Dramma per musica in three acts (1724)
Antonio Maria Lucchini after Nicolò Beregan and Pietro Pariati
In the 1920s, a large number of operas composed by Vivaldi were rediscovered, including »Il Giustino«. These manuscripts shed new light on the composer’s work, who was primarily celebrated as a composer of Baroque era instrumental music at that time but whose operatic works were largely unknown. Almost one hundred imaginative, contrasting arias and recitatives are included in the score, into which Vivaldi artfully wove citations from earlier works.
At Constantinople’s imperial palace, Empress Arianna and Anastasio, the ruler of Byzantium, celebrate his coronation. The couple presents itself in a decidedly festive mood. Fortuna then appears with the news that the army of Vitaliano is besieging the city and that the tyrannical rebel will only concede peace if Arianna will become his wife. Furious, Emperor Anastasio rejects the offer. He and Arianna prepare for war.
In the meantime, the peasant Giustino is exhausted from the hard work of toiling the land and dreams of a military career. He finally falls asleep. Fortuna appears to him and encourages him to pursue his dream. Fortuna seems to directly fulfill his wish: Leocasta, the sister of Emperor Anastasio, appears, running away from a vicious bear. Giustino is immediately there to save the day and fearlessly slays the dangerous animal. Anastasio then entrusts the young princess Flavia with the task of accompanying his sister. He does not suspect that Flavia in reality is Vitaliano’s brother Andronico, who is in love with Leocasta and pretends to be a woman in order to be near to her.
Vitaliano remains stubborn. He succeeds in taking Arianna prisoner. He once again tries to win her over. But she remains faithful to Emperor Anastasio and valiantly refuses Vitaliano’s advances, even if it would bring peace to her people. Hurt by the rejection, Vitaliano has the sadistic Polidarte chain her to a rock to be at the mercy of the sea monster. Leocasta suggests that Giustino could help, and without delay he sets off with Emperor Anastasio to rescue Arianna.
In the meantime, with the support of Emperor Anastasio’s sister Leocasta, Giustino has transformed from a simple man of the land into a successful warrior. A storm breaks out. Anastasio and Giustino are shipwrecked and miraculously washed up on the very island where Arianna is crying out to be rescued from the monster. In response to Arianna’s pleas for help, Giustino rushes in and heroically kills the monster, while Anastasio half faints in fear. Anastasio, Giustino, and Arianna leave the island together with Amanzio, the general of the emperor’s troops.
In the garden, Leocasta and Flavia discuss Giustino. Anastasio has himself celebrated as a victor. In the meantime, Amanzio makes him suspect that Giustino has had intimate relations with Arianna. He succeeds in making Anastasio jealous.
Arianna accuses Vitaliano, who is now locked up in a dungeon, of attempting blackmail to force her to love him. Arianna calls on Anastasio to reward Giustino’s heroism. Amanzio takes this chance once again as an opportunity to awaken his mistrust.
Andronico (Flavia) has enticed Leocasta to the forest and reveals his true identity. When he tries to rape her, Giustino overcomes Andronico and takes him prisoner. He has saved Leocasta’s life a second time. Leocasta und Giustino mutually declare their love for one another.
The two brothers Vitaliano and Andronico are able to flee imprisonment. Vitaliano wants revenge. To reward Giustino for his bravery, Arianna sends him an amulet that she had been given by her husband Anastasio. Amanzio observes the scene and luridly describes what he has seen to Anastasio. Anastasio then bans his wife and has Giustino taken off to be executed. Leocasta takes leave of her beloved Giustino in tears and decides to do anything to save him.
Giustino has gotten lost in the mountains and falls asleep. Vitaliano and Andronico discover him sleeping and want to kill him. Suddenly, a stroke of lightning rips open the mountain, where the grave of Vitaliano’s father can be found. A voice reveals that Giustino, Vitaliano, and Andronico are brothers. The three brothers reconcile and decide to defend Anastasio against the betrayer Amanzio.
Amanzio proclaimed himself emperor. He takes Anastasio and Arianna prisoner and condemns them to death. Giustino storms in with his brothers and arrests Amanzio. When Anastasio is freed, he declares Giustino his co-regent.All celebrate Giustino’s coronation and his marriage to Leocasta.
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