Handel's third setting of a libretto by the opera seria maverick Metastasio was Ezio, premiered in the 1731-1732 opera season at the Haymarket. The story is taken from historical happenings in fifth century Rome. Again the plot concerns political machinations, love, jealousy, and familial relationships. Some of the best music was written for Handel's new singer Antonio Montangana, a bass voice with an incredible range and vocal dexterity. Although Varo is a minor character in the plot, Handel took advantage of his new talent. The villain in the piece is Massimo, whose character Handel draws as strongly as Shakespeare's Iago. Graced with a loving daughter, he seeks to involve her in his treacherous intrigues, while she only tries to shield him from certain retribution. The music that Handel gives the daughter transports the listener beyond the illogic of their relationship. And Massimo's insinuating basso weaves the plot with compelling wickedness, the perfect foil for her sublime and loving virtues.
The opening to Ezio is extremely powerful. Handel altered all of the Metastasio librettos with which he worked. Metastasio wrote lengthy recitatives for his characters, and adhered strictly to the opera seria convention of the exit aria. Each scene began with a recitative, and ended with a full blown da capo aria, after which the character on stage exited. Handel deleted the opening recitative of the hero Ezio. Instead, there is a huge victory celebration, in which the general Ezio is congratulated on saving the country. He processes to the throne of the emperor surrounded by slaves and captives from his battles. He is praised and lauded to great fanfare and sumptuous music, and to crowds of adoring Roman subjects. Handel integrates his overture into this victory celebration. The last movement of the overture is a military march, during which the curtain rises on the procession already in progress.
The ending of Poro also is changed. Instead of the moral of the story being pronounced by a typical Metastasian coro, Handel builds to his ending with dramatic fervor. All of the intrigues of Massimo are revealed. A mob scene of a revolt of the Roman populace precedes the obligatory happy ending. The music is unified thematically and by form. Again a complex structure has been created out of several pieces which culminate dramatically with the addition of horns to the orchestra. Each character takes the theme in turn to varied music adapted to their emotions, until finally all of the characters come together in ensemble. The love plot is resolve, political insurrection is repressed, and all ends happily as is required by convention. Although the music to Ezio is extremely fine, the opera was a dismal failure, and never revived.