Life of the 18th century poet and librettist
Contributor: James Sanderson
Metastasio, Pietro (1698-1782), Italian poet, whose librettos dominated 18th-century opera. Born in Rome and originally named Pietro Antonio Domenico Bonaventura Trapassi, he was educated in law and the classics by a wealthy patron and studied music under the Italian opera composer Nicola Porpora. His first libretto, Didone abbandonata (Dido Abandoned, 1724), established his fame in Italy, and in 1730 he went to Vienna as court poet. His 27 librettos were set to music more than 800 times by such composers as W. A. Mozart, the Germans Christoph Willibald Gluck, Johann Christian Bach, and George Frideric Handel, and the Italians Giovanni Pergolesi, Tommaso Traëtta, and Niccolò Jommelli. With their aristocratic ideals and conflicts of reason and feeling, they were perfectly suited to 18th-century heroic opera. They include Artaserse (1730), Alessandro nell'Indie (1731), and La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus, 1734). His verse was admired for its musicality and faithfulness to speech.
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