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Two opera singers on a rocky, grey lancscape in ETO's 2018 Radamisto


Autumn 2018

George Frideric Handel

‘recommended to all Handel lovers’ The Telegraph
Autumn 2018
  • 4 Stars

    cool, intelligent production


  • 4 Stars

    brilliantly designed and well-sung production

    The Stage

  • 4 Stars

    Katie Bray’s ferociously combative portrayal of the wife, Zenobia — her resistance hurled out in a series of spitfire arias — […] really impresses

    The Times

  • 4 Stars

    warmly recommended to all Handel lovers

    The Telegraph

  • ETO has spread the news about Handel’s operatic masterpieces further and wider than any other company

    The Sunday Times



Farasmane, King of Thrace, has two children. His son, Radamisto, is married to Zenobia. His daughter, Polissena, is married to Tiridate, King of Armenia. In Radamisto’s absence on campaign, Tiridate has captured and imprisoned his father-in- law Farasmane; he has also become obsessed with Zenobia.

Tiridate has an ally, Tigrane, who observes his erratic behaviour anxiously.

Act I

Polissena is lonely. Tigrane tells her that today her husband leads the final assault on Thrace, and that he will kill her brother Radamisto and take Zenobia as his lover. Tigrane urges her to leave her husband, and accept Tigrane’s love and protection – which she rejects.

Tiridate scorns his wife Polissena. He allows his prisoner Farasmane to be escorted to the walls of the city where Radamisto is besieged, on the condition that he urges his son to surrender his kingdom and his wife.

Radamisto and Zenobia meet Tigrane and his prisoner Farasmane at the city walls. Farasmane urges his son to resist, however fatal the consequences. Zenobia, too, counsels resistance: she would prefer to die than to be surrendered to Tiridate. Tigrane decides to save the zealot Farasmane, in order to ingratiate himself with Polissena.

Tigrane reveals to Tiridate that the army of Radamisto is defeated. As a prize, he begs for Farasmane; Tiridate agrees, but only on the condition that Tigrane bring Radamisto and Zenobia as captives.

Polissena thanks Tigrane for saving her father, and pleads with him to save her brother, too. The besotted Tigrane agrees.

Act II

Zenobia and Radamisto are refugees in the mountains. When she can go no further, she urges her husband to kill her so that she will not fall into Tiridate’s hands. Reluctantly, he tries to
do so, but only lightly wounds her. She makes him promise to avenge her before she jumps into the river below. Despairing, he nearly follows her.

Tigrane comes upon him, and promises to bring Radamisto (disguised as a servant) to his sister. Reckoning that Tiridate has never seen him, Radamisto accepts, knowing that this is his only chance to take the revenge he has promised.

Zenobia, rescued from the river, is brought to Tiridate. Zenobia scorns Tiridate, but he remains confident she will accept his crown and his love.

At the same time, Tigrane brings Radamisto to Polissena. After Tigrane leaves, Radamisto commands his sister to do her duty
to her family – to create the opportunity for Radamisto to assassinate her husband Tiridate. She says that she would die to save her brother, but that she would also die before betraying her husband. He rejects her.

Tigrane announces to Tiridate that Radamisto is dead; he introduces in his place Radamisto’s servant Ismeno (Radamisto in disguise), who quotes to Zenobia her husband’s last words. Zenobia is shaken, but recognises her husband and his intentions. Seeing how fond she is of the servant, Tiridate engages him to plead his case with Zenobia now that her husband is dead.

Radamisto and Zenobia are reunited, briefly, though they have no hope of survival.

Act 3

Tigrane’s advantage will not be Polissena’s love, he knows, but it may at least be her kind regard. He resolves to protect his ally Tiridate’s life, but to strip him of the power to do evil.

Tiridate attempts to rape Zenobia, but he is stopped by the ‘servant’. Polissena, seeing the danger to her husband, intervenes to save his life. In scolding his daughter, Farasmane gives away Radamisto’s identity. All are once again in Tiridate’s power, but Polissena warns him that she will become his enemy if he hurts her family.

Radamisto and Zenobia, captives, are at their lowest ebb. Tiridate is clearly mad, and believes himself at the top of fortune’s wheel; entering the prison, he describes it as a magnificent temple where he will marry Zenobia. He offers to spare Radamisto if

she will marry him, but she declines; he is about to kill Radamisto when Polissena intervenes, announcing that Tigrane has led the army into the city, which has rebelled against Tiridate’s tyranny. They entreat Tiridate to reform his character and his rule, but he is defiant.

Tigrane restores power and authority to Farasmane, who in
turn passes them to his son, urging vengeance. Radamisto surprises all present by turning to his sister; seeing that she loves Tiridate still, he orders her to forgive him, and to rule justly with him. Tiridate is astonished by forgiveness; he says that he has been mad, but that Polissena’s loyalty returns him to sense and morality.

Having thus denied Zenobia her revenge, Radamisto asks Zenobia what she wants – and she answers that she has all that she wants in his love.