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Belisario (Belisarius) is a tragedia lirica, or opera, in three acts by Gaetano Donizetti. Salvadore Cammarano wrote the Italian libretto after Luigi Marchionni's adaptation of Eduard von Schenk's play. The plot is loosely based on the life of the famous general Belisarius of the 6th century Byzantine Empire. It premiered to critical and popular success on February 4, 1836 at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice. Its popularity continued through the 19th century, but modern production are rare.




Act 1

The hall in the emperor's palace

Irene and the populace greet the victor Belisarius. Antonina hates her husband because Proclus, the slave of Belisarius, has confessed on his deathbed, that upon command of his master he had exposed her son on the shore of the ocean, thus causing his death. The Emperor Justinian greets his commander and grants his prayer for the release of the prisoners. The captive, Alamir, who adores Belisarius, refuses to leave him. (Recitative and duet: "What do I see, does Alamir reject my gift?") The general adopts him in place of his long lost son. Irene congratulates her father, but Antonina has already begun her work of hate, by traducing Belisarius to Justinian, and the innocent man is accused of high treason and thrown into prison on the evidence of his wife.

Act 2

Before the prison

Alamir and his friends lament the fate of Belisarius, whose eyes have been put out by his enemies, falsely construing and disobeying the commands of the emperor. Alamir swears vengeance. (Aria: "Tremble, Byzantia, I will repay.") Irene clad as a youth arrives to act as guide to her father, who is about to be released from prison. (Duet: "Oh thou, who in terrible darkness.")

Act 3

In the mountains

As the clang of weapons is heard Irene leads Belisarius to a cave for safety. Alamir now leads the army of the Alannae against Byzantium to avenge Belisarius. Belisarius confronts him and recognises him as his son through an amulet. At his father's request, the son leaves the ranks of the enemies of Byzantium, and the Alannae, now under the command of Ottavio, march to Byzantium, having no fear, as the emperor's army is bereft of its leader.

Hall in Byzantium

Antonina, in remorse, tells the emperor that her testimony against Belisarius was false. Irene approaches with news of the victory and informs Antonina that Alamir is her son, and that it was the slave, not Belisarius, who had planned his death. Meanwhile the blind Belisarius has led the Byzantine army and defeated the Alann, who had threatened Byzantium, but an arrow has mortally wounded him. He is carried in dying, and the sorrowing emperor promises to be a father to Alamir and Irene.

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