Ottoman Power and Operatic Emotions on the European Stage from the Siege of Vienna to the Age of Napoleon

​​​CHAPTER TEN: Maometto in Naples and Venice: The Operatic Charisma of the Conqueror

Rossini, Maometto Secondo (Naples 1820)
A Turkish soldiers’ chorus accompanied the first appearance of the sultan, exulting in the conquest and destruction of Negroponte:
    Dal ferro, dal foco                By sword, by fire
    nel sangue sommersa          submerged in blood
    l’avversa città,                      the resistant city,
    al mondo suo scempio         its destruction
    esempio sarà.                      will be an example to the world.

The jangling Janissary elements in the orchestration were entirely apt, as these soldiers were presumably Ottoman Janissaries. 

Rossini, Maometto Secondo (Naples 1820)
Mahomet presents himself, with spectacular basso ornamentation, as the conqueror who will topple empires:
    Duce di tanti eroi                   Leader of such heroes
    crollar farò gl’imperi,             I will make empires collapse,
    e volerò con voi                     and together with you I will fly
    del mondo a trionfar.             To triumph over the world. 
And the chorus of soldiers acclaims him:
“Del mondo al vincitor”  (To the conqueror of the world). 

        —listen from 3:45; the role of Maometto is sung by basso Samuel Ramey.  

Rossini, Maometto Secondo (Naples 1820)
At the opening of Act Two of Maometto Secondo a chorus of harem women cheerfully urge Anna to surrender to Maometto:
    È follia sul fior degli anni                It is madness in the flower of youth
    chiuder l’alma a’ molli affetti,         To close the soul to soft sentiments,
    e penar fra’ tanti affanni                 and suffer among so many troubles
    d’una rigida virtù.                           from a rigid virtue.


Rossini, Maometto Secondo (Naples 1820)
Anna’s confrontation with Maometto; listen from 5:20 on the same video as above:

MAOMETTO:  Pensa però che sei già mia conquista,
            e ch’io non trovo ancor chi a me resista.
                  But remember that you are already my conquest,
                  and that I have not found anyone who can resist me.
ANNA:  Oggi il ritrovi alfin, quella son io.
            Amava Uberto, un mentitor detesto. . .
                  Today at last you have found someone, and it is I.
                        I loved Uberto, but I hate a liar. . .
She now rejects the idea of becoming his queen: 
“Regina io teco?  Della mia patria a danno?”  (Me, your queen?  To the detriment of my fatherland?)  
And regrets that “the universe rises up to separate use” (“A separarci, l’universo insorge”).
At 6:50 he proclaims: 
“E Maometto adunque dell’universo a trionfar già sorge.”
(And so Maometto already rises to triumph over the universe.)

Rossini, Maometto Secondo (Venice 1822)
In the revised Venice version of Maometto Secondo (1822) Rossini borrowed an aria from his own earlier opera La Donna del Lago (1819) in order to create a happy ending for Maometto Secondo.  The heroine Anna does not kill herself in this revised version but celebrates, together with the chorus, what seems to be a counterfactual Venetian victory over the Ottomans at Negroponte:
    Fra il padre, e fra l’amante,  Between my father and my lover,
    Oh qual felice istante!           Oh what a happy moment!
    Chi mai sperar potea            Who could ever hope
    Si gran felicità.                     For such great happiness. 

Available from:
Listen from 4:00 for the jubilant finale.