Riccardo primo, re d’Inghilterra (“Richard the First, King of England”, HWV 23) is an opera seria in three acts written by George Frideric Handel for the Royal Academy of Music (1719) . The Italian-language libretto was by Paolo Antonio Rolli, after Francesco Briani’s Isacio tiranno, set by Antonio Lotti in 1710. Handel wrote the work for the Royal Academy’s 1726–27 opera season, and also as homage to the newly crowned George II and the nation where Handel had just received citizenship.
Riccardo Primo was the third opera Handel composed for the trio of famous star Italian singers, the castrato Senesino and the sopranos Francesca Cuzzoni and Faustina Bordoni.The opera received its premiere at the King’s Theatre in London on 11 November 1727, and 11 subsequent performances. It was also performed in Hamburg and Braunschweig in February 1729. The Hamburg performance, led by none other than Georg Philipp Telemann, included two new comic characters, Murmilla and Gelasius; recitatives and the added arias for the new characters were translated into German although the original arias remained in Italian. Handel subsequently re-used music from the opera in Scipione and Tolomeo. The opera fell into neglect after the 1728 closing of the Royal Academy.
Riccardo Primo was rediscovered and performed by the Handel Opera Society at Sadler’s Wells Opera in London on 8 July 1964. Later performances were given at Kourion Amphitheater in Cyprus at 1991, in order to mark the 800th anniversary of the historical events on which the opera is based, and also at the 1996 Göttingen Festival. The work was given its United States premiere, presented as Richard the Lionheart, by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis during the summer 2015 season.
Riccardo Primo, Re d’Inghilterra
Händelfestspiele Badisches Staatstheater, Karlsruhe (Germany 2014, 2015)
Setting of Riccardo Primo:
The story concerns the marriage of Richard I of England to Constanza, a Spanish princess in Cypress. The character of Costanza is identified with Berengaria of Navarre, who married Richard I at Limassol in 1191.