Opera Profile: Rossini’s Complex Opera Seria ‘Tancredi’

By David Salazar

“Tancredi” is one of Rossini’s more renowned opera seria.

The work had its world premiere in Venice on Feb. 6, 1813. Rossini famously completed the work in less than a month, borrowing the overture from another of his operas. The opera itself had a strong critical reception with the likes of Stendhal claiming it to be one of his masterworks.

The work is not as popular as Rossini’s comic gems (ie: “Il Barbiere di Siviglia” and “La Cenerentola”), but it has retained a solid place in the standard repertoire, getting performances around the world on a yearly basis.

Short Plot Summary

Argirio and Orbazzano, two warring nobles, celebrate a truce. Argirio names Orbazzano the leader against the Moors but warns him of the threat of the banished Tancredi. His daughter Amenaide is in love with Tancredi and she is worried about his absence. Argirio offers Amenaide to Orbazzano in marriage. She pleads with him to postpone the marriage ceremony for another day.

Tancredi arrives on the seashore and is determined to seek out his beloved and defend his city from invaders. He dispatches Roggiero with a  message for Amenaide and has his followers spread a message throughout the city of an unknown knight coming to save the city.

Tancredi spots his beloved and her father in the garden. Amenaide continues pleading with him, but he informs her that Solamir, the enemy has asked for her hand in marriage after surrounding the city. Orbazzano pledges to fight the enemy.

Tancredi and Amenaide share a moment and she tells him that he must escape. She rejects his vows of love.

At the wedding ceremony, Tancredi offers his services to Argirio, the latter not knowing the titular character’s identity. Amenaide refuses the marriage and Orbazzano denounces her publicly. He produces a letter that he feels was intended for Solamir and claims that she has betrayed her people. This letter had been intended for Tancredi but never arrived. Amenaide, despite swearing that she is innocent, is denounced by her father and even Tancredi.

Arigirio signs a death warrant for his daughter. Orbazzano and his followers prepare to see the execution carried out. He asks if anyone wants to defend her and Tancredi steps forward. He challenges Orbazzano to a duel. He defeats Orbazzano and the people rejoice at his victory. He sets out to leave Sicily, still believing that Amenaide has been unfaithful to him.

Alone in the Saracens camp, Tancredi reflects on his sad fate. Amenaide and Argirio go searching for him and reveal that there will be peace if she agrees to marry Solamir. He goes off to battle and learns that Solamir has testified to Amenaide’s innocence. The two lovers rejoice and are reunited. In a latter version of the opera, Tancredi is mortally wounded and learns of Amenaide’s innocence as he dies in her arms. He is still able to be married to her in this version before dying.

Watch and Listen

Here is a performance of the opera from the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence starring Marilyn Horne and Katia Ricciarelli.


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