Italian physician, court poet and librettist Antonio Salvi (1664–1724) wrote the libretto which Handel used for his opera Berenice, performed by The Royal Opera in the 2018/19 Season in the Linbury Theatre.
Salvi was born in Lucignano, studied medicine and became a court physician for the Medici family in Florence in 1699. From 1701 to 1710 he wrote the texts for seven drammi per musica (musical dramas) performed at Prince Ferdinando de’Medici’s’s Villa di Pratolino. Between 1694 and 1718 he also wrote or adapted around twelve texts for performances at the civic opera houses of Florence and Livorno. In addition, he wrote on commission for the court theatres of Reggio Emilia, Parma, Turin and Munich and for Venetian opera houses, primarily from 1715 to 1724. He was known as one of the most successful writers of texts for comic Florentine intermezzos, performed between the acts of other works in court performances. His literary inspirations included French spoken theatre (including plays by Racine and Molière) and Spanish theatre, which inspired his first known libretto, La forza compassionevole.
Salvi collaborated frequently with the composer Giuseppe Maria Orlandi, who was maestro di capella at the Medici court from 1713. Other composers who set new librettos by Salvi included Giacomo Antonio Perti, Alessandro Scarlatti, Francesco Gasparini, Luc’Antonio Predieri and Antonio Vivaldi. Handel, who almost certainly met Salvi in Italy 1706–9, used librettos by Salvi for several operas: Rodelinda, Scipione, Lotario, Sosarme, Ariodante, Arminio and Berenice.