Personalities | Pietro Metastasio | Classical Era | Classical
(Pi-et’-tro Met-ta-shta-syo) 1698–1782
Italian librettist and poet
Metastasio was the leading Italian librettist of his era, and creator of the tradition of a particular kind of serious opera. He was born in Rome, worked initially there and in Venice, and settled in Vienna in 1730 as poet to the imperial Habsburg court. He wrote numerous texts for music, elegant and mellifluous in style, of which the most famous were his 27 for three-act heroic operas, usually with elaborate plots on classical, historic or dynastic themes and with a strong moral content, featuring noble behaviour and inner conflict (usually duty v. passion) and showing the triumph of virtue and reason as well as divine (or royal) benevolence. Metastasio’s librettos, of which the most popular were Alessandro nell’Indie (‘Alexander in India’) and Artaserse (‘Artaxerxes’), provided the backbone for Italian opera seria throughout Europe; many were set repeatedly and modified as tastes changed. He took a deep interest in their settings and corresponded voluminously with the various composers.
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