In the course of the Turkish fashion, numerous operas with titles such as Solimano (Hasse), Memmet (Sammartini) and Tamerlano and Bajazette were created in the Baroque era. (Jommelli, Gasparini, Bernasconi, Porpora, Leo, Händel ein Pasticcio by Vivaldi, Scarlatti and others) The libretto to the Bajazette and Tamerlano operas was written by Agostino Piovene, whereby older French versions are said to have served as models.
In Europe one was rather interested in the exoticism and fairy-tale stories from the Orient. Thus the libretto of Piovene had almost nothing to do with the historical facts. In 1711 Gasparini set the original version of his Tamerlano to music. The famous tenor Borosini sang the role of Bajazet, who most probably presented Handel with the score of Gasparini in London in 1719. The opening aria “Forte” and the death scene of the Bajazet at the end of the third act served Handel as model and model. Handel changed his original death scene and copied Gasparini’s dramatically heartbreaking scene. This radical change made Handel’s Tamerlano an opera with expressive and dramaturgically impressive moments and thus an outstanding work in his entire operatic oeuvre.
As we can read in the history books, none of these operas has anything in common with the historical events. The battle of the Titans Timur and Bayezid receded into the background and a constantly whining and helpless Bayezid, Timur falling in love with his daughter, Asteria actually falling in love with Andronico seem to be in love with an opera that may have worked well in the Baroque period. Our story shows a little more of the actual events that have been passed down to us from various sources. At this point we would like to thank Justin Marozzi, the author of Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the World (2004), who advised us on the historical events and sources.
The struggle of the two alpha men is at the forefront of our history. They fight until only one remains and destroys the loser. They write history, but they are mortal. We can see that they both have that experience in the end. So our story ends with the death of both despots. This story of the mighty meeting of two men is not an isolated case in world history. Yesterday, as today, many power-hungry men are in the headlines. The only difference is that nobody will compose an opera about Trump or Putin. Or will they?
Prologue – WAR – PRISON
1389 in the battle of Amselfeld the Ottoman Sultan Murad I, the father of Bayezid defeats the Christian coalition army under the leadership of Prince Lazar. Both leaders fell in the battle. The Serbs submit to the Ottomans and swear loyalty as new subjects. Lazar’s son Stefan marries his sister Mara Despina to Bayezid to show this loyalty to Bayezid.
Bayezid succeeds his father to the throne and enlarges the Ottoman dynasty; his campaigns are successful and a glorious victory against the crusaders under the leadership of King Sigismund at Nikopolis consolidates his rule. Byzantium pays tribute to him and he wants to take Constantinople. Because of his lightning campaigns Bayezid is now Yıldırım Bayezid, Bayezid the lightning is called.
In the east are the Golden Horde of Emir Timur. He is an outstanding one, who is not descended from a Khan family and dynasty. Only with the marriage of the descendant of the great Khan Genghis, Saray Mulk Hanim, can he be sure of the respect and submissiveness of the Mongolian clans.
He is known for his atrocities, brutality and an endless lust for power, as far as the steppes of Central Asia. Due to an arrow wound in his youth he is lame and his right arm is immobile. So he is called Timur Lenk, Timur the lame and in the west Tamerlan. He conquered almost the entire Middle East and the present-day Turkmen republics, parts of India and Persia in a short time. Both princes, Timur and Bayezid are actually descended from Turkic peoples and are Sunni Muslims. At Bayezid’s court lives the great Sufi master Emir Sultan, who supports him with spiritual advice. At Timur’s court lives Seyyid Bereke, also a Sufi teacher and philosopher. Both advise their princes against fratricidal warfare, without success. Many exchanges of letters between Timur and Bayezid, with insults and threats lead to escalation and in 1402 the final battle is finally fought near Ankara.
Bayezid and Mara Despina as prisoners at the court of Timur. Bayezid the radiant ruler, the conqueror and the lightning, captured with his beloved wife at the court of Timur. Death, the only solution to this shame? Timur has defeated him, he is now the sole ruler, with everything at his feet. Triumph…
RANGE or FORGIVING
Seyyid Bereke prays for the forgiveness of sins and for the relief of the suffering of the persecuted and sinners. Bayezid and Mara are blinded by feelings of revenge. Fate has struck hard.
Bayezid, still the proud Sultan who is equal to Timur, wants to fight until the very end.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
Timur is full of hope and energy for his political goals. On the other hand Bayezid, who in his desperation sings of death. Mara Despina, does she still love Bayezid? A woman scorned, what will happen to her? Will Timur show mercy?
Timur does not seek revenge. In Mongolian tradition, kings and their wives are taboo and under his protection. Timur is offended by Mara Despina. Bayezid’s insults before the war, giving his dear wife away to Ottoman soldiers, come back to his mind. Should he punish Mara Despina for this?
Mara Despina sees no way out, she suspects nothing of Timur’s plans. She knows that Bayezid has a death wish and will she accompany him to his death? Bayezid is seriously ill, his heart is broken, only death can bring him peace and salvation. Not even the spiritual comfort of his friend Emir Sultan can put him off.
THE LOVING DESPOT
Bereke quotes the great philosopher Ibn Arabi (1165-1240). “Love is my religion”
He had advised Timur against war and is now trying to distract his friend and lord. What can soothe Timur better than his dear wife Saray Mulk Hanim. Timur and his wife have a moment’s rest. Saray Mulk is afraid for Timur, who is already planning his next campaign. The thought of separation hurts but she remembers her love for Timur when she first saw him.
GRIEF AND HAPPINESS
Bayezid and his wife are experiencing exactly the opposite. Abandoned by happiness, they are left with only the dreams of days gone by. Fear, desperation and stormy days bring them fate. Mara Despina does not want to give up and wants to defy her fate until the end.
THE END, DEATH, FREEDOM
Bayezid is seriously ill. Has he poisoned himself or can his broken heart no longer bear the shame? He is dying. In agony and hallucinations he sees the death of his adversary Timur. Reality blurs; fate, sealed for both rulers. Timur never defeated in battle, the ruler of the Golden Horde feels that the end is near. Reality blurs; time and place change. Death knows no
إِنَّا لِلَّهِ وَإِنَّ إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi radschiun -Behold, we belong to Allah, and to Him we shall return home