Ippolito ed Aricia is a "reform opera" in five acts by Tommaso Traetta with an Italian libretto by Carlo Innocenzo Frugoni. The opera is based upon abbé Simon-Joseph Pellegrin's libretto for Rameau's earlier opera Hippolyte et Aricie, which was in turn based on Racine's tragedy Phèdre. The work premiered at the Teatro Ducale in Parma on 9 May 1759 and is still occasionally performed today.[1]

Background and musical analysis

Phèdre et Hippolyte by Baron Pierre-Narcisse Guérin (1802)

Ippolito ed Aricia was commissioned in 1759 by Guillaume du Tillot, a minister for Philip, Duke of Parma, on behalf of the duke and his wife, Princess Louise Élisabeth of France. At that time, both France and Spain thought of Parma as a strategic point of interest and subsidized the court heavily. The duke and his wife were particularly fond of French opera and Tillot promoted all forms of French musical theater at the court. However, Tillot decided that he wanted to commission an opera for the court that would merge Italian musical idioms, such as beautiful melodies and virtuosic coloratura display, with French dramatic forms like choruses, ballet, and supernatural elements. He approached Carlo Innocenzo Frugoni, court poet of Parma, with the idea of creating such an opera using the Italian text of Rameau's Hippolyte et Aricie. He agreed, and Tillot proceeded to recruit Tommaso Traetta to compose the music and Count Francesco Algarotti to assist Frugoni with the libretto.

The resulting work is a rare successful blend of Italian opera seria elements and the French tragédie lyrique. The opera has virtuosic exit arias in the opera seria tradition of Metastasio but is organized into five acts, as in French opera. There are 12 characters in the drama, four prominent instrumental sinfonias, elaborate choruses, and 26 dances, most of which are organized into suites. The instrumentation is highly creative and often employs solo or independent viola writing. Obbligato recitative is used for moments of extreme drama, and here the orchestral accompaniment is elaborate and complex. Choral movements are large and often involve solo passages for various members of the cast. Du Tillot advertised the performance extensively. The production was lavish and brilliant and the opera a huge success, for nothing like it had ever been tried before.

Major roles

Alexandre Cabanel's painting Phaedra (1880)
Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role Voice type[2] Premiere cast, 9 May 1759[3]
Teseo (Theseus), king of Athens tenor Angelo Amorevoli
Ippolito (Hippolytus), son of Teseo soprano castrato Filippo Elisi
Fedra (Phaedra), Teseo's wife and stepmother to Ippolito soprano Maria Piccinelli Verziari
Enone (Oenone), nurse and confidante of Fedra soprano Domenica Lambertini
Aricia, princess of the blood royal of Athens soprano Caterina Gabrielli
Diana, a goddess soprano Maria Monari
Plutone (Pluto) bass Francesco Cavalli
Tisifone soprano Antonia Fascitelli
Mercurio (Mercury) bass[4] Ludovico Felloni
Gran sacerdotessa di Diana, High Priestess of Diana soprano
Una marinaia, a female sailor soprano
Una cacciatrice, a huntress soprano


  • Ippolito ed Aricia with conductor David Golub, the Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia, and the Bratislava Chamber Choir. The cast includes Angelo Manzotti (Hippolytus), Patrizia Ciofi (Aricia), Elena Lopéz (Phaedra), Simon Edwards (Theseus), Maria Miccoli (Oenone), Stefania Donzelli (Diana), Luca Grassi (Plutone), Monica Sesto (Tisifone), Saverio Fiore (Mercurio), Sara Allegretta (High priestess), Angela Masi (Una Marinaia), Rossana Potenza (Una Cacciatrice), Loredana Cinieri and Madia Todisco (Le Parche). Recorded live in 1999 and released in 2000.[5]


  1. ^ "Traetta: Ippolito ed Aricia", work details and synopsis, operatoday.com
  2. ^ According to Blanchetti.
  3. ^ According to the original libretto, p. xiv.
  4. ^ The very small role of Mercury is stated by Blanchetti to be a soprano part, but the first performer, Ludovico Antonio Felloni, was in fact a bass (Dizionario della Musica del Ducato di Parma e Piacenza).
  5. ^ Ippolito ed Aricia, tp4.rub.de


  • Original libretto: Ippolito ed Aricia. Tragedia da rappresentarsi nel Reale Teatro di Parma nella primavera dell'anno 1759. Nuovamente composta e adattata alle scene italiane dal sig. abate Frugoni revisore, e compositore degli spettacoli teatrali di S.A.R. e segretario perpetuo della sua Reale Accademica delle Belle Arti, Parma, Regio-ducal stamperia Monti, 1759 (in Italian) via Google Books
  • Blanchetti, Francesco, Ippolito ed Aricia, in Gelli, Piero & Poletti, Filippo (eds.), Dizionario dell'Opera 2008, Milano, Baldini Castoldi Dalai, 2007, pp. 667–668. ISBN 978-88-6073-184-5 (in Italian) (the article is reproduced online at OperaManager.com)