|George Frideric Handel|
Flavio, re de' Longobardi (Flavio, King of the Lombards, HWV 16) is an opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel. The Italian-language libretto was by Nicola Francesco Haym, after Matteo Noris's Il Flavio Cuniberto. It was Handel's fourth full-length opera for the Royal Academy of Music. Handel had originally entitled the opera after the character of Emilia in the opera.
Handel completed the score only seven days before the premiere, at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket on 14 May 1723. There were eight performances in the premiere run. The work was revived on 18 April 1732, under the direction of the composer, for four performances.
There were no further revivals until it was rediscovered and performed in Göttingen on 2 July 1967. The first UK performance since Handel's time was on 26 August 1969 at the Unicorn Theatre, Abingdon, England.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast, 14 May 1723
(Conductor: - )
|Flavio||alto castrato||Gaetano Berenstadt|
|Lotario||bass||Giuseppe Maria Boschi|
The setting is Lombardy. King Flavio rules both Lombardy and England. His two counselors are Ugone and Lotario. Ugone's son, Guido, is set to marry Lothario's daughter, Emilia, this day. Ugone also has a daughter, Teodata. He desires her to seek a position as a lady-in-waiting at the court in order "to avoid the bitter solitude of her maiden years". He does not know that she already has a secret lover, Vitige, the King's adjutant.
In front of the aged Ugone's house, before dawn, Vitige is leaving Teodata's chamber; the two sing a duet ("Ricordati, mio ben". Next, at the hall in Lotario's house, Guido's marriage to Emilia takes place in the house of the bride's father attended only by close relatives. The bride and bridegroom sing of their bliss, then separate until the wedding celebration in the evening. Following, at the King's castle, Ugone presents Teodata to the King and says that she wishes to enter his service as a lady-in-waiting. Enraptured by Teodato's beauty, Flavio assents and assigns her to his wife, Ernelinda.
Lotario invites the King to the wedding feast. Flavio then receives a letter from the elderly Governor of England, Narsete, who requests to be relieved of his post. Flavio's first reaction is to appoint Lotario as the replacement. Lotario begins to savour the prospect of the post, but Flavio changes his mind in favour of Ugone, because he wants Ugone out of the way so that he can pursue Teodata without interference. Lotario feels slighted and leaves, angry. Flavio apostrophises to Vitige on Teodata's beauty, unaware that Vitige is already beloved of Teodata. Vitige tries to conceal his feelings by saying that he does not find the lady particularly pleasing of eye.
In the castle courtyard, Ugone meets his son Guido with the news that Lotario has slapped him. Ugone must now defend his honour, but is too old to wield a sword. He asks his son to fight the duel in his place, which puts Guido in a conflict between his duty to his father and his love for Emilia, to whom he has just become betrothed. He then proudly proclaims his decision to defend his family honour. Emilia then arrives, not understanding why Guido tried to fly from her, and vows eternal constancy to him. She notices that he seems different in mood.
In a hall in the castle, Flavio is courting Teodata. Ugone rushes in, too distressed to speak coherently. Flavio leaves the room. Ugone is raving about the loss of the family honour. Teodata thinks that her liaison with Vitige has been discovered and tearfully confesses. Ugone's distress increases upon learning this new situation of his daughter.
At Lotario's house, Lotario tells Emilia that he does not wish to lose his daughter to the son of his hated rival and tells her that her marriage is null and void. Guido, in search of Lotario, requests Emilia to leave him alone for a while.
At the castle, Flavio orders his adjutant to bring Teodata to him. Vitige tells of his unhappy mission to Teodata, and Teodata tells Vitige that her father has found out about her secret betrothal. To try to hold the King off for a while, they devise a plan where Vitige should pretend to solicit her love for him, and Teodata will feign willingness.
At the courtyard of Lotario's house, Guido challenges Lotario to a duel. Lotario scoffs at the young man's challenge, but accepts. In the combat, Lotario falls. When Emilia arrives, Lotario names Guido as his murderer and dies. In despair, she swears vengeance, but is torn because this means vengenance on her beloved, Guido.
At the castle, Emilia and Ugone beg the King for justice. She demands the death penalty for her father's murderer, while he pleads for his son's life. Overwhelmed by the events, Flavio asks for time to reflect and sends them away. Vitige then enters with Teodata, whose presence renders Flavio speechless. He tries to have Vitige woo her on his behalf. Finally, Flavio undertakes it himself, calling Teodata "my queen" and trying to conduct her into his bedchamber. Vitige's heart becomes "a raging sea" of jealousy.
Emilia is in mourning, for her father and for her fugitive Guido, but then she once again vows implacable vengeance. Guido appears and hands his sword to her that she might kill him. Emilia takes it, but lets it fall and leaves. Guido begs the god of love for help.
Vitige and Teodata quarrel, accusing one another of having gone too far in the hoodwinking of the King and having allowed the game to become serious. They discover that Flavio has entered and overheard everything. They admit to being lovers, which crushes Flavio.
Guido enters and begs the King to have him put to death if Emilia still hates him for his deed. Ugone then confesses that he incited his son to commit it in his place. Flavio, freshly aware of his responsibilities as king, sends for Emilia. He tells Guido to conceal himself and listen to the proceedings. Flavio tells Emilia that Guido has been executed as she had requested, and that she may see his head as proof. She refuses and begs to be killed, too, since without Guido her life is meaningless. Guido emerges from his hiding-place and she almost faints for joy. Guido begs for forgiveness, and she asks for a period of mourning.
Flavio then decrees that Vitige must marry the lady whom he did not find pleasing to behold (i.e. Teodata), and that Ugone will be banished from the realm, but to England to become Governor. Ugone must also acknowledge his son-in-law, Guido. All thank the King, and the opera ends with a chorus of reconciliation.
- Dean, Winton, "A Handel Tragicomedy" (August 1969). The Musical Times, 110 (1518): pp. 819-822.
- King, Richard G., Review of J. Merrill Knapp's edition of Flavio, Re de' Langobardi (HWV 16) (December 1994). Notes (2nd Ser.), 51 (2): pp. 746-748.
- Dean, Winton; Knapp, J. Merrill (1987), Handel's Operas, 1704-1726, Clarendon Press, ISBN 0-19-315219-3 The first of the two volume definitive reference on the operas of Handel
- Flavio by Anthony Hicks, in 'The New Grove Dictionary of Opera', ed. Stanley Sadie (London, 1992) ISBN 0-333-73432-7