Fit for a king?

There have been over thirty operas dealing with Montezuma, last emperor of the Aztecs from Vivaldi in 1733 to Bernhard Lang in 2010.  The second such premiered in 1755 and was rather remarkable.  The idea originated with Frederick II of Prussia who decided to fit in an opera before his next war against the Austrians.  He wrote a French prose libretto which was turned into an Italian text by his court poet Giampietro Tagliazucchi and then set by his court composer Carl Heinrich Graun.  It’s pretty clear that Frederick identied himself with the idealized enlightened monarch Montezuma, the ultimate noble savage, and his betrayal by forces loyal to the Habsburgs and Catholoicism.  The ideas earlier expressed in Anti-Machiavel are very much to the fore as are Frederick’s own rather odd ideas on fate and his own mortality(1).  Basically this Montezuma is deposed and executed and his world goes up in flames.

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