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Gioacchino Antonio Rossini

Captive Andromache - Frederic Leighton. 1886

Rossini - Ermione
Montserrat Caballé, Merritt, González; Zedda
1988 Teatro De La Zarzuela

Ermione was first performed at the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples on 27 March 1819. For reasons that are as yet unclear, the opera was withdrawn on 19 April after only seven performances, and was not seen again until over a hundred years after Rossini's death. One possible explanation for its failure might be Rossini's choice to renounce the use of secco recitative in favour of accompanied declamation and to connect each closed number to the next in a manner reminiscent of Gluck's French operas and of Spontini (the latter was also to have a huge influence on Weber's Euryanthe, four years later)

Despite the opera's failure, Rossini seemed to be quite fond of this work and kept its manuscript, along with a few other from his Neapolitan years, until his death. The autograph score was then delivered by the widow, Olympe Pélissier, to Eugène Lecomte who entrusted it to the Bibliothèque Musée de l'Opéra de Paris. Eventually, a concert performance was given in Siena in August 1977.

In old age, when asked if he would have liked Ermione to be translated and produced on French stages, the composer is reported to have replied: "It's my little Italian Guillaume Tell; and it will not see the light of day until after my death."

The Farewell Of Hector To Andromache And Astyanax Painting by Carl Friedrich Deckler



Tragic opera (azione tragica) in two acts by Gioachino Rossini to an Italian libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, based on the play Andromaque by Jean Racine.


Ermione (Hermione), daughter of Helen and Menelaus 
Andromaca (Andromache), widow of Hector
Pirro, (Pyrrhus) son of Achilles and king of Epirus
Oreste (Orestes), son of Agamemnon
Pilade (Pylades), Oreste's companion
Cleone, Ermione's confidante
Fenicio, Pirro's tutor 
Cefisa, Andromaca's confidante
Attalo, Pirro's confidant
Astianatte (Astyanax), Andromaca's son
Lords of Epirus, Trojan prisoners,
Oreste's attendants, Spartan maidens


Time: Soon after the Trojan War
Place:   In and around Pirro's palace in Epirus

Premiere Cast, 27 March 1819


 Pierre-Narcisse Guérin Oreste annonçant à Hermione la mort de Pyrrhus


Unusually, the overture is interrupted twice by the laments of the captive Trojans.



Scene 1: A dungeon in the palace


Astianatte sleeps while the prisoners continue their lament (Chorus: Troja! Qual fosti un di / "Troy! Once so great"). Andromaca arrives, escorted by Fenicio, Attalo and Cefisa, and embraces her son (Cavatina: Mia delizia! / "My only joy!"). Attalo reminds her that Astianatte will be released if she can forget Hector, her dead husband, and give in to Pirro's advances. Fenicio, fearing another outbreak of war, rebukes Attalo, and reluctantly tears Andromaca away from her son.

Scene 2: The gardens outside the palace

Cleone and some maidens invite Ermione to go hunting with them (Chorus: Dall'Oriente l'astro del giorno / "The sun is rising in the east"), but she is angry that Pirro has forsaken her and is courting Andromaca. Pirro arrives, expecting Andromaca, but she is not there. He sees Ermione and tries to escape, but she detains him and they quarrel (Duet: Non proseguir / "Say no more"). They are interrupted by a chorus of grandees, who announce the arrival of Oreste (Sul lido, di Agamennone il figlio, Oreste, è giunto / "On our shores Agamemnon's son Oreste has landed"), to Pirro's alarm and Ermione's delight. Pirro recovers and leaves to arrange Oreste's reception; meanwhile, Ermione fears that Oreste's arrival will only lead to the marriage of Pirro and Andromaca.

Scene 3: The throne room in the palace

Oreste, overwrought, appears with Pilade, who tries to calm him. He declares his unrequited love for Ermione, but Pilade tells him that he must do his duty (Cavatina and duet: Che sorda al mesto pianto ... Ah! come nascondere la fiamma vorace / "She is deaf to my tears ... Ah, how can I hide this voracious flame"). A march announces the arrival of Pirro and Ermione, attended by Fenicio, Attalo, the grandees and guards. Andromaca also enters, but stays at the back of the stage. Oreste tells Pirro that he represents all the kings of Greece, who are agreed that Astianatte must die before he is able to avenge the death of Hector, his father. Pirro defies Oreste, saying that he will do as he wishes, and that Astianatte may even share the throne with him (Aria: Balena in man del figlio l'asta di Achille ... Deh serena i mesti rai ... Non pavento: quest'alma ti sprezza / "Achilles' spear flashes in his son's hand" ... "Brighten your gloomy gaze" ... "You cannot frighten me: my soul despises you"). Andromaca and Ermione are aghast, Oreste warns Pirro that the Greeks will be angry with him, and Pilade vows that he will save Oreste from Pirro's anger.

Scene 4: The gardens outside the palace

Ermione tells Cleone that her love for Pirro has turned to hate. Oreste declares his love for Ermione, but she rejects him (Duet: Amarti? / "I? Love you?"). Pirro arrives with the grandees and his retinue, who announce that he has changed his mind and will return to Ermione (Chorus: Alfin l'Eroe da forte / "At last, the resolute hero"). Pirro then tells Oreste, to the astonishment of everyone, that he will, after all, hand over Astianatte to him. (Ermione, then the others and Pirro: Sperar, poss'io? ... A me Astianatte / "Should I, can I, hope?" ... "Bring Astianatte here") As the guards prepare to do so, Andromaca pleads with Pirro to give her time to think. Ermione is furious, and Pirro again rejects her. Andromaca vows to commit suicide if she is compelled to marry Pirro, while Pilade urges Oreste to leave with him. The Act ends in general consternation.

Rossini: Ermione 
Glyndebourne Festival Opera
Anna Caterina Antonacci - Ermione 
Diana Montague - Andromaca 
Bruce Ford - Oreste 
Jorge Lopez-Yanez - Pirro 
Paul Austin Kelly - Pilade 
Paul Nilon - Attalo 
Gwynne Howell - Fenicio 
Julie Unwin - Cleone 
Lorna Windsor - Cefisa 
Oliver Bridge - Astianatte

Johan Ludwig Lund - Pyrrhus and Andromache before Hector's Tomb - 1808


The palace's entrance hall

Andromaca arrives to tell Pirro that she will marry him. Overjoyed, he sends Attalo away to release Astianatte and make preparations for the wedding. Andromaca, unhappy, swears to herself that she will not be unfaithful to her dead husband, and while Pirro urges her to make her vows at the altar, she again resolves to kill herself (Duet: Ombra del caro sposo ... Vieni a giurar / "Ghost of my dear husband ... Come and swear at the altar").

Pirro leaves. Andromaca decides that, before she dies, she will make Pirro swear that Astianatte will be spared. Ermione, accompanied by Fenicio and Cleone, appears and insults Andromaca, who forgives her and departs. She asks Fenicio to tell Pirro that she still loves him, even if he is planning to desert her (Aria: Di, che vedesti piangere / "Tell him that you have seen my tears"). He leaves, and Cleone tells Ermione that Pirro is not worthy of her. Ermione contemplates suicide (Aria: Amata, l'amai / "I was loved and loved him").

Pirro appears in the gallery to the sound of a festive march, and he and the wedding procession pass by (Chorus: Premia, o Amore, sì bella costanza / "God of love, reward this touching constancy"). Ermione swoons, but when her maidens and friends try to comfort her, she demands revenge. Oreste enters and tells her that he still loves her. She hands him a dagger and, trembling, he leaves to avenge her. She asks the gods to strengthen his arm, while Cleone and the chorus comment on her anguish (Chorus and duet: Il tuo dolor ci affretta a consolarti ...Se l'amor mio ti è caro ... Incerto, palpitante ... Se a me nemiche stelle / "We come to console you ... If my love is dear to you" ... "Uncertain, palpitating" ... "Unless, o gods, you are my enemies"). She rushes out in a fury, followed by the others.

Fenicio and Pilade meet, predicting Pirro's downfall if he goes ahead with his marriage to Andromaca (Duettino: A così triste immagine / "Such sad imaginings"). They leave in opposite directions.

Ermione returns, extremely agitated. She does not know whether she loves or hates Pirro, and regrets ordering Oreste to kill him (Aria: Parmi, che a ogn'istante de' suoi rimorsi al grido / "I imagine that at any time he may utter a cry of remorse). Oreste appears, wild-eyed, stumbling and holding out the bloodstained dagger. He tells Ermione that she is avenged, (Duet: Sei vendicata / "You are avenged") and describes how Pirro spared Astianatte and swore to make him his heir. Surrounded by angry soldiers drawing their swords, Pirro was attacked and killed, but not by Oreste, who says that he had given the dagger to another man and then reclaimed it. Ermione accuses Oreste of murder, and he realises that she was still in love with Pirro. She asks the Eumenides to destroy Oreste.

Pilade and his sailors arrive, telling Oreste to flee with them. At first he refuses, but as Ermione tells him that she hopes that he will drown, she faints. He asks thunderbolts and death to do their worst as Pilade and the men half-carry him to their ship (Finale: Ah! Ti rinvenni / "Ah! I have found you").

Rossini Ermione Caballe, Horne, Merritt, Blake, Morino; G Kuhn Pesaro 1987

Philippe-Auguste Hennequin - Les Remords d'Oreste

Helen and Menelaus - Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein 

In Greek mythology, Menelaus was a king of Mycenaean (pre-Dorian) Sparta, the husband of Helen of Troy, and the son of Atreus and Aerope. According to the Iliad, Menelaus was a central figure in the Trojan War, leading the Spartan contingent of the Greek army, under his elder brother Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. Prominent in both the Iliad and Odyssey, Menelaus was also popular in Greek vase painting and Greek tragedy, the latter more as a hero of the Trojan War than as a member of the doomed House of Atreus.


In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy, also known as Helen of Sparta, or simply Helen, was said to have been the most beautiful woman in the world, who was married to King Menelaus of Sparta, but eloped with Prince Paris of Troy, resulting in the Trojan War when the Achaeans set out to reclaim her and bring her back to Sparta. She was believed to have been the daughter of Zeus and Leda, and was the sister of Clytemnestra, Castor and Polydeuces.

When she marries Menelaus she is still very young; whether her subsequent involvement with Paris is an abduction or a seduction is ambiguous. The legends recounting Helen's fate in Troy are contradictory. Homer depicts her as a wistful figure, even a sorrowful one, who comes to regret her choice and wishes to be reunited with Menelaus. Other accounts have a treacherous Helen who simulates Bacchic rites and rejoices in the carnage. Ultimately, Paris was killed in action, and in Homer's account Helen was reunited with Menelaus, though other versions of the legend recount her ascending to Olympus instead. 

Andromache Mourning Hector by Jacques-Louis David, 1783

The Meeting of Orestes and Hermione

Neoptolemus and Andromache, by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin.

Pylades and Orestes by François Bouchot.

In Greek mythology, Andromache was the wife of Hector, daughter of Eetion, and sister to Podes. She was born and raised in the city of Cilician Thebe, over which her father ruled. The name means "man battler" or "fighter of men" (note that there was also a famous Amazon warrior named "Andromache," probably in this meaning) or "man's battle" (i.e. "courage" or "manly virtue"), from the Greek stem ἀνδρ- "man" and μάχη "battle".
During the Trojan War, after Hector was killed by Achilles and the city taken by the Greeks, the Greek herald Talthybius informed her of the plan to kill Astyanax, her son by Hector, by throwing him from the city walls. This act was carried out by Neoptolemus who then took Andromache as a concubine and Hector's brother, Helenus, as a slave. By Neoptolemus, she was the mother of Molossus, and according to Pausanias, of Pielus and Pergamus. When Neoptolemus died, Andromache married Helenus and became Queen of Epirus. Pausanias also implies that Helenus' son, Cestrinus, was by Andromache. Andromache eventually went to live with Pergamus in Pergamum, where she died of old age.


In Greek mythology, Hermione  was the only child of King Menelaus of Sparta and his wife, Helen of Troy.
Prior to the Trojan War, Hermione was betrothed by Tyndareus, her grandfather, to Orestes. However, during the Trojan War, Menelaus promised her to Neoptolemus, also known as Pyrrhus, son of Achilles.

Neoptolemus, also called Pyrrhus, was the son of the warrior Achilles and the princess Deidamia in Greek mythology, and also the mythical progenitor of the ruling dynasty of the Molossians of ancient Epirus.
In Cypria, Achilles sails to Scyros after a failed expedition to Troy, marries princess Deidamia and has Neoptolemus, until Achilles is called to arms again In a non-Homeric version of the story, Achilles' mother Thetis foretold many years before Achilles' birth that there would be a great war. She saw that her only son was to die if he fought in the war. She sought a place for him to avoid fighting in the Trojan War, disguising him as a woman in the court of Lycomedes, the king of Scyros. During that time, he had an affair with the princess, Deidamea, who then gave birth to Neoptolemos. Neoptolemos was originally called Pyrrhos, because his father had taken Pyrrha, the female version of that name, while disguised as a woman.

In Greek mythology, Orestes  was the son of Clytemnestra and Agamemnon. He is the subject of several Ancient Greek plays and of various myths connected with his madness and purification, which retain obscure threads of much older ones.

In Greek mythology, Pylades is the son of King Strophius of Phocis and of Anaxibia, who is the daughter of Atreus and sister of Agamemnon and Menelaus. He is mostly known for his strong friendship with his cousin Orestes, son of Agamemnon.

In Greek mythology, Astyanax was the son of Hector, the crown prince of Troy and husband of Princess Andromache of Cilician Thebe. His birth name was Scamandrius, but the people of Troy nicknamed him Astyanax, because he was the son of the city's great defender and the heir apparent's firstborn son.


Edouard-Théophile Blanchard, The Death of Astyanax

In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans (Greeks) after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, king of Sparta. The war is one of the most important events in Greek mythology and has been narrated through many works of Greek literature, most notably Homer's Iliad. The Iliad relates four days in the tenth year of the decade-long siege of Troy; the Odyssey describes the journey home of Odysseus, one of the war's heroes. Other parts of the war are described in a cycle of epic poems, which have survived through fragments. Episodes from the war provided material for Greek tragedy and other works of Greek literature, and for Roman poets including Virgil and Ovid.

The war originated from a quarrel between the goddesses Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite, after Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, gave them a golden apple, sometimes known as the Apple of Discord, marked "for the fairest". Zeus sent the goddesses to Paris, who judged that Aphrodite, as the "fairest", should receive the apple. In exchange, Aphrodite made Helen, the most beautiful of all women and wife of Menelaus, fall in love with Paris, who took her to Troy. Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and the brother of Helen's husband Menelaus, led an expedition of Achaean troops to Troy and besieged the city for ten years because of Paris' insult. After the deaths of many heroes, including the Achaeans Achilles and Ajax, and the Trojans Hector and Paris, the city fell to the ruse of the Trojan Horse. The Achaeans slaughtered the Trojans (except for some of the women and children whom they kept or sold as slaves) and desecrated the temples, thus earning the gods' wrath. Few of the Achaeans returned safely to their homes and many founded colonies in distant shores. The Romans later traced their origin to Aeneas, Aphrodite's son and one of the Trojans, who was said to have led the surviving Trojans to modern-day Italy.

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