Filarmonica ‘900 del Teatro Regio di Torino performs the overture of Lucio Silla, K. 135, an Italian opera in three acts composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was written by Giovanni de Gamerra (26 December 1742 – 29 August 1803), the Italian cleric, playwright, and poet. Concert master and first violinist: Stefano Vagnarelli. Recorded live on March 24, 2014 at Teatro Regio di Torino.
The story of the opera concerns the Roman dictator Lucio Silla (Lucius Sulla), known commonly as Sulla, who lusts after Giunia, the daughter of his enemy Gaius Marius. Giunia, on the other hand, loves the exiled senator Cecilio.
Sulla was a Roman general and statesman. He had the distinction of holding the office of consul twice, as well as reviving the dictatorship. Sulla was awarded a grass crown, the most prestigious and rarest Roman military honor, during the Social War. His life was habitually included in the ancient biographical collections of leading generals and politicians, originating in the biographical compendium of famous Romans, published by Marcus Terentius Varro. In Plutarch’s Parallel Lives Sulla is paired with the Spartan general and strategist Lysander.
Sulla’s dictatorship came during a high point in the struggle between populares and optimates. The former, represented by Sulla’s contemporary and eventual rival, Gaius Marius, challenged the existing order to further rights for the plebs, while the latter sought to preserve the existing power structure dominated by the aristocracy and the Senate.
In a dispute over army command, Sulla unconstitutionally marched his armies into Rome and defeated Marius in battle. He revived the office of dictator which had been inactive since the Second Punic War over a century before, and used his powers to enact a series of reforms to the Roman constitution, meant to restore the power of the Senate and the tribunes. After seeking election to and holding a second consulship, he retired to private life and died shortly after. Sulla’s decision to seize power – ironically enabled by his rival’s military reforms that bound the army’s loyalty with the general rather than to Rome – permanently destabilized the Roman power structure. Later leaders like Julius Caesar would follow his precedent in attaining political power through force.