Personalities | Raniero de’ Calzabigi | Classical Era | Opera
Calzabigi was best known for three libretti for Gluck – Orfeo ed Euridice, Alceste and Paride ed Elena, the last taking its eponymous characters, Paris and Helen, from the ancient Greek story of the Trojan War. In these libretti, Calzabigi moved away from the artificiality and limited conventions of opera seria, preferring simplicity and realistic drama. Calzabigi avoided stereotyping his characters. Rather, he drew them as real-life human beings and, although he gave them poetic words to sing, he made sure they followed natural speech patterns. In complete contrast to the intensive business of writing opera libretti, Calzabigi had his scallywag side. While in Paris, he and his brother opened a lottery and took as a partner the adventurer and infamous lover Giacomo Casanova (1725–98). Although they enjoyed the protection of Mme de Pompadour, King Louis XV’s powerful mistress, the partners were eventually expelled and their lottery collapsed.
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