The original cast of Astianatte was stellar. Anna Maria Strada and Vittoria Tesi were the leading ladies, with the alto Tesi receiving the matron role, and Farinelli and Diana Vico were the leading men, with alto Vico performing a trouser role.

Andromaca: Vittoria Tesi

Oreste: Farinelli

Ermione: Anna Maria Strada

Pirro: Diana Vico

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Contralto Vittoria Tesi