Personalities | Apostolo Zeno | Late Baroque | Opera

1669–1750, Italian

The Venetian librettist Zeno was a librarian and historian, who sought to establish opera libretti as a recognized literary form. His first opera libretto, Lucio Vero, was a huge success at Venice in 1695. Zeno continued to write more libretti, although he had reservations about it affecting his scholarly credibility. In 1718, Zeno replaced Stampiglia as imperial poet to the Viennese court of Emperor Charles VI, where he was also appointed imperial historiographer.

Zeno wrote 35 opera libretti, including many in collaboration with Pariati, and he was especially proud of his 17 oratorio texts produced for Vienna. Zeno is credited with introducing historical subjects into opera, and he sought to represent the idealistic code of honour for real sovereigns in uncompromisingly serious operas influenced by the French dramatist Racine. Composers including Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1751), Caldara and Gasparini set his libretti to music. Scarlatti and Handel both set versions of Zeno’s libretti that were adapted for them by other authors. Zeno was a major influence on the young Metastasio, who in turn supplanted his predecessor as both court poet in Vienna and the most respected librettist of his generation.

Introduction | Late Baroque | Opera
Personalities | Johann Christian Bach | Classical Era | Opera


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