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Article

Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto anonymously adapted from Pietro Pariati ’s Teseo in Creta (1715) as revised for Naples (1721) and Rome (1729); London, King’s Theatre, 26 January 1734.

Handel completed the score of ...

Article

Michael F. Robinson

Dramma per musica in three acts by Nicola Porpora to a libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli; London, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, 29 December 1733.

The action takes place on the island of Naxos where the lovers Teseo [Theseus] (alto castrato) and Ariadne (soprano), forced ashore by a storm, come into contact with Theseus’s wife Antiope (soprano), with the god Libero [Dionysus] (contralto), in the guise of his high priest Onoro, who loves Ariadne, and with Piritoo (bass), who becomes friendly with Theseus and acts as his accomplice. By the use of various threats, Dionysus persuades Theseus to leave Naxos with his wife rather than with Ariadne. He then discloses his true identity to Ariadne and successfully woos her....

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Angelo Tarchi to a libretto by Ferdinando Moretti; Milan, Teatro alla Scala, January 1786.

Ariarate (soprano castrato), true heir to the throne of Cappadocia, has been reared as Eumene by Attalo [Attalus] (tenor), King of Pergamum and father of Stratonica (soprano), Ariarate’s betrothed. Orossene (contralto castrato), usurper of the Cappadocian throne, is betrothed to Laodice (soprano), but wishes to put her aside in favour of Stratonica. By trickery, Orossene learns of Eumene’s true identity. He takes Ariarate and Attalus prisoner and forces Stratonica to choose who will be put to death. When Laodice’s supporters take the city, they are saved, and Orossene’s powers are broken....

Article

M. Elizabeth C. Bartlet

Drame mêlé de musique in three acts by Etienne-Nicolas Méhul to a libretto by François-Benoît Hoffman after Ludovico Ariosto ’s poem Orlando furioso (cantos v–vi); Paris, Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), 11 October 1799.

Ina (soprano), a princess at the Scottish court, becomes betrothed to Ariodant (...

Article

George Truett Hollis

Dramma per musica in one act by Ferdinando Bertoni to a libretto by Conte de’ Salvioli; Venice, Teatro S Benedetto, 3 January 1776.

Performed alongside Bertoni’s Orfeo ed Euridice and described variously as a pastorale ( D-Mbs ) and cantata ( F-Pn ), Aristo e Temira...

Article

Antony Beaumont

Theatralisches Capriccio in one act, op.50, by Ferruccio Busoni to his own libretto; Zürich, Stadttheater, 11 May 1917.

The action is divided into four movements (Busoni uses the word Satz, which can also signify a leap or skip); the scene is a street in Bergamo. In ‘Arlecchino as Rogue’ the hero (speaking role) dallies with the lovely Annunziata (silent role) while her aging husband, the tailor-master Ser Matteo del Sarto (bass-baritone), reads Dante. Arlecchino persuades him that the town is surrounded by barbarians, hurries him into the house, locks the door and pockets the key. The Abbate Cospicuo (baritone) and Dr Bombasto (bass) pass by, taking their evening stroll. They are alarmed at Matteo’s news and set off in haste to inform the mayor, but vanish instead into a nearby tavern....

Article

Julian Budden

Opera in four acts by Francesco Cilea to a libretto by Leopoldo Marenco after Alphonse Daudet’s play L’arlésienne; Milan, Teatro Lirico, 27 November 1897 (revised in three acts, 1898).

The action takes place at the farm of Rosa Mamai (soprano) in Provence. Of her two sons, the younger, known as L’Innocente (mezzo-soprano), is a simpleton. The elder, Federico (tenor), is madly in love with a girl from Arles, whom he intends to marry, much to his mother’s concern, since nothing is known about her. The old shepherd, Baldassare (baritone), is entertaining L’Innocente with a nursery tale. Rosa Mamai tells her foster-daughter, Vivetta (soprano), how Federico first set eyes on the girl (‘Era un giorno di festa’). Vivetta is distressed, since she is in love with Federico herself. The young man arrives with his uncle Marco (bass), who gives a satisfactory account of the bride’s family. While the others are celebrating the forthcoming wedding, Rosa Mamai and Baldassare receive a visit from the drover, Metifio (baritone), with letters proving that the girl from Arles has been his mistress. Baldassare borrows them to show to Federico, who is overcome with despair....

Article

Armida  

Tim Carter

Libretto subject used from the 17th century to the early 20th. Its source is Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata (1581). Almost 100 operas and ballets draw upon the love of the Saracen sorceress Armida for the Christian warrior Rinaldo (in French called Armide and Renaud), with such titles as ...

Article

Bertil H. van Boer

Dramma per musica in three acts by Johann Gottlieb Naumann to a libretto by Giovanni Bertati after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Padua, Nuovo Teatro, 13 June 1773.

Composed in only three weeks, Armida was one of the last works of Naumann’s student years in Italy. The opera depicts the bitter struggle between Armida (soprano), who magically controls her lover Rinaldo (soprano castrato), and Ubaldo (tenor), the leader of the French army, who wants Rinaldo to come away and fight with them for Jerusalem. Their intrigues involve Armida’s father Idreno (bass) and her confidante Zelmira (alto). After much scheming and struggling, Armida relents, Rinaldo promises that he will return to her after the battle, and goes off with the army. The music is heavily influenced by the reformist styles of Traetta and Jommelli. Naumann favours ensembles and short, through-composed cavatinas. Selections from ...

Article

Mary Hunter

Dramma eroico in three acts by Joseph Haydn to a libretto by Nunziato Porta , after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Eszterháza, 26 February 1784.

The original cast featured Matilde Bologna (Armida), Prospero Braghetti (Rinaldo), Antonio Specioli (Ubaldo), Paolo Mandini (Idreno), Costanza Valdesturla (Zelmira) and Leopold Dichtler (Clotarco). ...

Article

Richard Osborne

Dramma in three acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Giovanni Schmidt after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Naples Teatro S Carlo, 11 November 1817.

The Paladin Knights, led by Goffredo (tenor), are preparing to elect a successor to the deceased Dudone, but the election is interrupted by a weeping noblewoman demanding protection from Idraote who has usurped the throne of Damascus. The woman is the sorceress Armida (soprano) and the plea is a ruse. With the disguised Idraote (bass) as one of her followers, she has come to Jerusalem to enslave the knights in general and Rinaldo (tenor) in particular. The knights elect Rinaldo, to the fury of his closest rival, Gernando (tenor). Armida begins to seduce Rinaldo but is interrupted by Gernando’s insults. The two men fight a duel and Gernando is slain. Horrified by what he has done, Rinaldo flees the camp with Armida. Act 2 begins in a Fury-infested forest where Armida’s follower Astarotte (bass) rules over his demon empire. Rinaldo appears with Armida who transforms the forest into a vast Baroque palace. Love music and an extended ballet dominate the act. In Act 3 Carlo (tenor) and Ubaldo (tenor) arrive to recover Rinaldo. After a further duet with Armida, Rinaldo is shown his besotted image in the knights’ adamantine shield; this is the cue for the celebrated trio for three tenors ‘In quale aspetto imbelle’. The opera’s final scene, the lovers’ parting and Armida’s demented flight, is part realistic, part allegorical as Armida is confronted by the spirits of Vengeance and Love....

Article

Dennis Libby

Opera seria in three acts by Antonio Sacchini to a libretto by Jacopo Durandi after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Milan, Regio Ducal Teatro, Carnival 1772.

Armida incorporates elements previously associated with French opera: choruses, ballets, spectacle, machines and monsters. The characters are Armida (soprano) Rinaldo (soprano castrato), Ubaldo (tenor, but sung in Milan by G. B. Zonca), Zelmira (soprano), Idreno (alto castrato), and Clotarco (alto castrato). Sacchini’s music reflects the special character of the libretto by being carefully composed, including numbers in minor keys. ‘Idol mio, se più non vivi’ is one of the earliest instances of a vocal rondò being employed as a showpiece for the prime uomo, and its success probably contributed to what became a vogue for this genre....

Article

John A. Rice

Dramma per musica in three acts by Antonio Salieri to a libretto by Marco Coltellini after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Vienna, Burgtheater, 2 June 1771.

Salieri’s opera takes as its subject the story of Armida and Rinaldo, already the subject of operas by Lully and Traetta among others. Like Traetta a decade earlier, Salieri used the story as an opportunity to combine the dramatic and musical devices of French and Italian opera. Following in Traetta’s footsteps, Salieri successfully exploited the melodic richness of Italian opera within the dramatic framework of French ...

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Azione teatrale in one act by Tommaso Traetta to a libretto by Giovanni Ambrogio Migliavacca and Giacomo Durazzo after Philippe Quinault ’s Armide, itself based on Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Vienna, Burgtheater, 3 January 1761.

The five acts of Quinault’s Armide have here been reduced to a single act of 20 scenes. Armida (soprano), her uncle Idraoto (tenor) and a band of Saracens, including Fenicia (soprano) and Argene (soprano), plot to capture a group of crusaders, among them Rinaldo (soprano castrato). During a confrontation Armida and Rinaldo fall in love. When Artemidoro (soprano castrato) and Ubaldo (tenor) restore Rinaldo’s reason, he leaves Armida, who falls into a rage, summons her dragon-drawn chariot and reduces the scene to flames and smoke....

Article

Opera in four acts by Antonín Dvořák to a libretto by Jaroslav Vrchlický , after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Prague, National Theatre, 25 March 1904.

With a common root in Tasso’s Gerusalemme liberata, Vrchlický’s libretto bears clear resemblances to Quinault’s for Lully. The first act is set in Damascus as the Crusaders are advancing. The magician Ismen (baritone) persuades King Hydraot of Damascus (bass) to send his daughter Armida (soprano) to distract the Christian knights. Armida only agrees when Ismen conjures a picture of the camp and she recognizes the knight Rinald (tenor), whom she had seen and fallen in love with in a dream. In Act 2 there is already discontent at the slowness of the campaign in the Crusaders’ camp. A hermit Petr (bass), who senses that Armida will indeed cause a distraction, attempts to have her removed, but Rinald intervenes and takes her under his protection. In a frenzy of passion Armida and Rinald attempt to flee the camp but are discovered by Petr. As he calls the guards, Ismen appears in a chariot drawn by dragons and sweeps them away....

Article

Marita P. McClymonds

Opera seria in three acts by Niccolò Jommelli to a libretto by Francesco Saverio De Rogatis after Torquato Tasso ’s Gerusalemme liberata; Naples, Teatro di S Carlo, 30 May 1770.

Armida abbandonata was the first opera Jommelli wrote for Naples after having spent 17 years in the service of the Duke of Württemberg. It is unusually rich in spectacular elements, especially the depiction of rage at the end of Act 2, when Armida (soprano) calls down thunder and lightning to destroy her palace and then leaves in a chariot drawn by winged dragons. Such theatrical effects were rare in Naples but more common in Jommelli’s operas for the new theatre at Ludwigsburg, which had been designed to accommodate spectacle in the French style. Ballet and choruses were also introduced, and in Act 1 Tancredi (tenor) converses with silent dancers. The programmatic recitative in Act 3, describing the progress of Rinaldo (soprano castrato) through Armida’s enchanted forest, originated in this opera; it was set by half a dozen other composers before it was later incorporated into Haydn’s ...

Article

Jeremy Hayes

Drame héroïque in five acts by Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck to a libretto by Philippe Quinault after Torquato Tasso ’s epic poem Gerusalemme liberata; Paris, Opéra, 23 September 1777.

Armide was the fifth of the seven operas that Gluck wrote for the Académie Royale de Musique in Paris. In it, after the successes of ...

Article

Arminio  

Anthony Hicks

Opera in three acts by George Frideric Handel to a libretto anonymously adapted from Antonio Salvi Arminio (1703, Pratolino); London, Covent Garden Theatre, 12 January 1737.

Handel composed Arminio immediately after drafting Giustino, completing the ‘filling-out’ of the score on 14 October 1736. It was the first new opera in Handel’s season of ...

Article

Aroldo  

Roger Parker

Opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after their earlier opera Stiffelio ; Rimini, Teatro Nuovo, 16 August 1857.

The first performance of Stiffelio, at Trieste in November 1850, had encountered severe problems with local religious censorship, particular objection being made to the final scene, which had to be changed radically and – Verdi thought – damagingly. The few subsequent revivals also tended to run into trouble, and in ...

Article

Arsace  

Michael F. Robinson

Dramma per musica in three acts by Domenico Natale Sarro to a libretto by Antonio Salvi after Thomas Corneille ’s tragedy Le comte d’Essex; Naples, Teatro S Bartolomeo, 10 December 1718.

Salvi’s text (originally set by Giuseppe Orlandini as Amore e Maestà in 1715) is one of the few early 18th-century Italian librettos which end with the death of the hero or heroine. During the course of the opera the hero Arsace (soprano castrato) is arrested for having led an uprising against his queen, Statira (soprano). He contributes to his downfall by refusing to answer Statira, who loves him and would save him if she could, about the reason for his rebellion. The real reason, as he explains to his friend Megabise (soprano), is that he is secretly in love with the princess Rosmiri (soprano) and wants to prevent her enforced marriage to Mitrane (alto castrato). A false report linking Arsace with Dario, pretender to the throne, is spread by his enemy Artabano (tenor) and contributes to Statira’s decision to sign the death warrant. She hears the truth too late to stay execution, and is stricken with grief at the news of his death....