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June Anderson – “Essa corre al trionfo…” – “Ermione” – G. Rossini.

by Luca

“Ermione” is a tragic opera (azione tragica) in two acts by G. Rossini to an Italian libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, based on the play “Andromaque” by Jean Racine.
“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 For reasons that are as yet unclear, the opera was withdrawn on 19 April after only seven performances, and was not seen again until over a hundred years after Rossini’s death. The autograph score, however, was preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and eventually a concert performance was given in Siena in August 1977.
The first modern staging was at the Rossini Opera Festival (sometimes known as the Pesaro Festival) on 22 August 1987, with Montserrat Caballé, Marilyn Horne, Chris Merritt and Rockwell Blake. In Britain, a concert performance took place at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on 10 April 1992, and the first staging was at Glyndebourne on 22 May 1995. In the USA, a concert performance was given at the San Francisco Opera on 26 June 1992, and the opera was first staged by Opera Omaha on 11 September 1992. Other stagings of Ermione in recent years have taken place in Naples, Madrid, Rome (1991), Buenos Aires (1992) and Santa Fe (2000). The New York City Opera and Dallas Opera joined together to mount a production in 2004.

In Greek mythology, Hermione (Greek: Ἑρμιόνη) was the eldest child and only daughter of Menelaus and Helen. The Iliad says Helen had only one child, but other sources state that Helen had a daughter, Iphigenia, by Theseus before her marriage to Menelaus, and other myths say Helen and Menalaus had three sons: Aethiolas, Maraphius,and Pleisthenes. Any children born to Helen and Paris, prince of Troy, did not survive the Trojan War.
Hermione was nine when her mother left with Paris. While her father was fighting the war at Troy, Hermione lived with her Aunt Clytemnestra in Mycenae. It seems likely that her brothers were with her, though some stories say her youngest brother, Pleisthenes, went with Helen to Troy. While at Mycenae, Hermione presumably would have met her cousins Iphigenia (whom most sources say was the daughter of Helen’s sister, Clytemnestra and Menelaus’ brother, Agamemnon, although others say that Clytemnestra had taken pity on Helen and adopted Iphigenia from her) and Electra and their younger brother Orestes.
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. There is a historical dispute over whether or not such a discrepancy actually occurred, however. Some authors, such as Euripides, have Orestes say: “For you were mine to begin with, and you are married to Neoptolemus only by the baseness of your father. Before he attacked Troy, he gave you to me to be my wife, but later he promised you to your present husband as a reward if he sacked Troy.” — Euripides, Andromache, describing the dual promise, while others, such as Ovid, do not mention it at all.
Regardless, ten years after the end of the Trojan War, Neoptolemus claimed Hermione as his wife. Their marriage is mentioned in Book IV of the Odyssey, when Telemachus, son of Odysseus, visits Sparta and meets Helen and Menelaus.
Shortly after settling into the domestic life, however, conflict arose between Hermione and Andromache (widow of Hector, prince of Troy and elder brother of Paris), the concubine Neoptolemus had obtained as a prize after the sack of Troy. Hermione blamed Andromache for her inability to become pregnant, claiming that she was casting spells on her to keep her barren. She asked her father to kill Andromache while Neoptolemus was away at war, but when he chose not to go through with the murder, Hermione fled from Epirus with her cousin Orestes.
Hermione and Orestes were married, and she gave birth to his heir Tisamenus. The myths do not mention Hermione after that, though it is said that Orestes later married his half-sister Erigone, daughter of Clytemnestra and Aigisthus, who was Orestes’s second cousin.