Ricciardo e Zoraide (‘Ricciardo and Zoraide’)
- Richard Osborne
(‘Ricciardo and Zoraide’)
Drammain two acts by Gioachino Rossini to a libretto by Francesco Berio di Salsa after cantos xiv and xv of Niccolò Forteguerri’s epic poem Il Ricciardetto; Naples, Teatro S Carlo, 3 December 1818.
The Asiatic prince Ircano (bass), father of Zoraide (soprano), has angered the tyrannical Agorante (tenor) by withholding from him Zoraide’s hand in marriage. As a result, Agorante has driven Ircano from the Nubian lands over which Ircano briefly ruled. During the flight from Nubia, Zoraide has met and fallen in love with the paladin knight Ricciardo (tenor); but she is later captured by the marauding Agorante, much to the fury of Agorante’s wife Zomira (contralto). In Act 1 the Christian knights, led by Ernesto (tenor) and accompanied by an ‘African Guard’ (the disguised Ricciardo), attempt to negotiate with Agorante but to no avail. In Act 2 Ricciardo, under cover of his disguise, takes Agorante into his confidence, claiming that he too has been wronged by ‘Ricciardo’. A meeting is arranged between Ricciardo and Zoraide but the lovers’ ploy is foiled by Zomira’s confidante, Elmira (mezzo-soprano), who overhears their meeting. In the meantime, while Zomira plots the death of the lovers, Agorante has lost patience with Zoraide and threatens jail and death, weakening only to permit a final trial in which two knights will joust on her behalf. Agorante chooses Ricciardo as his champion; an anonymous ‘Knight of the Tears’, in reality Ircano, comes forward to defend Zoraide’s name. Ircano is defeated and Ricciardo and Zoraide are arrested as they prepare to flee, leaving all three in Agorante’s power. The situation is saved by Ernesto: Agorante is overthrown, leaving Ricciardo, the true Christian knight, to spare Agorante’s life and to seek from Ircano Zoraide’s hand in marriage....