The process of writing the verses for Ermione was entrusted to the prolific librettist Andrea Leone Tottola, known also for the work he did with Donizetti, Bellini, Pacini and Mercadante. The subject was taken from Jean-Baptiste Racine's tragedy Andromaque (1667), in turn based on Euripides' masterpiece. Ermione was first performed at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples on 27th March 1819 with a quality cast. When first staged, Ermione was not very successful because probably Rossini moved too far away from the taste of Italian public at the time. Ermione was completely forgotten until 1977 when it was revived in concert form in Siena. In Ermione Rossini steps away from some of the stylistic features of belcanto and lays the foundations for some of the masterpieces of his maturity: there is clearly more continuity between the various closed pieces, the function of the chorus is strengthened, three-part arias are replaced by two-part ones, and we can find a more vigorous vocal expression as well as a generous use of declaimed recitative. Ermione is unquestionably the great protagonist of this opera, especially in the second act where she truly towers over the other characters. Rossini entrusts her with a magnificent scene in four sections punctuated by recitative passages, in the course of which she can express the most highly-contrasting emotions, from fierce anger to moving love. This immense collection of novelties and experimental touches makes Ermione an extremely interesting opera; we may state the Rossini's Ermione is one of the most finely drawn characters in all nineteenth-century opera.
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