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Motezuma is an opera in three acts by Antonio Vivaldi with an Italian libretto by Girolamo Giusti. The first performance was given in the Teatro Sant'Angelo in Venice on 14 November 1733. (In earlier reference books the opera is referred to as Montezuma, but since the reappearance of the original manuscript this has been corrected to Motezuma.)

The music was thought to have been lost, but was discovered in 2002 in the archive of the music library of the Sing-Akademie zu Berlin, an independent old choral association with a rich musical tradition. After World War II, their library was captured by the Red Army and taken to the Soviet Union, eventually ending up in Kiev, now in Ukraine. Following the restitution of the collection to Germany, the fragmentary score (the beginning of the first act and large parts of third are missing) was identified by the musicologist Steffen Voss. Musicologists began working on reconstructing a version suitable for performance.


A concert version of the opera, apparently the first performance since the 18th century, was performed on 11 June 2005 in the Concert Hall De Doelen in Rotterdam conducted by Federico Maria Sardelli.

On 18 July 2005, a version of Motezuma was supposed to have been performed by the Opera Barga Festival in Barga, Italy, also conducted by Sardelli. It did not happen due to a copyright dispute, as noted below. The staged modern world premiere was held on 21 September 2005 in Düsseldorf, Germany, as part of the altstadtherbst kulturfestival, in a production by Uwe Schmitz-Gielsdorf, designed by Paolo Atzori, with l’Orchestra Modo Antiquo conducted again by Sardelli.

The American premiere was held on 28 March 2009, in Long Beach, California, staged and performed by the Long Beach Opera with musical accompaniment by Musica Angelica directed by David Schweizer and conducted by Andreas Mitisek.[1]

Copyright dispute[edit]

Perhaps as part of their bid to become acceptable to the European Union, Ukraine returned all the books from the Sing-Akademie to their rightful owners. The archive decided to organize their collection, apparently also restricting access, and supposedly having plans to publish their manuscripts.

The Sing-Akademie asserted that they had full copyright, including derivative rights such as performance rights, to the opera. While common sense would lead one to believe that a work presented in 1733 would not have copyright protection (and, even if so, that only Vivaldi's heirs would have these rights) the judicial case was not clear.

The Rotterdam performance went ahead only after a substantial payment to the Sing-Akademie, and the Barga performance was halted by an injunction, with a potential €250,000 penalty for non-compliance. The reason given was that German law offers copyright protection to entities that publish previously inaccessible works. The injunction was issued one week before the date of the performance, so a "pastiche" was performed: the Motezuma libretto recitatives were spoken, and other Vivaldi arias sung between them.

As of mid-September 2005, the injunction was lifted which allowed the Düsseldorf premiere to take place.


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 14 November 1733
(Conductor: – )
Motezuma, Emperor of Mexico bass-baritone Massimiliano Miler
Mitrena, his wife contralto Anna Girò
Teutile, his daughter soprano Gioseffa Pircker
Fernando, General of the Spanish armies soprano castrato Francesco Bilanzoni
Ramiro, his younger brother mezzo-soprano en travesti Angiola Zanuchi
Asprano, General of the Mexicas soprano castrato Marianino Nicolini


References in literature[edit]




See also[edit]