Il prigionier superbo

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Il prigionier superbo
Opera seria by G. B. Pergolesi
Giovanni Battista Pergolesi - Il prigionier superbo - titlepage of the libretto - Naples 1733.png
Title page of the libretto
TranslationThe Proud Prisoner
LibrettistGennaro Antonio Federico
Based onLa fede tradita e vendicata
by Francesco Silvani
5 September 1733 (1733-09-05)

Il prigionier superbo (The Proud Prisoner) is an opera seria in three acts composed by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi to a libretto attributed to Gennaro Antonio Federico and based on an earlier libretto by Francesco Silvani for Gasparini's opera, La fede tradita e vendicata. It was premiered at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples on 5 September 1733 and received further performances in October. The opera, with its labyrinthine plot involving the rivalry of Metalce (King of the Goths) and Viridate (Prince of Denmark) for the hand of Rosmene (a Norwegian princess whose father is Metalce's prisoner), soon sank into oblivion, but its comic intermezzo, La serva padrona (also by Pergolesi) was to achieve considerable success when performed on its own.

Performance history[edit]

Il prigionier superbo was Pergolesi's second opera seria. The libretto has been attributed to Gennaro Antonio Federico and was based on the one written by Francesco Silvani for Francesco Gasparini's 1704 opera, La fede tradita e vendicata (Faith Betrayed and Vindicated). It was commissioned to celebrate Empress Elisabeth Christine's birthday and premiered at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples on 5 September 1733.[1]

The performance also marked the re-opening of Naples' theatres following the violent earthquake which had struck the area on 29 November 1732. The opera continued to be performed in October of that year along with its comic intermezzo, La serva padrona. Il prigionier proved unsuccessful in its day and has only been rarely revived. However, La serva padrona performed on its own eventually went on to enjoy fame throughout Europe for many years after its premiere.[2]

The first production of Il prigionier in modern times took place at the Teatro Pergolesi in Jesi on 27 September 1997 with a score revised by Marcello Panni.[3] The next major revival came on 11 September 2009, again at the Teatro Pergolesi, this time using a new critical edition of the score prepared by Claudio Toscani for the Fondazione Pergolesi-Spontini. The production was directed by Henning Brockhaus with Corrado Rovaris conducting the Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani performing on period instruments.[4]


Role Voice type[5] Premiere cast[6]
5 September 1733
Sostrate, King of Norway, Rosmene's father tenor Giovanni Battista Pinacci
Rosmene, Sostrate's daughter contralto Anna Bagnolesi
Metalce, King of the Goths contralto (en travesti) Lucia Grimani
Ericlea, Daughter of Clearco, the former King of Norway soprano Rosa Mancini
Viridate, Royal Prince of Denmark soprano castrato Antonio Castoro[7]
Micisda, Prince of Bohemia and Ericlea's lover soprano (en travesti) Anna Maria Mazzoni


  • Audio: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Prigionier superbo – Angelo Manzotti (Viridate), Ezio di Cesare (Sostrate), Lucia Rizzi (Rosmene); Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana, Marcello Panni (conductor). Live recording from the Teatro Pergolesi in Jesi, September 1997. Label: Bongionvanni.
  • Video: Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Il prigionier superboLa serva padrona - Marina Comparato (Viridate), Antonio Lozano (Sostrate), Marian Rodriguez Cusi (Rosmene), Marina Di Liso (Metalce), Ruth Rosique (Ericlea), Giancinta Nicotra (Micisda); Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani, Corrado Rovaris (conductor), Henning Brockaus (stage director). Live recording from the Teatro Pergolesi in Jesi, December 2010. Label: Arthaus Musik



  1. ^ Premiere date as given in Hucke and Monson and in Sità (2007). Note that Casaglia (2005) gives the premiere date (erroneously) as 28 August 1733, the actual date of the Empress's birthday
  2. ^ Grout and Williams (2003) p. 232
  3. ^ Muraro and Biggi (1998) pp. 105-106.
  4. ^ Fondazione Pergolesi-Spontini, 10 September 2009
  5. ^ Voice types according to Sità (2007).
  6. ^ Premiere cast according to Varianti all'Opera.
  7. ^ Stage name of Castore Antonio Castori, who was also known as Castorini (Carlo Broschi Farinelli, La solitudine amica. Lettere al conte Sicinio Pepoli (edited by Carlo Vitali), Palermo, Sellerio, 2000, p. 258, ISBN 88-389-1503-2).