Demofonte (also Demofoonte; Il Demofoonte; Demofoonte, ré di Tracia [King of Thrace]; Démophon; Demophontes; or Dirce, L'usurpatore innocente ["Dirce, The Innocent Usurper") is an opera seria libretto by Metastasio. The libretto was first set by Antonio Caldara in 1733, but remained popular throughout the eighteenth century and was set over seventy times.

General information

Other settings

The libretto, written in 1731 or 1733, became immensely popular. By 1800 it had inspired at least 73 operas (according to the Encyclopaedia Musical St. Petersburg: The 18th Century) Here is only the short list of the operas with the same title:

  1. Authenticity is debated.

See also operas by Leonardo Leo, Carl Heinrich Graun, Niccolò Jommelli, Johann Adolph Hasse, Luigi Cherubini.



The Thracian king Demofonte asks the oracle of Apollo how long the practice of the annual sacrifice of a virgin will continue. The answer is puzzling: "as long as the innocent usurper sits on the throne". The nobleman Matusio tries to protect his daughter Dircea from being sacrificed. He and Demofonte are unaware that Dircea is secretly married to Timante, the son of Demofonte and the heir to the throne. Demofonte wants Timante to marry Creusa, a princess of Phrygia. Timante's younger brother Cherinto is accompanying her to the kingdom of Thrace, however he falls in love with her. Meeting Creusa, Timante admits that he can't marry her, but does not explain why.

Dircea has been caught while trying to flee the country and imprisoned, and Demofonte orders the immediate sacrifice of Dircea. Timante tries to release her but with no success. He is also imprisoned. Creusa asks Demofonte for mercy. The king releases Timante and Dircea, and Timante decides to give up the throne in favour of Cherinto.

Suddenly they find a letter revealing that Dircea is the daughter of Demofonte, which makes Timante and Dircea brother and sister. Timante is in despair, and tries to avoid Dircea. However another letter reveals that Timante is the son of Matusio. Everybody is happy. The marriage of Timante and Dircea becomes legal, and Cherinto is the real crown prince and can marry Creusa. No more virgins are sacrificed, since Timante is no longer the "innocent usurper of the throne".

Settings of individual arias


  1. Otto Erich Deutsch, Werner Aderhold and others (eds.) Franz Schubert: Neue Ausgabe sämtlicher Werke; Series VIII: Supplement; Volume 4: Franz Schubert: Thematisches Verzeichnis seiner Werke in chronologischer Folge Bärenreiter, 1978. ISBN 9783761805718 — p. 35

External links

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