Angelica e Medoro (‘Angelica and Medoro’)
- Tim Carter
Libretto subject used chiefly in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Its source is Ludovico Ariosto ’s epic poem Orlando furioso (1516); operas based on the story were also entitled Orlando, Roland, Orlando paladino and Le pazzie di Orlando.
Orlando (in French, Roland), nephew of Charlemagne, is one of several warriors infatuated with the pagan Angelica, daughter of the Great Khan of Cathay. The issue comes to a head with the appearance (in Canto xviii:165ff) of Medoro, an African prince. Medoro is seriously injured attempting to rescue the body of Prince Dardinello from the Christian camp. Angelica (xix: 17) heals his wounds and, as they rest in a shepherd’s house, falls in love with him: the account of Angelica and Medoro’s union as they dally in forest groves carving their names on trees and rocks (xix: 26–36) produces some of Ariosto’s most sensual verse. The couple leave for Spain; Angelica rewards the shepherd with a bracelet given to her by Orlando. Orlando, arriving in the forest (xxiii: 101), is incensed to see the carvings and even more distraught on hearing the shepherd’s tale and seeing the bracelet. Mad with rage, he runs naked through the land, wreaking havoc and destruction (xxiii: 129–xxiv: 14). He catches up with Angelica and Medoro in Spain (xxix:58–67), kills Medoro’s horse and pursues Angelica, who escapes only by virtue of a magic ring. Orlando continues on the rampage (xxx:4–15), swimming the straits of Gibraltar to Africa. Orlando’s allies hear of his madness (xxxi:42–8, 61–4), and St John the Evangelist explains (xxxiv:62–6) to Astolfo, Prince of England, that it is divine punishment for his loving a pagan. They fly to the moon to recover Orlando’s wits, stored there in a phial. Orlando arrives at Astolfo’s camp (xxxix:35), is forcibly restrained by the Christians, and (xxxix:57) has his wits restored. Sane, he is no longer in love, and he continues the campaign against the infidels. Angelica and Medoro’s fate is less clear, although we are told (xlii:38) that they sail to India where (xxx:16) he will become king....