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Olimpie (also spelled Olympie) is an opera in three acts by Gaspare Spontini. The French libretto, by Armand-Michel Dieulafoy and Charles Brifaut, is based on the play of the same name by Voltaire (1761). Olimpie was first performed on 22 December 1819 by the Paris Opéra at the Salle Montansier.

The work and its performance history[edit]

The Parisian premiere of Olimpie was a failure since audiences found its libretto too old-fashioned. Spontini revised the opera for performances in Berlin with the help of E.T.A. Hoffmann, who provided a German translation of the libretto. This version was first staged at the Königliches Opernhaus on 14 May 1821, where it was a success. Olimpie calls for huge orchestral forces (including the first use of the ophicleide)[1] and spectacular effects. In the finale of the Berlin version, Cassandre rode in on a live elephant. Thus, like Fernand Cortez, the work prefigures later French Grand Opera.


Autograph ms of the first page of the overture
Role[2] Voice type Premiere Cast[3]
22 December 1819
Conductor: Rodolphe Kreutzer
Olimpie, daughter of Alexander the Great soprano Louise-Marie-Augustine Albert
Statira, widow of Alexander the Great soprano Alexandre-Caroline Chevalier Branchu
Cassandre, son of the King of Macedonia tenor Louis Nourrit
Antigone, general of Alexander, king of Greece bass Henri-Étienne Dérivis
Hermas, confidante of Antigone bass Beltrame Pouilley
Hiérofante, high priest bass Bonel


Place: Ephesus
Time: Shortly after the death of Alexander the Great

Act 1[edit]

Antigone, King of Greece, and Cassandre, King of Macedon, have been implicated in Alexander's murder. They have also been at war with one another but are now ready to be reconciled. Nevertheless, a new obstacle to peace arises in the form of the slave girl Aménais, with whom both the kings are in love. In reality, Aménais is Alexander the Great's daughter, Olimpie, in disguise. Statira, Alexander's widow and Olimpie's mother, has also assumed the guise of the priestess Arzane. She denounces the proposed marriage between "Aménais" and Cassandre, accusing the latter of Alexander's murder.

Act 2[edit]

Statira and Olimpie reveal their true identities to one another and to Cassandre. Olimpie defends Cassandre against Statira's accusations, claiming that he once saved her life. Statira is unconvinced and is still intent on revenge with the help of Antigone and his army.

Act 3[edit]

Olimpie is divided between her love for Cassandre and her duty to her mother. The troops of Cassandre and Antigone clash and Antigone is mortally wounded. Before dying he confesses he was responsible for the death of Alexander, not Cassandre. Cassandre and Olimpie are now free to marry.


Year Cast
(Olimpie, Statira, Cassandre
Antigone, Hermas, Hiérofante)
Orchestra, Chorus
Catalogue number
1966 Pilar Lorengar, Fiorenza Cossotto, Franco Tagliavini
Giangiacomo Guelfi, Silvio Maionica, Nicola Zaccaria
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli
La Scala Orchestra and Chorus
(Recorded live on 6 June 1966, sung in Italian)
Audio CD: Opera d'Oro
Cat: OPD 1395[5]
1984 Julia Varady, Stefania Toczyska, Franco Tagliavini
Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Josef Becker, George Fortune
Gerd Albrecht
Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, RIAS Kammerchor
Cat: C 137 862 H[6]


  1. ^ Ralph Thomas Dudgeon, The keyed bugle (second edition), Lanham MD, Scarecrow Press, 2004, page (not numbered): Keyed Brass Chronology; Adam Carse, The History of Orchestration, New York, Dover, 1964, p. 239.
  2. ^ "Olimpie" (in Italian). Del Teatro. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  3. ^ "Almanacco 22 December 1819" (in Italian). AmadeusOnline. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  4. ^ "Olimpie (Olimpia) discography". www.operadis-opera-discography.org.uk. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  5. ^ "On-line catalogue entry Opera d'Oro". Allegro Music / Opera d'Oro. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 
  6. ^ "On-line catalogue entry ORFEO". ORFEO. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 

External links[edit]

  • Spontini's Olympie, opéra lyrique en trois actes (French piano-vocal score, published after 1821). View at Internet Archive.
  • Spontini's Olimpie, tragédie lyrique en trois actes (1826 libretto in French). View at Gallica.
  • Voltaire's play published in 1763 as Olimpie. View at Google Books.
  • Voltaire's play published in 1763 as Olympie View at Internet Archive.