CHERUBINI: Medea — La Scala 1961

Music composed by Luigi Cherubini. Libretto by FranoÁois-BenoÓt
Hoffman. Italian version by Carlo Zangarini.

First Performance: 13 March 1797, ThȂtre Feydeau,

Principal Characters:
Jason [Giasone], leader of the Argonauts Tenor
Medea [MÈdÈe], his wife Soprano
Neris [NÈris], her confidante Mezzo-Soprano
Creon [CrÈon, Creonte], King of Corinth Bass
Dirce [DircÈ, Glauce], his daughter Soprano
First attendant Soprano
Second attendant Mezzo-Soprano

Setting: The palace of Creon.


Act I

The wedding of Jason and DircÈ, daughter of Creonte, is approaching. In a
gallery in Creonte’s royal palace the bride-to-be is tormented by anxiety
fearing the possible return of the sorceress Medea, who refuses to accept
that Jason, to whom she has given two children, has abandoned her. The chorus
and the confidantes of DircÈ attempt to comfort her, as do both Jason and

The sudden appearance of Medea comes as a terrible shock to DircÈ and
Jason has to lead the sorceress away. Medea tries to bend to Jason’s will,
hoping to dissuade him from his decision to be married again. But the
contrast between the two leads to the bitter hatred of Medea who summons
Colchos and his darkest horrors to prevent the wedding taking place and to
avenge Jason’s refusal to hear her pleas.

Act II

In a wing of the palace near the temple of Juno, Medea, the abandoned and
furious wife, calls upon the terrible Eumenides to shed blood and bring
terror to Creonte and his daughter DircÈ. Accompanied by her hand-maiden
Neris, Medea obtains Creonte’s permission to spend one more day in Corinth.
The king begs her to calm her wrath, whereas she, with the help of Neris, is
seeking vengeance to match the offence and suffering she has known.

Medea’s next encounter with Jason sees her in remissive attitude, as she
asks her former husband to let her have her two children back. So upset is
she that she is prepared to try to win the pity of Jason, but Jason will not
be moved. Medea is hurt and insulted. Events confirm her desire to seek the
vengeance that she had planned. She confides in Neris, telling her that she
intends to give the bride-to-be DircÈ her gown, crown and her personal
effects all poisoned. During the wedding procession Medea pronounces cruel
wishes for the couple.


A storm which obscures the scene is the ideal backdrop to the appearance of
Medea who steps forward dressed in a black veil. She is awaiting the children
of her marriage with Jason to complete her criminal plans. Neris pushes the
children into their mother’s arms. Medea is touched when she sees them but
will not be distracted from her plan to kill them. They are her children but
what matters most is that Jason is their father and through the children he
must pay for the offence he has committed.

Cries from the palace inform us that DircÈ is dead. Jason, moved to pity
and fearful for his children, begs Medea to bring them to him: it is too
late, they have already been killed. Jason is crushed by his sorrow. Medea
calls to him that she will be waiting for him on the banks of the Styx and
then sets fire to the temple.

As the crowd runs from the blaze, the flames spread and engulf both the
temple and the palace; thunderbolts heighten the terror; the mountain and the
temple collapse. The destruction and flames destroy the scene. Medea
disappears among the burning remains.

[Synopsis Source: Opera Italiana]

Click here for the complete libretto.

image_description= Medea (1868) by Anthony Frederick Augustus Sandys
first_audio_name=Luigi Cherubini: Medea
product_title=Luigi Cherubini: Medea
product_by=First Attendant: Edith Martelli; Second Attendant: Limbania Leoni; Capitano: Alfredo Giacometti; Creonte: Nicolai Ghiaurov; Glauce: Ivana Tosini; Jason: Jon Vickers; Medea: Maria Callas; NÈris: Giulietta Simionato. Orchestra e coro del Teatra alla Scala di Milano. Thomas Schippers, conducting. Live performance, 14 December 1961, Milan.