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Le siège de Corinthe (The Siege of Corinth) is an opera in three acts by Gioachino Rossini to a French libretto by Luigi Balocchi and Alexandre Soumet, based on Maometto II by Cesare della Valle. It was Rossini's first French opera, known also in its Italian version as L'assedio di Corinto.


The event the opera commemorates the siegemarker and ultimate destruction of the town of Messolonghimarker in 1826 by Turkish during the ongoing Greek War of Independence (1821–1829). The reference to Corinthmarker is an example of allegory, although Sultan Mehmed II had indeed besieged the city in the 1450s.

This same incident - condemned throughout Western Europe for its cruelty - also inspired a prominent painting by Eugène Delacroix (Greece Expiring on the Ruins of Messolonghi), and was mentioned in the writings of Lord Byron and Victor Hugo.

Revised version of Maometto II

The French version of this late Rossini opera was a partial rewrite of the composer's earlier Italian opera entitled Maometto II, but with exactly the same plot and characters, in the setting of the Turks' 1470 conquest of the Venetianmarker colony of Negroponte. That original version had premiered in Naples on December 3, 1820 -- six years before the Messolonghi siege and massacre. The 1820 opera was not well received, either in Naplesmarker or in Venicemarker where Rossini tried out a somewhat revised version in 1823. But in 1826, two years after settling in Parismarker, Rossini tried yet again, with yet another version (including two ballets, as called for by French operatic tradition), transplanted to Greece with the new title Le siège de Corinthe in a topical nod to the then-raging Greek war for independence from the Ottomans, and of course translated into French. This time, Rossini succeeded, and the opera was performed in various countries over the next decade or so.

Performance history

The first performance, in French, was at the Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique, in Parismarker on 9 October 1826. It was given as L'assedio di Corinto in Parmamarker on 26 January 1828 and it reached Viennamarker in July 1831. The opera remained popular throughout the 1830s in Europe and then disappeared entirely from the repertory for roughly the next one hundred years. However, the opera's overture remained widely popular and never left the concert orchestra repertory. More recently the overture has been performed and recorded by several contemporary classical orchestras, including the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields conducted by Neville Marriner.

In 1949 Le siège de Corinthe was finally revived again in a production starring Renata Tebaldi in Florencemarker. That production was repeated two years later in Rome.In 1969 La Scalamarker revived it for the Rossini centennial with the young Beverly Sills, in her European debut, as Pamyra, Marilyn Horne as Ismène, and Thomas Schippers conducting. The opera used a performing edition by noted musicologist and Bel Canto expert Randolph Mickelson that interpolated arias from the original Neapolitan and Venetian versions and even from other obscure Rossini operas (as of course Rossini himself commonly did). According to The New Yorker writer Joseph Wechsberg, that production also rates the distinction of having been the first at La Scala in which the conductor insisted on having a spotlight illuminating his head throughout the entire performance. In 1975, the Metropolitan Opera used the La Scala version for the United States premiere of the opera. The Met production was conducted by Schippers again and starred Beverly Sills in her Met debut, now opposite Shirley Verrett, Justino Díaz and Harry Theyard.

Since 1975, the only production of the opera in the US has been the October 2006 staging of the French version by the Baltimore Opera, in a mid-19th century re-translation back into Italian, with one aria interpolated from one of the predecessor "Maometto II" versions and one from Rossini's "Ciro in Babilonia," featuring Elizabeth Futral as Pamira and Viveca Geneaux as Neocle. The last performance was on October 22, 2006. Outside the US the opera has been staged several times, as in Florencemarker, in 1982, where Calisto Bassi's Italian version, starring Katia Ricciarelli, with a contralto (Martine Dupuy) singing the role of Neocle instead of a tenor, and under the direction of Pier Luigi Pizzi, was performed, and as in Genoamarker where the original French version was produced in 1992 starring Luciana Serra.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, October 9, 1826
(Conductor: François Antoine Habeneck)
Cléomène, Governor of Corinth tenor Louis Nourrit
Pamyra, his daughter soprano Laure Cinti-Damoreau
Néoclès, a young Greek officer tenor Adolphe Nourrit
Mahomet II bass Henri-Étienne Dérivis
Adraste tenor Bonel
Hiéros bass Alexandre-Aimé Prévost
Ismène mezzo-soprano Frémont
Omar tenor Ferdinand Prévôt


Image:Siege1i.jpg|Décor for Act I-Scene 1 of Le siège de Corinthe at the Paris OpéraImage:Siege3i.jpg|Décor for Act II of Le siège de Corinthe at the Paris Opéra


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