Ercole amante

Cavalli’s Ercole amante was written for the wedding of Louis XIV to Marie-Thérèse, a Habsburg princess.  The marriage itself being the seal on the French victory over Spain in the war that had lasted until 1659.  It’s an odd work considering.  It’s not nearly as weird as, say, Il Giasone or La Didone but it’s hardly what one would expect for the nuptials of Le Roi Soleil.  It’s clear from both the Prologue and the ending that Ercole is Louis but he’s also a most unlikeable character.  In this version of the Hercules story he’s in love with his son’s (Hyllo) girlfriend (Iole) and will stop at nothing to bed her including casting off his wife (Deianira), imprisoning his son and bumping off Iole’s father.  In the end he’s attacked by the spirits of various people he has wronged before succumbing to the trick with the centaur’s poisoned shirt.  He’s made immortal and paired off with Hebe in the heavens but it’s hardly a tale of kingly virtue or marital fidelity.  For good measure, along the way a good chunk of the Graeco-Roman pantheon make an appearance.

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