Pietro Antonio Domenico Bonaycntnra Metastasio, an Italian poet, born in Rome, Jan. 3, 1698, died in Vienna, April 12, 1782. He is said to have excelled in improvising verses at the age of 10. Gravina, an eminent jurist and scholar, adopted him as a son, changing his name of Trapassi to that of Metastasio (from the Gr. , change or transfer), and preparing him for the profession of the law, but without discouraging his studies in classical and dramatic literature, in which he advanced so rapidly that at 14 he wrote a tragedy, Gim-tino, after the Greek model. He accompanied his patron to Naples, where his talents gained him many friends. While continuing the study of jurisprudence, he took holy orders, whence he was sometimes called Abbate. Gravina bequeathed him in 1718 a considerable fortune; but the young poet squandered most of it within two years, and again applied himself to the study of the law. Soon returning to his favorite pursuit, he produced an epithalamium and the drama Endimione. Under the patronage of the viceroy of Naples he wrote Gli orti esperidi and Angelica, the latter after Ariosto. The part of Venus in the former play was performed by Maria Bulgarini, or La Komanina, who was at that time the leading Neapolitan prima donna, and whose appreciation of Metastases genius laid the foundation of a most intimate relation, the poet writing under her inspiration his Uidone allandonata (1724), which was set to music by Sardi and other composers, and established Metastases fame.
He accompanied the signora to Rome, where his Semiramide (set to music by Meyerbeer in 1819), Ezio, Alessandro nell' India, Catone in Utica, and Artaserse were performed in rapid succession. In 1729 he went to Vienna, where he succeeded Zeno as imperial laureate. In 1733 appeared his Olimpiade; and one of bis most celebrated lyrical dramas, La clemenza di Tito, was performed in 1734, and was again set to music in 1790 by Mozart. The death of the emperor Charles VI. in 1740, and the outbreak of war, led to the closing of the theatre in which he had been employed, and he now devoted himself to literary pursuits, chiefly to translations and annotations of Greek writers. In 1744 appeared his plays of Antigone and Ipermnestra. After the return of peace lie wrote II re pastore (1751), which was enacted by the ladies of the imperial family. His last operatic play, II Buggiero, was produced at Milan on occasion of the marriage of the archduke Ferdinand (1771). His last occupation was the superintendence of the magnificent Paris edition of his works.
Metastasio was among the first to recognize the genius of Mozart, and to express his admiration of a comic opera which the composer, then only 12 years old, had set to music in 1768. His best known oratorios are La morte d'Abele, Isacco, and Lapassione; and his most popular cantatas are La libertd, La primaxera, and La partenza. A catalogue raisonne of his compositions is given by Dr. Burney. The best editions of his works are those in 12 vols. (Paris, 1780-82), and 20 vols. (Mantua, 1816-'20). - See Burney, "Memoirs of the Abbate Metastasio," with translations of his principal letters (3 vols. 8vo, London, 1796). The best Italian sketch of his literarv career is by Mauro Boni in his edition of Metastases works (Padua, 1811). His "Dramas and Poems" were translated into English by J. Hoole (3 vols., London, 1800).