Alceste by Jean-Baptiste Lully


'''''Alceste, ou Le triomphe d'Alcide''''' is a ''tragédie en musique'' in a prologue and five acts by Jean-Baptiste Lully. The French-language libretto is by Philippe Quinault, after Euripides' ''Alcestis''. It was first performed on 19 January 1674 at the Théâtre du Palais-Royal by the Paris Opera.

The opera was presented in celebration of King Louis XIV's victory against Franche-Comté, and the prologue features nymphs longing for his return from battle. The opera itself concerns Alceste, princess of Iolcos and queen of Thessaly, who in the first act is abducted by Licomède (Lycomedes), king of Scyros, with the aid of his sister Thetis, a sea nymph; Aeolus, the god of the winds; and other supernatural forces. In the battle to rescue her, Alcide (Hercules) is triumphant, but Alceste's husband, Admète (Admetus), suffers a mortal wound. Apollo agrees to let Admète live if someone will take his place in death. Alceste volunteers herself but is rescued by Alcide, who loves her. The opera ends with a celebration of Alceste's return from the underworld and of Alcide's noble gallantry in returning her to her husband and relinquishing any claims to her.

''Alceste'' is Lully's second ''tragédie en musique'', after ''Cadmus et Hermione''.